Having left the British Army to begin teacher training, I was very lucky to be taken on by Durham School to complete the GTP qualification (now School Direct) in Biology. Having been educated in a private school and wanting to be more than just a classroom-based teacher, I decided that an independent school would be best for me as it would have the expectation of extra commitments outside the classroom environment. Although this would mean extra time spent at school, the benefits far outweighed the cost of time as the respect gained from the pupils is vast once you show extra commitment to their education.
I found that being based in a school with a lot of experience in guiding GTP (now School Direct) students through the course meant that any mis-understandings on my side were always cleared up by my mentor, and if he could not do it then the GTP (School Direct) co-ordinator would always be able to sort things out – in other words, I could concentrate on becoming a better teacher rather than on completing the red-tape surrounding the course. I also found that being on a 1-day a week university course, with the rest of the week being a "full-time" teacher suited me down to the ground – I learnt very quickly and improved a lot over a short period of time, rather than learning the theory first before putting it into practice. Don’t get me wrong, it went wrong at the start, but I was able to evaluate why it went wrong with my mentor and then put it right for the next lesson, which was usually a few hours ahead!
If I were to give one piece of advice to new teacher trainees, it would be to keep everything in perspective. The course is not a gentle introduction into teacher-training with some lessons at the end; it is in at the deep end and get on with it. It doesn't matter if you get something wrong (within reason), but it is important that you learn from it and get it right next time. Most importantly, a tired teacher is a useless teacher – you need rest and recovery, so make time for yourself during the week and at weekends, otherwise it will have a big impact on your lessons – and that is what matters.