Eight sleeps to go until the Summer Institute

As the 2013 cohort are buzzing with questions, I thought I’d ask a second year participant to share some words of wisdom. She very kindly obliged.

It’s a week until the Summer Institute what should I be doing?

Getting as much sleep as possible. You do really long days and then you have a lot of preparation work to do in the evening. You’ll also want to spend evenings socialising so Summer Institute is definitely not good for sleeping!

Use the last week to get to know people on your subject Facebook page, as you’ll be spending lots of time with them. They will become your support network during Summer Institute, and your flatmates/confidants/therapists come September.

The S.I. timetable looks intense. Is there much time for socialising in the evenings?

It’s important you make time for it. By all means go out for a drink after classes, as you’ll need to unwind. Some people in my year even went clubbing, although I wouldn’t recommend doing this every night!

I actually spent a lot of time hanging out in the communal kitchens in halls. If you’re based in the Institute of Education, I also recommend a group trip to try the jacket potatoes served in the cafe…

The million-dollar question: how important is business dress?

For formal events it is definitely important to scrub up well. Make sure you are suited and booted for the opening ceremonies and your school visits, as you want to make a good impression. On a day-to-day basis it’s fine to relax things a little: wear a dress and suit jacket or smart trousers and a shirt or blouse. By the end of week three everyone relaxes a little anyway. It’s also a good idea to keep it smart for your time at Warwick, especially morning meetings.

Did you spend much money during S.I.?

You don’t need to but make sure you find the cheapest transport options from your university. I didn’t understand the concept of Oyster cards when I arrived in London and spent a lot of money on day fares. Everything else was included so I didn’t spend much money at all!

What was your personal highlight of S.I.?

There were so many. I really enjoyed some of the group sessions during the regional part of the Institute and meeting some amazing people.

The lectures in Warwick were another highlight. The speakers were incredibly inspiring and gave you some great motivation for autumn.

I also enjoyed all the big events. The Warwick opening ceremony was huge, and it was the first time I realised the scale of Teach First and felt part of something special. Seeing some of children who had worked with participant schools at Warwick singing, and hearing participants read extracts from their diaries, gave a real insight into the programme. Even now I often think back to some of the things shared by past participants at Warwick. I didn’t fully understand the significance of these stories at the time but now I am able to relate to many of the highs and lows described.

Any tips for survival?

Don’t leave your essay until last minute. Crack on with the work while you’re in your region. If you get it done before you leave you’ll have the advantage of not having to get to grips with a whole new university library system.

I also think it’s important to remember to listen. Everything is going to feel new and exciting over the next six weeks but it’s important not to forget to be warm and friendly. It’s great to talk but make sure it’s a two-way conversation.

One final piece of advice is not to burn out. If you are tired go to bed! Don’t feel pressured to do everything; you’ll enjoy the time more if you are rested.

Is there something that you wished you’d brought but you didn’t?

Sports equipment. At Warwick there are some amazing facilities you’ll want to use. For example, a quick morning swim is a great way to start the day.

Stationary may sound an obvious one but I actually forgot! Don’t forget a pencil case and some notebooks. Also try and plan a way to structure your notes before you arrive, this will help you with your first assignment.

Final thoughts?

There is an awful lot of learning to cram into 6 weeks, so don’t panic if you don’t get everything to begin with. You will revisit each topic again and again throughout your career. S.I. will give you the basics of pedagogy and your assignments throughout the year will help you to continue to develop.

Also remember that Teach First always wants to hear your feedback. Let them know what you enjoyed and if there is anything missing make it known. My class were really worried about our phonics knowledge. Teach First responded by giving us more training with Read and Write Inc.

My final tip is to take a note of ideas that you think might be useful for building a relationship with your class. The S.I. is full of games, fillers and ice-breakers. Record activities you enjoy in one place. By the end of S.I. you’ll end up with a bank of resources to help you plan for that all-important first week.

Good luck!


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