The first half term of the programme has flown by and I am now just five weeks away from finishing my first teaching placement. It has been an intense, challenging but highly enjoyable ride so far; the learning curve is undeniably steep but the personal and professional rewards make everything worthwhile.
The first two weeks of the course were University based, with lectures focusing on a wide variety of topics designed to prepare us for working in schools. Some were practical in nature, focusing on crucial skills such as lesson planning or marking, while others were more philosophical, exploring the theoretical side of education. A particular highlight was a lecture by guest speaker Hywel Roberts, the author of “Oops! Helping Children Learn Accidentally,” who shared his experiences of working as a teacher. These sessions were well designed and informative, giving us invaluable information about the profession we are entering, whilst also allowing us to build relationships with fellow trainees.
In my last piece, I wrote about the burgeoning camaraderie amongst my colleagues on the course, and this has continued to grow as the workload has increased. There are certainly times when the amount of work seems intimidating, but having a support network of people going through the same process makes it easier to keep things in perspective. University sessions are always lively as we share stories from our placements and debate the intricacies of the teaching profession. It is inspiring to speak to so many people with a real passion for their subject and the wider responsibilities of being an educator.
Our teaching placements began after the first two weeks, with us initially spending three days a week in school. I have been very lucky with my placement school, as my department and the wider staff group have been incredibly welcoming, treating me like a proper member of staff. Likewise, the students have been wonderfully respectful, and I have managed to build strong relationships with the classes that I teach. After just one half-term, I feel very much at home in the school and will be sad to leave at the end of the autumn term.
Mondays are set aside for subject-specific tutor sessions. The WYTA History trainees travel to a school in Halifax to meet with our counterparts from the Trinity Teaching School Alliance, where we focus on the pedagogy of our subject and the philosophy behind teaching it. Our tutor is an experienced History teacher who offers both guidance and support, and the sessions always prove enlightening and invaluable to developing our professional skills. It is also a nice opportunity to get together with fellow History enthusiasts and talk about our love for the subject.
Although there are many different aspects of the course, the most thrilling is the act of teaching a class. Standing in front of your students and exploring your chosen subject with them is a sensational feeling. We trainees are now in school four days a week, and I am currently teaching twenty lessons per fortnight. My classes range from years 7 to 10 and are mixed in ability, so an important challenge is to ensure that the planned work is appropriate for each group. The planning of lessons is a difficult, time-consuming process, but seems entirely worth the effort once you are actually in class delivering the lesson. I have particularly enjoyed teaching my Year 10 students about Germany in the inter-war period, as the students are highly engaged with the topic and are producing excellent work in my lessons. The past week has been profoundly moving as the build up to Remembrance Day has made my subject relevant to the lives of students, and they have responded to this with maturity and great empathy.
Outside the classroom, I have strived to get involved in the wider school community. I have spent time in the Inclusion unit and have worked with students for whom English is a second language. I have been asked to mentor a Year 7 student who is struggling to transition from junior school, and I relish the prospect of this additional responsibility. I will also be getting involved in the school’s Christmas production, helping out backstage. The colleagues I am working with have been fantastic at facilitating these extracurricular activities, pushing me to get involved in as many areas of the school as possible.
As I near the end of my first placement, I can reflect on the journey so far and see just how much I have learned in a relatively short space of time. Of course, there is still a long way to go and I am picking up new skills every day. The workload is growing with each passing week, but at no point have I regretted my decision to train as a teacher. The fact is, teaching is fun; there are tough days, but there is also a lot of laughter and it is never dull. I feel more professionally stimulated than I have ever done before and I am looking forward to a long and rewarding career teaching the young minds of the future.