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By Kathy Alcock - education consultant and author, Georgie Beasley - Ofsted inspector, educational consultant and former headteacher and John Gallowayadvisory teacher for ICT, writer and consultant.

School placements, planning, working with colleagues… for student teachers it can all be quite daunting. Our experts answer your questions

Teacher with briefcase

In at the deep end

When I started my teaching placement, I wasn’t given time to observe and was thrown in at the deep end. How can I take ownership of the class and carry this on throughout my placement?

This is unusual – generally a class teacher wishes you to observe before ‘handing over’. Maybe when you had this experience, the class teacher involved was hoping to demonstrate their confidence in you. In future, ask politely to observe the teacher for one or part of each of the core subjects before taking complete control yourself. Suggest the teacher allows you to team teach with them using your planning, and check on the expectations and agree the limits. Do remember that you are there because the class teacher has agreed to this; they remain the class teacher and take final responsibility for the children.

Feeling apprehensive

I’m still feeling uncomfortable about asking the teaching assistant to do things. How can I overcome this and improve our relationship?

Teaching assistants are often very experienced and can be a real bonus. Treat them as individuals and do not allow yourself to be intimidated. You are in training and cannot be expected to know all the answers, so ask for their help and advice. Do not ask them to do things you know they are uncomfortable with. Share the mundane tasks and model what you consider to be good practice. Preparation is the key – if teaching assistants know in advance what you want them to do, generally they will follow through your wishes. Prepare specific, detailed plans or give copies of your lesson plan with tasks and roles of all the adults in the classroom. Always ensure they understand what is required – don’t assume they will know.

Joining in

The staff I am working with are very supportive, but I don’t have much contact with anyone else and I don’t feel integrated into the school. How can I get more involved?

You will be working so hard that there is little time for forging strong friendships, however, follow these guidelines:

  1. Go into the staff room daily.
  2. Learn everyone’s name and role in the school.
  3. Take part in at least one extra-curricular activity.
  4. Visit other classrooms and talk to the teachers.
  5. Arrive on time and do not leave immediately – after school is a time when staff sometimes get together.
  6. Take opportunities to attend staff meetings and training sessions.
  7. Try to always have a smile on your face and greet people in a positive way.

Need help?

If you have any questions for our experts, please email them to mail me