The most pointless activities from teacher training

October 23, 2017

I was somewhat inspired by seeing people who are apparently involved in teacher training finding various reasons to ignore what teachers actually experience in schools (details here). It made me wonder whether there are other questions they don’t want teachers to answer. So I asked this one:

What was the most pointless (or harmful) task you had to undertake as part of teacher training?

The answers don’t necessarily distinguish between training in universities and training in schools. For the most unlikely ones I did ask a few follow up questions to convince myself they were genuine, but obviously I could have been fooled. As ever, these are intended to be answers only to the question I asked, not an account of what is normal in teacher training. You can find the thread here on Twitter. I’ve also included answers from Facebook. I’ve tried to avoid answers that are obviously from outside the UK, although many of these are still well worth reading on the thread.

Taking part in a carnival where I had to dress up as a box of McDonald’s fries. Do I win?

Photographic evidence provided by @OhLottie

Being made to do learning styles & left brain/right brain questionnaires to find out what kind of [learner] I am.

First week of PGCE at York we were required to carry an orange and a blindfold to all sessions. Eventually had … to identify our oranges blindfold. Still no idea why!

Being made to have a reconciliation meeting with a student, to apologise for telling her there’s no such thing as a kinaesthetic learner… This was last year!

Triple mounting… Mounting work on card then remounting on 2nd contrasting colour then a 3rd mounting with 1 cm border. I cried when told I would have to redo… Did I mention how long it took? I was a student and last out of the building. Caretaker tapping foot outside door. General effect of display was hallucinogenic.

‘Kinaesthetic’ learning in maths. One trainee: ‘I got outstanding for my lesson – we did the starter outside with the hula hoops’

Compiling a massive folder of ‘evidence’ and then organising and signposting key bits for the assessor so most of it was ignored.

[A massive folder of evidence] and a reflective sketchbook (think full-on creative & decorated) which was the last thing I had time for and didn’t benefit my learning… The idea was nice but it added to the stress of things to do & has just been shoved in a cupboard since.

I had four huge boxes of “evidence”. I have no idea what was filling most of it and I don’t believe for one second anyone looked.

Working out how to teach numeracy in English to tick off that bit of my evidence folder.

Building a bottle rocket. I have no idea why we had to do it. Maybe to do with teamwork? Near the end of our training. Seemed weird.

Teaching an entire lesson without speaking. First placement too! … It was to encourage them to learn independently.

Having to reorder my folders for the tutor’s ease of marking having arranged them for my ease of teaching.

Building a tower from rolled-up newspapers to learn about teamwork.

The “assessment and ICT” essay? portfolio? where we had to photocopy and collate paperwork.

My tutor … said he would pass us all if we survived his organised pub crawl.

Going outside to collect sticks and leaves then using them as ‘inspiration’ to write a Halloween story. We were encouraged to dress up too.

I remember our ICT lectures were truly awful. Basic stuff like how to save a Word document.

To play ‘pass the teddy and speak’ during a staff meeting. Some took role seriously and revealed ‘inner child’ *cringe*

Spending hours devising & printing OHTs (remember?)with pictures of Simpsons characters in order to have ‘eye catching starter’ I recall many sessions concerned with devising games of bingo and other ‘lively activities’ apparently for MFL vocab learning. I recall a fellow trainee telling me of advice she’d been given by course tutor regarding difficult class: “Wear a silly hat”.

Watched a tutor get up on a table to demonstrate a swimming stroke as he insisted you didn’t need to go swimming to teach [children] to swim.

Having to write a 6000 word essay on the decimal system and how it had positively impacted on my life.

Being made to teach from the middle of the classroom for the whole lesson, far far away from the PC or my resources to see how I’d cope.

Giving me a class with a child who (in hindsight) was clearly autistic, with no warning & no back up. The actual teacher had walkie talkie … as child was a runner: I prepared a history lesson & blacked out the room & played sirens. The kid threw a chair at me, swore & ran. I had NO way of contacting other staff other than to leave my class & run to reception. I had no SEN training at all. Was year 2 teaching degree.

Going to a primary school for the day when I teach KS5

Three weeks at a primary school at the start of my 11-18 PGCE. Totally wasted time. … Three weeks with year 2. I didn’t see a secondary kid for six weeks. I learnt v[ery] little.

Organise a trip for PGCE students, taught me nothing, but on hottest day of the year, 6 month[s] pregnant, I had to walk miles up a hill

Make a poster.

Brain gym

Weekly logs of around 750 words, not entirely pointless as it was all about reflective practice but coming up with 3 SMART targets a week was a struggle.

Morning spent on cross-curricular links possible between English and geography is the first thing that springs to mind.

Draw a teacher. Mime a poem. L[earning] S[tyles] survey. Kinaesthetic paper-cutting. Write answer, throw scrunched paper at teacher. So many! … Actual most harmful was probably advice to choose English texts based on what kids are interested in and what they know already.

Most pointless was creating 3 different worksheets (H[igher] A[bility], L[ower] A[bility], and average) to demonstrate differentiation. I would never do this in class or even have time to do it for all classes

Spent h[ou]rs thinking up French activities to suit each of the multiple intelligences (naturalistic was my fave. Erm, learn vocab about trees?) Think we settled on a French trip to a farm in the end (just to make it all stop).

The ICT skills test!

Listening a diatribe from a member of faculty telling us it was awful that heads & governors were held responsible for school performance

Pointless: the display stuff. Suggesting that jaunty angles was disrespectful of pupils’ work. The effort/gain didn’t justify the time spent.

As part of my drama elective, being told to become a piece of spaghetti, coming to the boil in front of an audience of 60 fellow students!

[My] D[ear] H[usband] was training to teach history. Lecturer wanted students to crawl under desks, to experience what it was like to be a coal miner.

Make up a dance with The Jabberwocky’ as the inspiration. Mortifyingly embarrassing

We spent a whole day being shown how to double mount work for display purposes. We were shown how to put up a roll of backing paper and they had to ‘have a go’ putting up backing paper. This included tips on how far to allow the staple to go into the board. We had to have mitred corners. We then had to create a display in teams, mount it and assemble it. The lecturer took ages to mount one piece of work. She used a rule and set square to make sure the border around the work was exact on all sides. We were told not to just use eye judgement. I happen to have a very good eye for doing this.

We spent an hour on how to choose the right colours to match the work and given examples of which colours went together well.

I’ve never felt so patronised.

We were taught how to write the labels for displays. We had to rule 3 horizontal lines and some vertical lines and then write the words in pencil before going over with felt tip. When I moaned to my mother, she pointed out that she had to do it with a wide-nibbed pen and ink!

Sing in a musical of 7 brides for 7 brothers! Worked on it for a whole term. Because I told the tutor I was tone deaf,was given a main role. …It was mortifying. What it had to do with teaching, none of us understand! It was a long time ago in Swansea, the 4 year b Ed course. It was a performance only the other class got to see thank God. I qualified 95.


  1. Just awful, time-wasting stuff. Not a teacher but my yr 8 daughter spent today’s English lesson designing and drawing a super hero. Why?

  2. I did a Returners course a few years ago and it was surprisingly good. Partly because the person who led it was an actual teacher rather than someone who’d last taught in 1873. Partly because the students were all older ex teachers who wouldn’t have put up with nonsense.
    But you could see in the background the utter nonsense that was involved ; ticking boxes to evidence skills, combined with reams of ‘evidence’. I think on balance I preferred the 1985 PGCE assessment where someone sat in your classroom and judged actual lessons. Plus of course you can generate that sort of evidence without ever being with a pupil

  3. Reblogged this on DT & Engineering Teaching Resources and commented:
    The most pointless activities from teacher training

  4. Love the french fries–but sadly, I think a lot of mums would think it’s a wonderful way to train EYFS teachers. Still, pretty damning stuff–but it would be far more powerful if we knew when your respondents were in training. I really have no idea how much things have improved in the last few years, or indeed if they’ve improved at all.

    Maybe it would be a good idea if you asked for examples of useful elements of ITT preparation–and this time, differentiate between universities and schools. Many–myself included–have always assumed that school-based courses are more likely to moderate loony ideas because they have to live with the consequences, but it would be nice to have a bit of evidence.

  5. And then the joy of repeating all again every year for staff training 😂

  6. […] Teaching in British schools « The most pointless activities from teacher training […]

  7. […] The blog thread about injuries at work had me laughing out loud. The commentary by the author about pointless teacher trainings was right on point. I really liked the honesty of this one. I felt like the blog was not sugar […]

  8. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  9. Some of the previous I understand for breaking down barriers and being able to be in front of a class and make mistakes with no fear.
    But get this..
    Trained during pgce year as an MFL teacher. Then hired as an English teacher due to having English degree. Told will only teach KS3.
    Half way through the year, at Christmas, my mentor and the head of faculty leave, and the school gives me not only second set Y10 but also second set Y11. Oh and don’t tell me, just let me find out on the first day back after Christmas when I have a class I’ve never seen before come to my door and go, oh so you’re teaching us?
    Given no time to study or learn. Had to ask for it myself before having a mental break down

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