A Day in the Life....
We are pleased to share with you the thoughts and experiences of two of our current School Direct trainees. Please see the sections below to find out more about "A Day in the Life of...."
...a Secondary School Direct Trainee
A day in the life of a Secondary School Direct Trainee
15 October 2019
I wake up and it begins. After a frantic search for my keep cup, I make myself a coffee and check through my emails and timetable for the day. I leave the house and begin my short, scenic walk to school. At this time of year, the leaves and brisk morning air spur me on, but then a gaggle of blue blazers spill out of the corner shop at the end of my road. “Good morning Miss” they shout. The school day is officially underway.
I arrive at school and head to the office. It’s a typical English office: GCSE texts sit in piles in the corner like the leaning tower of Pisa. An environmentally friendly group of patterned coffee cups sit on top of the filing cabinet and an eclectic collection of Chilly bottles in various shades protrude from every desk. I turn on the Nescafe machine, its whirring like a siren call to my coffee-deprived colleagues who come flooding in and begin talking about the day ahead.
With everyone suitably caffeinated, I discuss the lessons I have planned for today with my mentor or class teacher. In some lessons I am team teaching, others I teach on my own. The topics this term cover a range of literature - a nice mix for a trainee teacher with which to get going.
I head to tutor time. After the register, I share the quiz I have planned; we have a termly competition and it’s getting quite heated now. I ask my tutees how their subjects are going and we discuss the films we saw at the weekend.
After tutor time ends, I have a non-contact lesson (I dare you to call it ‘free’) so I head to the staff room to catch up on lesson planning and university work. The staff room is my favourite place in the school; you get the chance to talk to members of staff from other departments and share experiences and ideas. I begin planning a lesson, and spot another School Direct trainee at a computer. I head over to see how they are getting on; their completed lesson plan glares at me from their screen like a trainee’s Holy Grail. Look at the font they have used! Everything looks so good! They’ve embedded videos, pictures AND animations! I head back to my computer feeling a little lost. This rivalry is natural as a trainee, but everyone works differently and at different speeds. Instead of feeling dejected, I am suddenly inspired and get on confidently with my own lesson.
Teaching begins. I head to my classroom, and set up ready for a lesson on Frankenstein. I let the students in. Wide-eyed and keen to learn they sit down quietly and begin the starter. A picture of Boris Karloff in the film Frankenstein stares down at them from the board.
“Who is this?” I ask.
“Frankenstein’s Monster” they reply in unison.
Good, I think to myself, not all is lost. I then begin telling them about the context of the novel and the life of Mary Shelley. I tell them the story of the night Lord Byron dared Mary Shelley and the group to write a ghost story when staying in his house in Geneva.
“Where’s Geneva, Miss?” an inquisitive voice from the back calls out.
My heart stops. I’m in a blind panic. I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever known. Where is Geneva? I didn’t plan for this? Why are they asking ME? Why don’t I know? You should know, why didn’t you look that up!
“Switzerland” another student calmly replies in a monotone voice. Relieved at the intelligence of the future generation, I carry on with the lesson.
It is a common fear of trainee teachers to worry about subject knowledge, or getting something wrong in front of a group of teenagers but owning up and admitting you made a mistake will (almost) always guarantee you a lot more respect.
As I walk to the office for break time, a student runs up to me in the corridor.
“Miss, Miss is creative writing club on today?”
It’s great to see students enthused about writing and stories; it’s one of the best parts of teaching. I love seeing them being creative and escaping into imaginative worlds. It’s a lovely reminder of why I'm doing this - it makes it all worth it.
Suddenly it’s lunch time and the staff gather in the staff room for the daily showstopper challenge of revealing last night’s culinary creations. In the midst of recipe sharing and tupperware envy, I remember I have to print out resources for my double lesson in the afternoon. I head to the printer before the inevitable queue hits.
As the double lesson approaches I greet the students by the door and they enter the room, lethargically. One of the hardest parts of being a trainee teacher is encouraging those students who don’t want to be there. You have spent hours and hours planning a lesson and they sit there with their head on the desk, or looking out of the window. I don’t expect them to say, “Wow Miss, what a lovely lesson, thank you so much” or “This is an excellent worksheet - it must have taken you ages” because teaching is a selfless job; sometimes it’s hard. But then, there are moments that make it all worthwhile. I set a silent writing task, some are keen and begin scribbling away, others stare at the text begrudgingly. One student is finding it particularly difficult to make a start, so I go over and talk to them. After discussing the task quietly together, they have said some really insightful points. They smile, pick up their pen and start writing their answer.
It’s great to see students make progress at this stage of my teaching career. At the end of the day when I'm at home, I smile just a little more each day and get ready to do it all over again.
...a Year 1 School Direct Trainee Teacher
A day in the life of a Year 1 School Direct trainee teacher and some magic moments
When asked in my interview why I wanted to be a teacher, I didn’t know how to put it into words. My teachers told me “you’re not smart enough to get to university”. If you’re labelled like this it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but in my case, with a dyslexia diagnosis, my labels gave me the drive to prove everyone wrong. When you receive that email congratulating you on gaining a training placement you’re overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude and dread all rolled into one!
So what is it really like?... I’m happy to say ‘work’ doesn’t feel like ‘work’, I don’t need that snooze button on my alarm or the coffee to get me through. I’m happy with waking up earlier and getting home later than I used to. The drive you have guides you through your days. However, no-one quite understands what your day will consist of, or how you might be feeling- unless they’ve been there themselves. So…
I cycle to school, drop my bag into my classroom and pour my morning coffee. Mentally running through the day’s schedule in my year 1 classroom, I check the planning, check the tables are resourced and load up the register ready for the children to come in. Although each day is different, you can bank on the children telling you about their play dates, what they had for dinner, or the ‘Show and Tell’ that you know you won’t have enough time for. Seriously, where do the hours go?
After completing the register and going through the day ahead, teaching begins. First (as it is the early stages) my teacher and I will team-teach a lesson; a core curriculum activity to build foundation knowledge before doing other activities. Then we go into a ‘rotational carousel’. 5 different stations consisting of either: English, maths, science, construction, phonics, role play or creative activities. I’ll be working with a focus group; usually a core subject to scaffold and support their learning, especially with those who need that little bit of extra support. Suddenly, break time is approaching.
After break time, we split the class in half for music so I join in with a song where the children tap their shoes whilst singing. The other adults smile and join in too. I was once told… “fake it until you make it” so I faked enthusiasm for the song, smiling at the children who were clearly loving the concept of having one shoe off and one shoe in their hand to tap with. At lunch time I ate my sweet chilli noodles, salad and yoghurt.
After lunch I observed a phonics lesson. My class teacher bewitched the children with her enthusiasm as she introduced the ‘oo, poo at the zoo’ sound. I watched the children with delight on their faces, amazement in their eyes, every single child paying attention. I reflected on what an amazing teacher my class teacher is and how lucky am I to be under her guidance.
At the end of the day, once the children collect their bags I continue to read them our story ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ by Jill Tomlinson (one of the children’s Show and Tell books). The children listen in amazement. They clearly enjoy the voices and expressions I use when reading - which makes me enjoy reading to them a lot more than I used to enjoy reading aloud when asked to at school. Today I made two mistakes when reading; I lost my place and re-read a line and I pronounced a word wrong. You know what one of the children said after I apologised? “It’s ok Jess, you made a marvellous mistake.” There in that moment is just one example of why teaching is the best job ever. Here’s another example. On Monday (2 days ago) we learnt the expression ‘full of beans’ from the book. The children didn’t know what this meant, so I explained it meant really excited, energetic and happy. During our whole class English lesson we looked at other words for sad, happy, angry and excited. A child put their hand up and said “full of beans means excited too!”. I had goosebumps. From just listening to a story being read aloud, with no pictures, a 5 year old child had remembered what I had told them 2 days ago. Two magic moments from one simple story reading.
This is exactly what I signed up for. Small moments make the hard work worthwhile. In moments like those you’re not questioning if you’ll be good enough or if you’ll learn enough to be able to be a ‘proper teacher’.
I was once told those who can’t, teach, which is one of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard. Teaching requires heart, compassion, resilience, respect, integrity, co-operation, dedication, intelligence - need I go on? I stand tall ready for the challenge. Bring on tomorrow.