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15 Top Tips for Studying a Teaching Degree

15 Top Tips for Studying a Teaching Degree

Are you currently or about to start studying to become a teacher?

It can be a very daunting and yet exciting thing. Let me start by congratulating you! Teaching is an absolutely incredible career.

Sure it has it’s ups and downs, and both of these things can be pretty extreme, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a job as rewarding and as novel as being a teacher.

If you’re studying teaching, you’ve most likely attended school yourself (don’t forget, many people are home-schooled these days!). Be prepared to have your perceptions of the education system turned upside-down, and to finally see behind the curtain of what life as a teacher is really like.

Here is some of the absolute best advice and tips for your journey through your teaching degree.

Teaching Area

Pick at least one teaching area that is demand, that way you are more attractive as a potential employee. Sure there are world-wide teacher shortages, but you may as well make yourself stand out as much as you can to secure a job in the location you are after! If you’re not sure what teaching areas are in demand, or how you can get yourself into that arena, speak with your university – they’ll point you in the right direction. And if it’s an area you are actually quite interested in, but don’t have perhaps the necessary pre-requisites, remember that you can always upskill before, during, and after your teaching degree.

Take Your Assignments Very Seriously

It can be quite tempting to do a half-assed job of your uni work. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing what you’re doing at uni doesn’t/won’t matter once you graduate. This is one of the few degrees where your theoretical learnings and creation-based assignments can be applied directly to your practice. In fact, you can use your assignments as part of your portfolio and evidence when applying for jobs once you graduate. You can even use them directly in your lessons once you start teaching!

Accept The Importance of Both Theory and Prac

Understand that no, uni doesn’t teach you everything. But nothing ever does. You’ll absolutely learn the most while on prac, but the theory work is important for building foundations and knowledge bases.

Trust in the Experience of Teachers Before You

It’s oh so easy to be so wrapped up in your own innovation and ideas that you want to disregard the experience of those who have done this job for decades. Sure, a lot of the ideas and practices (heck, the entire system) are outdated, but that doesn’t mean that your bright shiny new ones are appropriate or good. That doesn’t mean you need to dull your sparkle, or shut up and listen to your elders, but you do need to respect those who have come before you, and the way the system is currently operating. As a graduate, you are not in a position to make sweeping, galactic changes. Yet.
Listen to your lecturers. Accept what they say, even if it’s just for the purpose of getting through the courses.
I had a friend who recently went through a teaching degree. He gave me an assignment to look over, and I gave him extensive feedback. For whatever reason, he decided to completely disregarded my feedback. He then came to me very disappointed and showed me his final grade and comments from his lecturer… they were exactly the same as my comments were.
Trust more experienced teachers with things like this, but at the same time don’t feel the need to morph into them.

Don’t Let Others Get You Down

Keep your enthusiasm – don’t let more experienced teachers drain it out of you through their cynicism and negativity (unfortunately there can be a lot of that going around, particularly after these past couple of incredibly difficult years). It’s extremely easy to get sucked into a negative spiral about teaching, especially if you read the media or comments sections on articles about our profession. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.

Look Out For Yourself

Stick to your guns and advocate for yourself if and when needed. This includes during your degree, your placements, and when you first start working. This is the perfect time to start learning which battles are worth dying on a hill for, and which are not. This is a skill you’ll need in abundance with your own students, so start applying it to yourself too. Think through likely outcomes, ask for advice, and remember that if worst comes to worst, there are always other schools (or professions) out there.

Find Your Own Style

Take time to find your teaching style – it may not be the same as those around you, and that’s perfectly fine. If everyone taught in the same way it’d be a complete waste. Learn from your placements, see as many different teachers as you can, but always teach in the way that suits YOU best. Find that, and work to adapt it to the needs of the students in front of you. The way you teach will change slightly class to class, but only on the surface. Your fundamental teaching style will remain the same, as long as you are remaining true to your teacher-self and your own personal core values.

Diversify Your Own Experiences

Do your placements at different schools each time so you can gain wider experiences. Every school has it’s own way of doing things, every teacher has their own way of doing things. Only by experiencing them can you truly decide what works best for you.

Don’t Recreate the Wheel, But DO Find Joy in Creation

You will need to find some joy in creating your own resources, because really, at the end of the day, every class and every student is different. They’ll need activities, lesson plans, etc, to be adapted to suit them best. There are literally billions of ready-made teaching resources out there. Some will suit your needs perfectly, most won’t. There is no need to create absolutely everything from scratch if you don’t want to, but at the same time don’t expect what worked brilliantly before (for you or someone else) to always work brilliantly in the future.
Also remember that the most Instagram-perfect resources aren’t always the ones most suited to your students.

Remember That Students are Students, Not Friends

Even though you might be close in age with your students, DO NOT let yourself be sucked into thinking about them as friends of any sort. You’re their teacher, not their friend. That can be really hard to internalise, at least initially. You can care for them, sure, but you are in a position of power and responsibility, not a friend.

Remember What it was Like in the Classroom

Remember what it’s like to be a student in the classroom, and let that guide your teaching practices. If you feel yourself getting sucked into poor teaching practices (hour-long lectures, for example), think back to lessons you remember from your school days. Think about how you felt, what the teacher did, what the students did.

Find a Good Mentor

Find yourself a wise, positive teacher mentor. They don’t have to be in your staffroom, your school, or even your teaching area, but they do have to be supportive of you and your journey. Don’t be afraid or ashamed if you decide the mentor relationship is no longer serving you – go find another one! Even as an experienced teacher, I lean on my colleagues (some of whom have been teaching for a much shorter time than me!) for advice. We can’t do this alone, that’s for sure!

Use Social Media for Good

Find good and supportive teacher groups on Facebook (and by that I mean un-follow any group that tends toward drama and negativity – you’ll get enough of that in the classroom!). Follow like-minded educators on Twitter. Be wary of picture-perfect Instagram teaching accounts – in my experience they tend to be the type of teachers who care more about aesthetics than the actual impact (or even the scientific evidence) of what they’re doing. Room decoration, for example, is a massive thing on Instagram, but depending on the individual students in your class, what you put up may be extremely distracting and/or detrimental to them.

You can join the Staffroom Stories Lounge here on Facebook. Or if you happen to be a Pregnant or Parent Teacher, join us here.

It’s OK if it isn’t for You

If you get partway through your teaching degree and realise you don’t actually like the job, that’s perfectly ok! Plenty of people do, you certainly aren’t alone. At this point you have two options – jump ship into something more suited to you, or complete the degree and find a job in an area linked to education that isn’t in the classroom – see this list here for examples.

Have Some Fun With It!

Teaching is the craziest, most dynamic job you’ll ever do. And that’s why so many of us love it. Let yourself actually enjoy the degree, enjoy the placements, and enjoy the job. It’s so easy to convince yourself you’re supposed to hate it because the media does, and so many people have such negative views of teachers. But that definitely doesn’t need to form your teaching persona or practice. If you love it, you love it!

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash
Emily

Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys sharing the real and human teacher life, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine.

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