Teacher training graduate experience

“I’m surrounded by some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic people you could ever hope to meet…”

Alana Burridge is in her first year as a teacher at a Leicestershire primary school. Here she describes why she chose teaching and what life is like in the classroom as a trainee and newly qualified teacher.

“I did a degree in sociology and social policy. When I finished the day after graduation I started an office job. This was always going to be temporary and it was during this time I decided to look at teacher training.

“Teaching had always been in the back of my mind. I did work experience with the police when I was at school but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to help children rather than catch criminals. I guess the desire to teach came from my childhood. I’d always enjoyed helping my younger brothers with their homework and I was also a gym coach in my spare time.

“I was accepted on a teacher training course in September 2012 and when the training year started I immediately found myself in a whirl of lectures and theory based work. Then I was sent on the first of three school placements. We did a lot of observation of teaching at first and I also got the chance to teach small groups with an experienced teacher looking on, but as time went on the time I spent taking classes – under the watchful eye of an experienced teacher – increased.

“By the third placement I took charge of a class proper. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed that. It is a steep learning curve. Going from no responsibility and then having responsibility for a class of 30 children is a big jump. It was a bit scary to be honest but schools are full of the most skilled and supportive people you could hope to meet so it didn’t feel like I was really alone.

“Many teachers are observed in their training period by their colleagues. It was very strange having people in the classroom all the time. People were in and out all of the time. I didn’t realise that this would be the case but I soon got used to it.

“I started at my current school – Barwell Church of England Academy – in September 2013. I’m in charge of a Year 3 class of 30 7 and 8 year olds. It’s a challenge that was daunting at first but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I am a lot more confident now that I’ve almost completed my first full year as a qualified teacher. Being a full time teacher doesn’t mean that the support I received during my training year suddenly ends. I’m working alongside another Year 3 teacher which is really helpful. She is my mentor and she is really experienced and supportive. I think it’s really important that you have an experienced colleague to support you and give you advice.

“A typical day starts with registration and then collective worship in the school hall. Then we have a lesson after assembly before a mid morning break. Then it’s numeracy before lunchtime. In the afternoon we focus on guided reading with the children. That’s the basic structure but obviously it varies from day to day. That’s what makes the job so enjoyable – no day is exactly the same.

“If I had done this all again I would have liked more experience of being in a school beforehand. I think the School Direct teacher training approach that my school is now part of does give trainee teachers a wealth of classroom experience.

“I think it’s also important to get some experience of schools before you start your training year, whichever course you choose. I think you should get involved, either on a voluntary basis or as a learning support assistant. You can learn lots by getting involved in schools in this way. You also get a chance to observe teachers teaching this will help you prepare for the time when you are training. You can pick up lots of hints and tips this way.

“I love teaching. I remember spending a lot of time clock watching when I was working in an office. Time went so slowly. In a school it’s the complete opposite. There is always something that makes you smile. And working with children is wonderful – you are surrounded by some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic people you could ever hope to meet. That’s such a privilege.”

Alana Burridge is teacher at Barwell Church of England Academy, which is part of Affinity Teaching School Alliance. This group of schools are part of Inspiring Leaders Teacher Training, a new schools-based teacher training provider which opens recruitment to its 2015-16 School Direct teacher training course this September. Go to www.inspiringleaderstoday.com/teacher-training to register your interest and find out more.

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