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.

Thinking of a career in teaching?

Thinking about a teaching career? Headteacher Paul Stone of Inspiring Leaders Teacher Training shares some advice. Teacher Training

1        Get an insight into teaching. It’s not just about visiting schools. Try and shadow teachers at work as well. Look at all the aspects of the job. It’s not just about what happens in the classroom. Go to their PPA sessions, see how they plan teaching. You need to see the mechanics of it. Teaching is a bit like looking at an iceberg. Most people see just the classroom facing aspect of the work – not the hours spent planning and marking and professional development. Some people who come into teaching don’t think beyond the classroom and then they realise that they can’t sustain it. You need to know that the job will fit with you first. We’re giving prospective teachers the opportunity to visit our schools to see all these aspects of teaching and we hope it will be valuable.

2        Read children’s books. Read children’s fiction. If you are teaching literacy and don’t know the books, particularly in the junior phase, then you will be at a disadvantage. By Key Stage 2 there are novels to read. If you don’t know them then it will be difficult to be able to plan and teach literacy.

3        Be aware of developments. The education sector is going through what is probably the greatest period of change in 70 years. The way schools are controlled is changing, with the growth of academies that are no longer controlled by local councils. Then there are curriculum changes and initiatives to support kids from poor families, such as the pupil premium and many other important policy changes that will affect how teachers teach. Read up about these developments in the specialist education media (such as the TES) and the national press so you become familiar with your chosen sector.

4        Don’t get hung up on terminology when choosing a teacher training course. Focus on the training and support you will receive and the experience of teaching that a programme will give you. Teaching is a highly skilled profession which can’t be learned just from lecture hall theory because schools are such fast changing places today. And it’s not a job that can be learned ‘on the job’. Look for a programme that focuses on practical classroom experience with a strong supporting element of theory. Most importantly, make sure that you will be closely supported throughout your training and first years of teaching by an experienced teacher mentor. Their support will be invaluable. This is the approach we have taken with our new School Direct teacher training programme.

5        Think about your lifestyle. Teaching is more of a lifestyle choice than a job. It’s worth it because it is so enormously rewarding. Working with children is such a privilege. They’re the most optimistic and wonderful people you could hope to spend your working days with. But the job will have an impact on your life outside of school. There will be marking to do in the evenings and Sundays will become planning time. It’s a big job, but the rewards are incredible.

6        Consider your career ambitions. Today there are opportunities to progress up the career ladder if you are ambitious and able so if you are looking for a school based teacher training provider find out what career path would be open to you after you qualify as a teacher. For me and my colleagues at Inspiring Leaders Teacher Training we think it is vital that there is a clear career path for ambitious people. We offer teacher training and then courses for people aspiring to more senior roles and headship. We think it’s important to give people an obvious route to school leadership roles because it really motivates people to do their best and it keeps the best people in the profession.

Paul Stone is headteacher at Kibworth CE Primary School in Leicestershire. Kibworth and Candleby Lane School in Nottinghamshire have together established Inspiring Leaders, a partnership offering training and development programmes for teachers and school leaders. The partnership has just become a teacher training provider and opens recruitment to its new School Direct course in September 2014. Further details are at www.inspiringleaderstoday.com/teacher-training​.

Train to Teach Roadshows 2014

Get into teaching

More top graduates are training to teach than ever before – three quarters now have a 2:1 or higher. With excellent career progression opportunities and competitive financial benefits, they’re doing so with good reason. Come to a Train to Teach Roadshow to find out how you can train for this rewarding, challenging career.

Throughout the day, you’ll be able to:

  • Attend a presentation with guidance on the routes into teaching, including School Direct, plus invaluable information on applying for teacher training
  • Speak to teaching experts and receive one-to-one advice on your training options
  • Meet initial teacher training (ITT) providers in your region to find out about their courses and entry requirements
  • Meet representatives from schools participating in the School Direct Training Programme to find out more about the programme in their schools
  • Talk to current teachers about what it’s like to be a teacher

The events are completely free and are taking place in Belfast, Dublin, Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Manchester, Northampton, London, Sheffield, Preston, Brighton, Leeds, Oxford, Plymouth, Liverpool, Canterbury, Middlesbrough, Gloucester, Cambridge, Norwich, and again in London throughout April, May and June 2014.

Unfortunately, the Southampton and Bath events have been cancelled.

These events are designed for anyone interested in teaching, particularly those who want to teach maths, physics, chemistry, modern foreign languages, computer science, design and technology or primary.

Visit our get into teaching YouTube channel to find helpful videos about life as a teacher.