Making the transition from trainee to fully fledged teacher can be a challenge, regardless of how well prepared you are, and how great your initial teacher education was. While the newly qualified teacher induction period has been designed to help ease this time for new teachers, it is still worth remembering that starting out in this career can take a period of adjustment.
Transitions of any kind need to be acknowledged. The passing of the old and the welcoming of the new are a stage in any development in our lives. Hopefully this transition is a positive one but it still might involve an element of grieving.
In order to make this period as positive as possible, these steps may help:
This doesn’t mark the end of being a student or the end of learning. As a teacher, you are always learning and developing. Starting out in this career is more about a subtle shift towards greater responsibility and autonomy rather than an abrupt transition from learner to teacher. You will be used to looking at research on the latest thinking about teaching and learning from your initial teacher education and that shouldn’t stop just because your course is now over. Joining subject associations is one way to ensure you hear about latest developments in your field.
Your early professional development matters, so make sure you have the opportunity to focus on the skills that you want and need to develop. Be self-aware here. The aim is to balance the development needs of the context in which you work with your own needs. Don’t be manoeuvred into training that you wouldn’t necessarily choose for yourself. Make sure you can see where it fits in your overall development.
You may find that you have less free time now that you are fully in the role. But if you find that you aren’t seeing your friends as much or dropping hobbies you used to enjoy then you must address the balance in your life before your wellbeing takes a hit. Balancing needs to become second nature so it’s worth working on from the very start of your career.
Reach out to experienced colleagues as much as possible. The vast majority will be delighted to help. Ask advice, observe, discuss challenges and so on. Allow others to help you. It will greatly ease your load. You do not have to struggle on alone.
Marking major milestones is helpful. Getting to your first half term break, completing your first term, taking your first assembly… whatever the challenge, give yourself the time to acknowledge how far you have come.
Keeping a learning journal can be a great way of identifying learning needs and working through any difficulties you encounter at work. This needn’t be a time consuming occupation. Just devote a few minutes each day to reflecting on what has happened and the way in which you responded. You can also use a learning journal to record your successes and things that have worked well.
It’s natural to start the term fired up and ready to go, but without adequate pacing you’re likely to run out of steam. In the transition from trainee to teacher it’s easy to think you need to be an expert but unrealistic expectations will make it hard to pace. You’re starting out in your career; never forget the need to take rest on a regular basis.
Challenging as it may be, your new job should also be fulfilling and enjoyable. Transitions may naturally need a period of adjustment but looking after yourself at this time should ensure that you emerge fully fledged into a career in which you thrive.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.