Training to teach

Trainees 2017

Churchill Academy’s cohort of trainee teachers 2017

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”:

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Hand-cranked Banda-machine worksheet from pre-photocopier days, in purple ink with red pen notes from my younger self!

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.

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Worksheet from my first ever full-class lesson

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:

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Evaluation of my first lesson

“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:

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How I saw myself, as a beginning teacher, in 1996

“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.

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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.

What happens on an Inset Day?

Inset stands for “in-service training”, and all schools have had five inset days each year since they were introduced in 1988. Schools close to students on inset days, but staff attend. Sometimes they can seem a bit mysterious to families and to students, so I thought in my blog this week I’d try to explain what actually happens on these days when the students are away!

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Inset days are designed to provide compulsory training time for teaching staff so that we can continue to improve our practice, keep up to date with changes in education, and ensure that we have appropriate training to deal with the challenges of our job. Here at Churchill, we often involve our support staff in training too, so that all staff have the knowledge and skills they need to do their job to the best of their ability. We supplement our inset days with on-the-job training and provide a range of opportunities throughout the year for all staff to learn, develop and improve, but the inset days give us a real opportunity to get everyone together and spend an extended period of time working on priority issues for the Academy.

Let’s take this coming Monday (27th June) for example. There are five different strands of training happening on the day.

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Whole staff briefing: Strategic Planning

As a new Headteacher I’ve been busy working on the long-term plan for Churchill following the outstanding Ofsted achieved last summer. I’ll be sharing the plan on this blog towards the end of term, but I’ll start the day by briefing staff about our priorities and how we can all work together to achieve them first thing in the morning.

Safeguarding Training

All staff have to be trained to keep children safe in education – it’s the most fundamentally important part of our job. Because it’s so important, we “refresh” this training at least every two years to ensure that all our staff have the latest guidelines and procedures clearly in mind, and know exactly what to do if there are any concerns about children’s safety. This “refresher” training will be taking place for staff who are due to have this additional training.

Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) Training

Prevent Strategy

Prevent is the Government’s strategy to counteract the threat of extremism in our society. As a school we have a duty to uphold and enact the Prevent strategy and ensure that all staff are aware of what to look out for and what to do to ensure that we respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it, and to prevent people from being drawn into extremism and terrorism. All staff are required to undertake training in these aspects of the Prevent strategy and we will be providing opportunities on our inset day for this to happen at Churchill.

Pastoral development

Staff will meet in their House teams on this inset day to review and plan the work that needs to be done over the rest of this term, and in preparation for September. This includes planning the Celebration of Success events, ensuring that everything is in place to provide a smooth transition for our new Year 7 students and their families, to look at mentoring for students within the Houses, and to take time to work on particular priorities within each House. At the same time, the Sixth Form pastoral team will be meeting to plan the specialist tutor programme for next year, and ensure that the best opportunities are in place for our new Sixth Form cohort starting in September.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) Training

We are extending our provision of the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in Year 12 next year, so we are using our inset day to work in partnership with Backwell School to make sure that all staff involved in delivering the EPQ are properly trained by the exam board. We’re really looking forward to the opportunities that EPQ will give our Sixth Formers and we want to make sure we get it right!

Transition Drama Day

At the same time as all this training, our performing arts students and staff will be working hard with our new Year 7 intake on the famous “drama day” ahead of the transition day on Tuesday. There will be lots of fun, learning and confidence building going on! Watch the website for a full report…

Phew!

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy day! It’s a great opportunity to make sure that all our staff have the best and most up-to-date training to care for and deliver the best possible education to the students at the Academy. And, for our staff at least, it’s definitely not a day off!