An English Teacher's Toolbox

An English teacher at a Secondary School in the UK. * Sharing and questioning the day job. * I teach KS3/4/5.
* Looking for inspiration and motivation, to share with others. * Looking to constantly improve and grow. * On Twitter at @MissBex_M *
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See my post for some tips.


Hello everyone. This is it.

Monday I start my teaching placement. I have so many emotions about this I think my brain has crashed. I am a bit of a loss about what to do; the calm before the storm I guess. I know there are a few niggling pieces of uni work but I am distracted by the thought on…


An interesting and useful article from @tes:

Like it or loathe it, you are probably going to have to write numerous assignments, essays or studies during your teacher training. So what can you do to minimise the stress…[Read More]

Teaching is a profession that allows you to constantly research, reflect and develop your skills and knowledge - one of the best things about this job! Last September, I vowed to try and read a little more on the aspects of our profession and to try new things; I hadn’t read anything since NQT year! I discovered that there is plenty out there to enjoy, learn from - and even laugh out loud at!

Here are some books I recommend from PGCE/ NQT, that are still useful now:

  • 'How to Teach' by Phil Beadle.
    Amazon review: “This book cuts through all the rubbish and helps you to prioritise on what is important and what you need to do to get your children engaged and learning. There are plenty of short-cuts to help, inspire and guide you through the first year and you and you may even find yourself laughing out loud at the familiar antics of the children, SLT, OfStead inspectors and the stressed out teachers, which I had become one of them.
  • 'The Lazy Teacher's Handbook' by Jim Smith.
    Amazon review: "Truly, this is a breath of fresh air. Jim Smith’s book gives permission to teachers to step back and delight in the opportunities for learning that they create. This book provides a practical, real and valuable set of tried and tested approaches that allow teachers to let the learning flow from and with the students."

  • 'Teaching Today: A Practical Guide' by Geoff Petty.
    Amazon Review: “This book was definitely a revelation. Fantastically planned and very easy to read, it has been the a definite staple of my reference diet since the start of the academic year. It provides handy tips and ideas on dealing with students and looks at the psychology behind the whole event without once sounding patronising or condescending in any way.
    If you are new to education - especially further education which has a dearth of resources - this is invaluable. If you buy no other book for your educational career, you need to buy this!”

  • 'Essential Teaching Skills' by Chris Kyriacou.
    Amazon Review: "…. I have found this book invaluable, both for new and trainee teachers in clearly outlining essential aspects of classroom practice, and for experienced teachers as a reminder of those essential aspects in an engaging and refreshing way"

  • 'How to be a Brilliant Teacher' by Trevor Wright.
    Trevor Wright was my PGCE Secondary English Tutor - his advice has continued to work for me, 4 years on. He also has similar books for ‘Trainee Teachers’, ‘English Teachers’ and ‘Mentors’.

  • 'Guerilla Guide to Teaching: The Definitive Resource for New Teachers' by Sue Cowley.
    Amazon Review: "Cowley includes the transcripts of extensive interviews with all different types of people working in education, from student teachers to managers and representatives from teaching unions, which makes it realistic and very practical.

    The book is split into clearly defined sections, comprising questions and answers from Cowley’s own experience, interviews and bullet pointed lists which make it easier to dip into. There are detailed case studies of planning […] blank planning sheets for you to adapt. […] the most complete guide I have come across for those starting in teaching or those already involved in education”

    Hopefully this list is of some use to you! x

When you start your PGCE (and possibly even GTP) - you will probably not be given a ‘Teacher’s Planner’.

It is worthwhile investing in one so that you can take care to organise yourself and keep good records of homework being handed in, absenteeism, levels and grades (including targets and predictions).

However - don’t rush to buy one, as it will depend greatly on your school’s day e.g. how many lessons? How long do they last etc? So - I would advise you wait until second placement, and then use a planner to help you through! It is also a great way to collect evidence.

Here are some…

A5 Coil Bound 6 Period/Lined 12/13

A4 Teacher Planner Coil Bound 6/9 Period 12/13

Custom Built A4 Teacher’s Planner

A4 6 Lesson Academic Teacher Planner


A5 5 Lesson Academic Teacher Planner

Well, hope this has been of some use!

On twitter this week myself and other tweachers have been posting ideas/ tips for those of you who are about to be PGCE/ GTP/ NQTs.

We’ve all been tagging these with: #toptipsfornewteachers (go check them out). 

I thought that I might try to sum up some of my key ideas here, and then as I go along, tag any other posts/ reblogs with this tag so that they can be found more easily. As a PGCE Secondary English Mentor in my school, I deal with new teachers all year round, and I give them this same advice.

So, here goes…

  1. Invest in a good bag.
    As a new teacher, you will no doubt be in numerous rooms/ sites/ buildings for your lessons and that means carrying around all of the books and equipment you need. A good bag is essential in helping you do this, and stay organised too!
  2. Invest in a good external Hard Drive/ USB memory stick.
    You will likely be working at home when planning, writing reports, doing assignments etc. Having somewhere you can back up all your work and access it easily anywhere within work/ home will make life easier. Trust me. 
  3. Erasable board pens. Buy some. Then buy a few more and keep them stashed in that good bag I told you about. You will always need one, often when you don’t have one. People will ‘borrow’ them and not return them - annoying, but true I’m afraid!
  4. Have a good support network. This is divided up - you can’t have all your eggs in one basket. What I mean by this is that you need family and friends around you, to love you and listen to you (as well as spend time with you away from work). However, these people often think that you’re job starts at 9, ends at 3 and often requires little or no effort  - so they DON’T always understand the pressures you’re facing or the emotions you’re feeling. In this case, you need your other basket of eggs. This is where you have somebody who is like you, a teacher, and understands what you’re dealing with. They might be your mentor, fellow PGCE/ GTP/ NQT, or even just a friend who is also a teacher. 
  5. Take time out. It is SO easy for this job to take over and rule your life, but find time every week that is for you. I often set aside Saturday as a non-working day. Use this day to see your friends, family and loved ones. Alternatively, read a book, watch a film, etc. Just don’t do work!
  6. Be organised. What I mean here is - use your diary, use your teacher planner, use your calendar and know what’s happening when. Things like parents’ evenings, department meetings, staff meetings, data input deadlines, report deadlines, assessment hand in dates - they all sneak up on you. Get them in your diary and know when they’re coming, so you can start working on them before hand. 
  7. Be Organised - part 2. Now you’ve got your dates and deadlines  -start organising everything else. Keep classes separate - a plastic wallet/ folder for each so that resources, marking, homework, lesson plans do not get muddled and lost. Do the same on your USB/ external hard drive - keep planning separate. It is important to know what you’re doing, when and with which class. 
  8. Have somewhere to work. This is crucial. When I did my PGCE, I sat up for hours every night, sitting on my bed, trying to mark, plan and write assessments, because I didn’t have somewhere to work. So, my mum helped me buy a small desk and a chair. Bingo. Minimal room-much better working environment. Now, I often stay after hours at school - in my room/ library PC and work for a few hours. Printing done there, without costing me money! When I work at home, I have my new desk (so long as my fiancée isn’t hogging the PC too much!).
  9. Healthy Lifestyle. OK, so I’m being a little hypocritical here. This is something I’ve only just begun to understand myself, but yes - eating clean and taking part in some kind of activity/ exercise will help you feel better. There are some dark days/ months ahead and eating cake 24/7 might seem like the only way to cope, but eventually it’ll catch you up and you’ll feel bad for it. Also - there are times when you think you’re too busy to eat and drink - no. You’re not. Eat your lunch and drink plenty through the day - your body needs it so you can do your job, and do it well.
  10. Enjoy, reflect and rethink. Teaching is a rewarding and enjoyable job. There are moments when you will not believe you’re lucky enough to do this every day. In contrast, there are days when it really was hell and you want to cry. But, no matter which day it was - take the time to reflect on what did/ didn’t go well and identify what you need to do again, and what it is you need to change. Then do it.

Hope this has been useful. It’s certainly helped me the last few years.

September’s nearly here - good luck all! xx


This is it! Congrats to all the other first years out there. You did it!