You might be eagerly awaiting to start your PGCE course, or already on it. Wherever you are in your teaching journey, I want to share some advice with you, I wish I’d have known before embarking on the PGCE.
If you’ve heard the term ‘PGCE stress’ looming over the internet, you might be aware that it can be an intense course, so it’s good to find ways ahead of time to look after your wellbeing. It’s important to know though, that the course is also very rewarding. You’re going to get stuck into some exciting lessons, activities, and trips. But, most importantly, you’ll be making a positive impact on the lives of children.
Can you ever think of a teacher who’s made a positive impact on your life? You’ll be inspiring children to learn and enjoy school in the very same way. Make sure to keep that in your mind every day before you go into school. If you do start to feel PGCE stress, then following these tips can help you on your teaching journey.
1. Stay Organised
A PGCE requires you to stay highly organised. This is because you’ll have lots of different tasks and assignments to complete and prioritise all at once. It’s often easy to just say ‘make sure you stay organised’, when in reality that isn’t very helpful advice. Let’s see how staying organised will look on a teacher training course.
In relation to a PGCE, you’ll have two sets of planning. One will be to plan the lessons for the pupils, and the other will be to plan your time. Let’s take a look at both aspects and how to manage them.
How to plan your time
When thinking about planning your time, having time management skills on this course is really important. You’re going to need to put a clear system in place, showing your weekly goals, priorities, and deadlines. You can use an Editable Teacher Planner to help keep track of parent meetings, children’s birthdays, and your class’ data. What teacher doesn’t like new stationary? You can use a lovely Boho Themed Planner which is practical and attractive.
Using a planner can help you to think about your week ahead and what needs completing each day. You might want to spend different days planning for different subjects based on deadlines, so organising this in advance can really help you to manage your time.
As well as this, you might find on the course that you have a long list of priorities, which can be daily or weekly tasks that need to be completed. Plenty of times, teachers find themselves with a to-do list that they struggle to get to the bottom of all at once. So, it’s a good idea to prioritise your tasks according to the importance of them, and what needs to be done first. You can use our Rainbow To-Do List or Editable Weekly Timetable to help you stay organised. You can even decide to use a colourful Priorities Checklist so that you can visually see which tasks to approach first.
How to plan the lessons
When it comes to planning lessons, you might struggle with this at first or feel like it takes you a long time to complete this task. I’d like to reassure you that this does get easier with time. As the course progresses, you’ll most likely find that you’ll need less time to plan. This is because you’ll have better curriculum knowledge and understanding of the children’s needs.
One thing I wish I’d have known when completing my PGCE, is how to plan. The way I’d suggest approaching this, is to think about what your class’ end goal is. What do they need to know by the end of the term? Once you know this, you can then plan backwards, thinking about how you can develop their skills for them to get to that end point. Using a Calendar Template can help you to visualise breaking up the learning week-by-week.
You can also take the time to plan your own personal goals using a Goal Setting Vision Board, thinking about what you’d like to work on each week or term. You can reflect back on this in the future and use it as evidence for your assignments with your training provider.
2. Seek Support
It can be hard going into your training year; you might have multiple things on your mind, and struggle to know how to get the support you need. Here are some of my top tips:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It can feel overwhelming taking in lots of information, but if a question pops up, don’t be afraid to ask it. Your mentors, school colleagues, and university staff all know that you’re new to the role. Asking questions (and lots of them) is normal. If you have a long list of questions, write them down and ask your mentor or class teacher if they have time to go through them with you.
- Take notes. It can be really helpful to take notes of how other teachers teach, especially when you first start your placement. You can ask your school if you can spend a day or two observing other teachers around school. This will support your teaching pedagogy and help you to see lots of different ways to teach subjects. It’ll also help you to get to know your colleagues around school, so they can support you on your teaching journey, too. We’ve got a helpful Trainee Teacher Observation Pack to help you get the most out of this part of the learning process.
- Make sure you ask for support if you’re struggling. If you find yourself struggling on the course, find the right support. Your mentors, school leadership team, and training provider staff are all there to help you. Find the time to schedule meetings with them if you need support. If you’re unsure about anything, try to ask for help that same day or week; this will prevent PGCE stress and will help you feel supported. It’ll also stop you worrying about anything you don’t know, and help you to start thinking about what you do know. If you find that you’re not getting the right support, contact your course leader from your training provider.
3. Focus on the positives
It’s not all bad news! Yes, the course can be a lot to take in, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not a great course to be on. If you’re experiencing PGCE stress, try to focus on the positives! This will really help you to put things into perspective and why you chose this career from the beginning.
- Celebrate the small wins! Although ‘big wins’ are important in the classroom, celebrating small victories, for yourself and for the children, can really help you to stay positive on this course. Examples of small wins can be to plan a lesson that you’ve never done before, or a child reaching a personal goal. It can also mean getting through the day without any lost glue sticks, or without the school printer running out of ink! Whatever you can celebrate that day, whether big or small, can contribute to your positive wellbeing.
- Be brave. You might be in a position where you’ve never worked in a school setting before, so you’ll be trying new things for the first time, like planning and teaching lessons. Be brave and try to step out of your comfort zone. The more you try new things, you’ll get more comfortable with these tasks in the long run. With that being said, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be scared if you get something wrong, or struggle with an aspect of the lesson. Remember that you’re there to learn, you’re not expected to be perfect! Take on board the feedback positively; think about what went well in the lesson and what you’re proud of. You can use a Self-Esteem Journal to reflect back on what you enjoyed in your day and what was successful. These positive reflections can also be great to use as evidence for the Teachers' Standards success criteria.
4. Get to know the people around you
Building a network around you can help you feel supported and encouraged through this course. That’s why it’s important to get to know your:
- PGCE friends. Try to make friends with other students on your course. Not only can you socialise together, but you’ll also be able to support and encourage each other. You can share your resources and ideas to make your planning process easier. Creating a teacher Twitter account is also something that helped me greatly on my PGCE. I made friends online and supported other PGCE students and teachers.
- Colleagues. Getting to know your colleagues in school can help you feel more settled in your new environment. It can build your confidence in asking for advice from staff if you need it. This isn’t the only great thing about getting to know your colleagues; you’ll feel part of a school community and more willing to get stuck into events, trips, and assemblies.
- Children and parents. This might seem daunting at first. Getting to know the children well can help you to build confidence in talking to parents. You can tell parents and carers all about their children’s accomplishments, which will make you seem more approachable. If you can, try to greet parents when their children come into school or leave at the end of the day. Try to get involved with this aspect of the course, including parents’ evenings, as this will help to boost your confidence and communication skills.
5. Don't forget to look after yourself
Throughout your training year, it can often be easy to overlook your own wellbeing, and purely focus on the children. I’d like to encourage you to take the time to look after yourself on this course. Here are my top tips to do this:
- Make plans for your holidays. Although you might want to work during the holidays (due to planning and assignments to complete), it’s also important to take time off. Make plans for your holidays, whether that’s seeing friends, family, or simply relaxing! Having something to look forward to in your holidays can really help you to get through school terms. You can take a look at our Staff Wellbeing Holiday Planner here.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s advice many students struggle with during a PGCE. You might look at other teachers and students and compare your teaching practice to theirs. While it’s good to take new things on board, it’s also worth remembering that you shouldn’t compare yourself to them. This can also crop up at the end of the year; when you’re applying for ECT teaching jobs, don’t compare how quickly it takes you to get a job to other people. It can take time to find the right school and fit for you, and there’s nothing wrong with this!
- Slow down your pace. It can be easy to feel like you’re constantly working, and working quickly. It’s good to remind yourself that you don’t want to do this and feel burnt out. Your energy levels can drop, and you can feel fatigued. Take a look at our Staff Wellbeing Slow Down Leaflet to give you practical tips to prevent burn out.
- Take time for self-care. As well as looking after the children in your class, you should also look after yourself. We have an Adult Self Care Calendar, which can help you to schedule into your week mindfulness moments. You can also make this personalised to you by using our Blank Calendar here. Whether that’s spending half an hour a day to read your favourite book or having a bath, ensure that you find the time for self-care.
- Budget. Some teacher training courses are funded, and some aren’t. Financial struggles can amplify PGCE stress, which is why it’s good to budget your money and student loan throughout the year using a Monthly Budget Tracker. This can help you manage your finances and take control of them. You can take a look at our Wellbeing Finances Page to give you more advice on this topic.
- Take advantage of wellbeing resources. We want Teachers and Educators to feel supported and encouraged. Take a look at our Staff Wellbeing Category Page to support your: mental health, wellbeing, emotions, and physical health.
If you find that PGCE stress is affecting you on a daily basis, speak to your local GP for more advice, who can signpost you to some helpful services, like counselling. You can also take a look at the NHS page, Every Mind Matters, as well as the charity Mind's Stress Page.
Credit © Maisie Pollard
Maisie is a digital copywriter at Twinkl. She has an English Literature degree and has also completed a PGCE in Primary Education.