02 February 2022 | Teacher training blog
I wake up, open my eyes and realise today is study day. No scramble to get in the bathroom before its besieged by my children! Study day is one day, every week when you engage with the universities on-line reading and lectures. As a Mum, it is invaluable as it means that I can schedule my children’s appointments on these days if needed. I see all my children out of the house and breathe, the house is quiet, there are no children, and the temptation is to sit in my pjs, drinking coffee and watching daytime TV! But the on-line study is important, the reading and lectures not only help inform your teaching practise but also underpins your assignments needed for your PGCE. So, I enjoy the peace and quiet and my coffee but then I open my laptop and click on this week’s study. If I’m honest, the other temptation is to crack on with some housework or D.I.Y, to fix that wardrobe door, scrub the bathroom or tackle the ironing mountain that is threatening to topple at any minute so I have to be quite disciplined as there is a lot of reading on academic research and pedagogical theories and I don’t want to fall behind so the ironing remains where it is!
Today I’m back in my class. As I walk in to school, it’s strange to think that at the beginning of the term I was so nervous, wondering what I was doing! I felt I would never find my way around the building or be able to name all these strange faces but as we approach the end of the first term, the school is already feeling like my second home. I go into my classroom, turn my laptop on and one of my neighbouring teachers pops in for a chat. She is an Early Career Teacher (ECT) and we get together every morning, discussing our lessons, sharing printing and resources. As someone who has recently qualified, she offers incredible support as she remembers what it is like. My Lead Mentor (LM) then comes in and we discuss anything I need to know regarding the children, changes to the timetable, how yesterday’s lessons went etc.
Today I will be observing my Lead Mentor on two demonstrations. Demonstrations are a focus on a small aspect of Teaching practice. They can be taking the register, preparing resources, setting homework or an aspect of behaviour management. These are set in our weekly development meeting (WDM). The university set a list of possible focuses for these, but you are also allowed to choose aspects you or your LM feel would help improve your practise. Your LM demonstrates this focus first then you implement them (known as an agenda) when you are teaching.
Now the day truly starts -It’s time to open the door and I go out to greet our class. The children bundle in, full of chatter and enthusiasm and keen to share their latest news of a new kitten or a wobbly tooth. The day whizzes past, I observe my LM for my agendas and then observe other teachers across the school to experience other examples of teaching.
At 3.30pm, I ensure the children have left with the correct adult, then our neighbouring ECT joins us, we usually make a cup of tea, produce some biscuits and we discuss our day, how the children responded to the lessons and what we are planning tomorrow. We double-check our lesson plans for the following day and help each other prepare resources. I choose to spend this time after school to prepare my lessons rather than at home as I have my colleagues to help me, bounce ideas off and offer suggestions if needed and the queue for the printer is much shorter at this time of day! When I’m confident that everything is prepared for the next day, I say my goodbyes and go home. I start cooking tea, throw some washing in the machine, run the hoover around and spend the evening with my children. Once they are in bed, I contemplate running over my lesson plans for tomorrow or doing the ironing…
After spending the previous evening, double-checking my lesson plans, I arrive at school ready and raring to go! On Wednesday’s, my school hold a morning briefing session for all teaching staff. This a time to share any information that we need. This could be an update on procedures, changes to Covid guidelines or any other new information then it’s back to the classroom. Today I teach all day, although my LM only observes me for 2 of the lessons. I never thought, when I nervously taught my first lesson nearly 3 months ago, that I would be teaching a whole day in such a short time but it’s honestly the best way to learn and improve. The university study teaches you theories but it’s through teaching that you really understand and hone your skills. Some lessons go according to plan and I feel on top of the world, some lessons I feel have gone better and my LM helps me reflect on what I could do next time to improve although she maintains that I am too hard on myself and points out everything that did go well!
After the children leave, it’s the weekly staff meeting, again biscuits are usually involved! This is a great time when all the teaching staff come together and discuss aspects of teaching and the curriculum. Sometimes the staff lead the meeting, recently the school’s Maths task force gave a presentation on the use of manipulatives in Maths. Or it might be a professional from outside of the school giving advice or teaching techniques. I take pages of notes (and a few biscuits) and try to absorb as much information as I can, but it is usually the discussion with my colleagues that helps me understand more. We all leave, and I stop in the supermarket to pick up something simple for dinner. I find teaching all day a really positive, exhilarating experience but I must admit once that nervous energy has left me at the end of the day the I just want to cook something easy for dinner, chat to my children and ignore the ironing!
Is it Thursday already? Time really does fly when you’re having fun!
Thursday mornings are Planning Preparation & Assessment (PPA) time. I’m very lucky training in a 3-form year group, as well as my LM (who has been teaching for 8 years) and the ECT there is another Year 3 teacher who is also the Year Lead so I’m surrounded by people with a range of experience, so if 2 heads are better than 1 then 4 heads must be fantastic! Once again, tea and biscuits are involved as is general chatting about our lives, which has really helped build a rapport, but we do work too – honest! We discuss how the lessons have gone through the week; what has gone well, what lessons seemed to be particularly effective as well as the lessons that we felt needed improving in some way. It is also another example of how far I’ve come in this teaching programme. To begin with I felt totally out of my depth, frantically writing notes, asking questions but mostly sat in awe as these people planned a whole week of lessons and wondered how I would ever be able to do this but as Christmas draws near, I am now planning lessons, not just for myself but to be shared by the whole group.
After PPA it’s back to the classroom and I’m teaching Maths. This is not being observed by my LM, it’s just more experience for me, immersing myself in teaching, learning on the job and honestly – just because I love it!
Thursday is also when my LM and I have our WDM. This is when we discuss how my agendas, observations and lessons in general have worked. We talk about any issues I feel there were with my lessons so my LM can offer advice and I reflect on how my week has been. This is when we decide on what lessons I will teach next week and set the demonstrations and agendas. These meetings are meant to be an hour long, but we tend to split it with half an hour at lunchtime and then continue after school. We discuss my planning and lessons for the following week and what resources I may need. It’s then time to go home, raid the freezer for dinner and glare at my ironing pile!
It’s the end of the week and this morning is training. This is led by the lead school and is a chance for all the trainees across the Trust to get together once a week. We usually start with a quick recap of our week; what has gone well, what hasn’t gone so well, any problems we’ve had etc and we all listen, celebrate, commiserate and offer ideas. Every week the training focuses on an aspect of teaching, this could be a subject in the curriculum, theories such as cognitive over-load or we might walk around and observe classes. It is clear from our conversations how much we have progressed as now when we discuss modelling, scaffolding or metacognition.
This week our training is being led by the Art lead and I get very excited when I see the sketch pads, tissue paper and pencils out. She runs through the curriculum and websites that will be useful. She then allows us to “play” with the materials and teaches us a range of techniques. It is an amazing, informative session and helps me feel much more enabled to teach this subject. We then stop for lunch and some trainees leave while the rest of us stay as the afternoon is our own PPA time. Sometimes the university sets tasks that can be done collaboratively so this is the ideal time to do this. If there is an assignment due, we might work on that or start planning our lessons for next week as even though our assignment subjects may be different or the lessons we’re teaching, we all try to support each other. As this is our own time, I usually leave the same time as the children so I’m home early to enjoy some peace and quiet, for about 10 minutes, before my own children get home. I cook dinner and we chat about our week. I quite often use my own children as a sounding board – “What was the best Maths lesson you ever had?”, “What was your favourite Science experiment?”. We make plans for the weekend then watch a film. Once they’re in their bedrooms, I start planning my lessons to keep as much time free over the weekend as I can. First lesson completed I then sink into the bath, mulling over ideas for my lessons next week and then realise…
So that’s a week in my life as a mum and School Direct Trainee!
In all honesty –
Is it hard work? Yes
Do I get stressed? Sometimes but that’s usually regarding my assignments as it’s been a long time since I needed to write academic essays. Lesson planning and Teaching is more nerve-wracking then stressful, but the nerves get a little less every time and are tempered by excitement.
Do I get an immersed teaching experience? Yes
Do I get support from experienced colleagues? Yes
Do I get quality time with my family? Yes – don’t get me wrong, you have a lot to do but it is do-able
Do I love what I do? YES