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How to be a student teacher and still have a life

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Hi friends, this week I bring a guest post from a future teacher in graduate school studying from across the pond, in London. Let me introduce you to NQT Diaries, who

a newly qualified teacher working in London. She started The Teacher Diaries as a way to share her experiences and capture her first year as a qualified teacher. She enjoys getting to know people who are in all stages of their career and creating a community of supportive teachers. Below you will find her post all about how to be a student teacher and still have a life! Yes you can do it, my friends! Just read these tips!

I remember being asked in my PGCE interview what it is that I do in my spare time. The interviewer preceded to ask how I will ensure that I maintain my hobbies during my studies. At the time I thought it was a bit of an odd question, but fast forward a few weeks and the realities of teacher training well and truly set in.

Teaching - work smarter not harder!

Training to be a teacher is tough. Unless you have done it yourself you just can’t understand the amount of stuff you have to do. First of all, there is the teaching itself. You are thrown into the deep end and need to quickly plan and deliver lessons which accommodate the huge range of abilities that you find in every class. You need to hastily adapt your behavior management before the children see you as someone they can mess about for. You need to get to grips with the planning, the grading, the data, and so on. As well as this, you need to keep on top of your University work. If, like me, you did a PGCE, this includes master’s level work. You probably have a part-time job on the side too, just to make sure you can afford the luxury of eating.

So, I go back to the question… how do you ensure that you still do the things that make you you? How do you make sure that you see your friends and loved ones? It’s a hard balance. It took me a long time to get to grips with it and my mental health suffered due to my poor work-life balance.

The trick is to find ways to work smarter, not harder. This takes time and, if I am brutally honest with you, at first you will probably not have much of a social life. I think it’s something that you should expect and just embrace for a few months. Really concentrate on your new craft and eventually things do fall into place and it becomes easier (promise).

Don't take too much work home - use your time wisely and set boundaries - NOW!

Please do not fall into a trap of taking too much work home. I used to be guilty of this; I would get home and work on my laptop until ten or eleven o’clock at night. I would spend weekends doing work and I saw the holidays as ‘catch-up time’, rather than time to chill out and recharge. An important lesson that I have learnt is that I am the most important resource in the classroom. If I am exhausted, it doesn’t matter how fab that PowerPoint is, or how much I differentiated and color coordinated those worksheets, the children’s learning will suffer. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Give yourself a time, say 8:00 pm, where you stop doing work and do something for yourself. That may be having a bath, doing some yoga, or catching up on that new crime series you’ve been dying to watch! It is SO important to have time off before you sleep. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself lying in bed thinking about school the next day. I now turn off my phone at 9:00 pm and am in bed by 10:00 pm. I am very strict about this and I usually wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the new day. I am more productive and get the same amount of work done but faster and better because I am not completely drained. If, like me, you find yourself thinking about school when you are lying in bed, keep a notepad and pen nearby and note down your thoughts and worries.

Set yourself boundaries. I know it’s hard right now to not do any work at home. Therefore, you could schedule a day or half a day at the weekend to do some work. Write a list and tick it off as you go, but leave the other day completely free. Plan to see some friends, go running, paint, whatever it is that makes you feel like you. With time, you will get your weekends back.

Really ask yourself, is this activity/project/ classroom design going to help my students?

When you are working on a task for school, constantly ask yourself if this particular job is worth it. Will this help the children? You can spend hours on a display, but after a week your fabulous, Pinterest-inspired board will become wallpaper to the children and they will hardly notice that it’s there. But, my friends if it is going to benefit your students then by all means go forth and be awesome!

Grading…. Oh grading.