ASK FOR HELP WHEN NEEDED
The Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a course many people choose to take to gain Qualified Teacher Status in the UK. It is recognized for its levels of rigour and intensity, as well as its ability to produce teachers who are both knowledgeable about their elected specialist areas, and who are competent classroom operators.
Having said that, and contrary to the belief and claims of some students, teachers are still human beings, with physical and emotional limits. Teaching, while being a rewarding and fulfilling career, can also get extremely taxing and stressful in the day-to-day grind. Teachers who feel isolated and build walls around themselves when feeling the stress can often end up in more precarious situations than the ones that cause the stress in the first place.
It is, therefore, essential that teachers know when to reach out for help. This is never truer than in both the PGCE year and the NQT year. If fully qualified and highly experienced teachers feel the weight of things, just imagine what the new kids on the block are going through!
When you’re starting out, one of the challenging things is knowing who exactly to reach out to when you have a problem. Things do vary from school to school, but broadly speaking you can find assistance from any of the following sources:
· Your fellow department members – they understand your pain, and are adequately versed in procedures and various problems to offer sound advice for day-to-day problems.
· Your department head or mentor – when things are more “officially” wrong, it’s better to reach out to those in charge or who have some responsibility for supervising you.
· Your year head or other school leader- school leaders of all ranks and stripes typically come from teaching backgrounds themselves (something that separates the UK from countries like the US, for example), but are also in their place to act as a source of support for new teachers.
· Friends and family – never overlook the help that can come from your closest circles, even if you think they won’t understand the issue, because sometimes all you need is a bit of love and TLC, and all the other problems start to become clear in your head.
Some PGCE and NQT teachers try to play the part of the stoical community member; fiercely independent and capable, and not in need of any hand holding. Some may even believe that to ask for help is to show weakness. We want to stress here that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being able to ask for help is actually a clear sign of strength. Below we list some of the many benefits of speaking up, asking questions and asking for help when you need it.
1. Avoid compounding problems down the line
Putting off dealing with a problem; kicking the can down the street, will only serve to make problems worse later on. Not getting the help you need can just lead to you continuing a series of errors that could lead to something more serious, even job-threatening further down the line.
Have the confidence to reach out when you need help, no matter how small the problem. Don’t be afraid of annoying your colleagues. They were all in your position at one point so they can fully understand your situation. This brings us neatly to the next point.
2. Show teachers your competence and confidence
While some may believe reaching out for help is a sign of weakness, the opposite is actually true. Sure, there are times when your common sense might serve you better than a seemingly endless series of inane questions, but actually 99 percent of the time you are probably better off asking for assistance from your mentor or your colleagues.
Why? Because it shows competence, confidence and even a good amount of humility. Teachers encourage students all the time to speak up when they have issues; to share the load and unburden themselves of any worries or fears. To do that takes courage, and the intelligence to know that you need help. That’s a good sign for a school leader, to know that they can be confident in your ability not to burden yourself to the point of breakdown.
3. Reduce your stress levels
Ultimately, being able to ask for help will lower your stress levels. It’s a horrible feeling as you drive to work literally having no idea at all how you are going to deal with a certain problem. Knowing that you can reach out to others for assistance can remove that feeling.
4. Become a better learner
As we mentioned in the second point, part of your own journey as an educator will be to encourage students to become communicators. How can you teach that to others if you don’t live by that principle yourself? Practice what you preach. Become a better learner by communicating your questions and problems to those with the capacity to help. From those people you will learn something new and grow professionally.
You Can’t Expect Perfection in a Single Year
In the next part of our series, we will be advising you on how to deal with a key reality of the PGCE year, which is that you can’t get everything right in just one year. Pursuing total perfection is a chase that will drive you insane! Learn more in our next post.