Tips for Teaching outside your Subject Specialism

Be Confident

Great teachers are great teachers and confident teaching builds confidence in students.

Keep in mind that you are a teacher of children not just of subjects.  Your go-to behaviour management strategies, relationship and rapport builders can all remain the same.   You might be teaching a different subject, but you don’t have to completely change your teaching style.

Relying on the same pedagogy and method of delivery you’re used to will help you feel more comfortable and confident.  For example, if you are a teacher who likes to teach from the front, there’s no reason to discard this approach just because you’re changing subject.

Teaching the new subject will, as always, involve building an excellent working relationship with your students, creating a classroom climate where students feel valued.  You remain a great teacher, regardless of the content you are delivering, so have confidence in yourself.

Request Support and Training

Never hesitate to ask for help. Your school is there to support you, and nobody will think less of you for asking for assistance when teaching a new subject.

Speak to colleagues about their experiences teaching a new subject or for their expertise in your new subject matter.  You might be worried they’re busy, but being part of a team means you will repay the favour later in the year.

Alternatively, you could look for assistance further afield on social media.  Facebook groups and Twitter are good places to start, where people will gladly swap tips and resources.  Don’t feel intimidated if you are new to interacting in social media forums, they are usually remarkably supportive.

Is there an opportunity to participate in some training?  Consider external training sessions, joining a network within your local authority or partnering up with a member of the new department so that they can mentor and support you.  It is important that you are able to use this as an upskilling and CPD opportunity.

If you’re an iAchieve school, we have an online community, this useful User Guide and we host monthly training sessions.

Be Prepared

Teaching something new or different does usually mean further study.  Start by studying the specification closely and try to stay a week ahead in your lesson planning.

Gather some relevant, good quality resources (more advice on this further down).

Invest in a cheerful, new organiser which will encourage you to keep detailed notes and plans. 

Think about bright and engaging posters for your classroom which will act as a reminder to both you and your students.

Mentally prepare yourself for the challenge.  Learning to teach another subject can push you out of your comfort zone and demonstrate how interrelated many areas of the curriculum are.

Find Quality Resources

Hunting for resources early will make your job far easier later on. You’ll usually find the department you are working in will have a load saved in a shared area or kept in the store cupboard. Even if these are ancient or badly designed, at least they’re a start.

However, you can’t rely on department resources alone. Expand your stockpile by collecting ready-made resources (many sites offer resources to download for free).  Read our guide for advice on how to select quality resources.

You can also refer to the exam board’s website where they often have resources available which are linked directly to their course.  They will likely also have endorsed resources providers, like us !

Make it a goal to get at least half a term’s worth of good resources together, this will give you a real head start to your teaching.

Look after yourself

It is so easy to feel burnt out as a teacher. Be realistic about workload and try to put time aside each week to unwind.

Feeling confident, being prepared and getting your resources organised will help you to feel on top of everything.

You’re not alone

Survey data from Teacher Tapp indicates that one in seven teachers have a timetable where over 80% of their lessons are not subjects they studied during their degree or A-levels (or other post-16 education).

If you have concerns, share them with your colleagues; let them support you. If you are the only teacher in your school teaching your new subject, it can feel quite isolating. The old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved, might sound cliché but in these circumstances can really make a difference.

iAchieve is perfectly suited to supporting teachers with vocational subjects outside of their specialism, you can find out more here.  We’re here to create a community of support for teachers who are requiring prepared, structured resources for their new vocational subject.

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