This week I’ve had the privilege of working with our newest cohort of trainee teachers, who have started their teaching practice placements with us. Training the next generation of teachers is a vital part of the work of the Academy, and our school community is enriched by the new ideas and energy that our trainees bring to us each year.
I always wanted to be a teacher. My Grandad, both parents, my cousin and my uncle are teachers; it’s our family trade! As a teenager I did summer jobs teaching music and drama on performing arts and activity camps, and I did work experience in local schools. I went straight into a PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) from University. I promised myself that, if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d stop – but I loved it, and I’ve never looked back.
Even though I trained as a secondary English teacher, my course began with a two-week primary school experience. Where better to start than right at the beginning? I went to a primary school on the outskirts of Nottingham and worked with a mixed Year 5/6 class. I started with some small group work. I remember helping the class teacher hand-crank the Banda machine to get my worksheets off to do some technical accuracy work with a group of six hand-picked students. Here’s my crib sheet from my very first try at “proper teaching”:
And then, in the last days of the fortnight, it was time to take the whole class. I was going to get them to do some creative writing based on a piece of music. I cranked the Banda machine, I planned my lesson with the class teacher, I psyched myself up. Then, the class teacher stepped out. It was over to me.
I don’t remember much about the lesson, if I’m honest. What I do remember – what I’ll never forget – was the debrief with the teacher afterwards. “How do you think it went?” she asked, kindly. “It was okay…” I said, hesitantly. “And were you comfortable with the noise level?” she asked. A sure sign of a skilful teacher: giving me the opportunity to learn from failure and improve. Here’s what I wrote in my evaluation:
“I learned that success does not come from rushing into things, but from taking things slowly.” The first lesson wasn’t brilliant, but the second was better. I learned, very early on, that it’s okay not to get something perfectly right first time, provided you learn from it and do better the next time. This has stayed with me to this day.
My primary school experience journal ended with a series of reflection tasks. The final question was: “How do you now see yourself as a beginning teacher?” Here’s what I wrote:
“Ahead of me now I see a lot of hard work; an almost infeasible amount. However, my work with LF has given me a set of goals, and another role model to emulate, and my enjoyment of the experience has proved that no matter how high the mountains of work, the reward of a child proud of his or her success or achievement makes it all worthwhile.”
Nothing has really changed since then: there is still nothing better than seeing a student proud of what they’ve achieved. I’m quite envious of our new trainees: they have so much to look forward to.
If you’re thinking of a career in teaching, there a lots of ways to get into the profession. We run School Experience Days at Churchill where you can find out what it’s like to be in the classroom, and learn more about routes into teaching. For more details, see the “Train with us” page on the Academy website.
Alternatively, the Get Into Teaching website gives all the information you need about training to teach. There is a free Get into Teaching event in Bath on Saturday 11th November 2017, where colleagues from Churchill and a range of local providers will be on hand to answer any questions about teaching or teacher training. Click here to register.