For me, Mondays are usually my independent university study day. This is so I can get my three consecutive days in school including my PPA with my lead mentor on a Thursday morning. I start my Monday with an early morning run so that I can get stuck into my study feeling energised. With the university work there is generally a mix of reading articles, completing reflections and listening to lectures on the topic of the week. I tend to intersperse the lectures with reading and copious amounts of tea! Filling in my reflections using the university model allows me to take the information from lectures and articles and consider how this is going to help develop my teaching practise.
Tuesday mornings see me arrive at school before 8am, as long as I don't meet too many tractors en-route! When I arrive on a Tuesday morning it feels like I've been out of school for about two weeks. I have a quick catch-up with my class teacher (lead mentor) to get up to date with how the children's learning has gone since I was last in school. Then it's a mad rush to the photocopier alongside all the other teaching staff! Children arrive from 8:40am for some early morning work whilst registration takes place until 9am. Morning lessons run until 12noon with a break from 10:45 until 11:00, these generally consist of core English and Maths as well as handwriting, group reading. Isn't it just the best feeling when the children are asking 'are you teaching us maths today?' and at the end of the lesson don't want to go to lunch for love of learning. What could be more rewarding than that? Lunch time is a chance to sit down and refuel- well, maybe after a quick lesson debrief with my mentor and mark the last few books I didn't get around to during the lesson. Tuesday afternoons are our Science afternoon so will some weeks I will teach, some weeks observe my class being taught, other weeks I get out and around the school observe excellent teaching practise. End of the day comes on a Tuesday and that feeling of being absent from school is long behind me as we look forward to the next 2 days.
First thing on a Wednesday is a staff briefing led by the senior team, running through any whole school notices. By midway through Wednesday it feels like my awfully short week in school is nearly over. My focus for Wednesdays is generally to put into practise any techniques I have observed on the Tuesday into my own teaching. It's not just the children that can have the visible light-bulb moments, my mentor has witnessed me having those whilst teaching. In the moments I am not teaching the class, I contemplate where I can go to observe, and undoubtedly pinch some ideas to try for myself! In my teaching things are starting to feel a lot more natural and I am able to really focus on what is going to make a huge impact on the children's learning. The best moments, for me, are when the children are as excited about something as I am. For example when introducing the geography topic population, the children absolutely loved watching the world population clock changing and couldn't wait for me to put it back on at the end of the lesson whilst they were getting their home-time things.
Most of the morning on a Thursday is our planning morning as a year group. We are in a fortunate position that there are 3 classes that all plan together. This means that there are lots of ideas (and biscuits) around the room, making for some really engaging lesson content for our children. It is really crucial to be able to have the quality conversations with the teachers and understand how they plan a sequence of lessons and the best pedagogical methods for each element. After 2 and a half hours of planning, it's straight back into lessons with the class until lunch time. This transition can be a tough one as you go from planning lessons for the following week, to delivering something from last weeks planning time. By the end of Thursday I can honestly say I'm exhausted. I often ask myself why, as I'm not yet teaching full time. However, I then remember that when I am teaching I am also learning and when I am not teaching, I am still learning through observations and conversations with my mentor.
Friday's are our trainee morning at Okehampton. We have sessions delivered to us in line with the university focus of the week with our ITE coordinator or some of the fantastic members of staff from Okehampton Primary School. These sessions are incredibly useful for the real-life reflection and relevance of the academic side of teaching. These mornings also give us a chance to talk together as a group of trainees, supporting each other through assignments, tricky situations that may occur in placement schools and general wellbeing.
Harriet Munday, primary School Direct trainee, Okehampton Primary
Having been involved with leading and recruiting to our School Direct training programme for a number of years, I would like to share some advice and strategies to help you best secure an interview and place on the training programme of your choice.
Firstly, do your research into the myriad number of different ways you could get into teacher training. School direct has the advantage of fully immersing trainees into schools and you spend a greater number of days in the school environment than on a traditional PGCE course. However, this doesn’t mean School Direct is always the best option. Do your research, speak to course providers and make the right choice based on your current experience and needs.
Many applicants come to teacher training having worked in a school, perhaps as a TA or a cover supervisor. This ‘in-person’ experience is invaluable and really allows an applicant to shine through an interview. We are not looking for a potential trainee to have all the answers, but we are looking for an engagement with the modern school environment that does more than rely on hazy memories from their own time at school.
One of the best ways to do this is to try and secure some school experience. Whilst this hasn’t always been easy or possible in recent months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dartmoor MAT schools are supportive of such requests and will try to create opportunities for school experience where possible. Please contact me directly via my email firstname.lastname@example.org if this is of interest to you.
A final piece of advice is to do some research into the current national curriculum in your subject area. Potential trainees will be bringing some outstanding subject knowledge to the table, based on their degree and A level results. However, it is important to be aware of current curriculum expectations and key topics that are delivered in schools. Where gaps are identified a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) can be sought before the commencement of your training year. No teacher is an expert in all aspects of their subject, and subject knowledge development should be an ongoing journey through your career.
I am frequently blown away by the life experiences and enthusiasm with which potential trainees come to the application process. This is one of the great privileges of my current job, where I can play a small part in helping to foster the next generation of teachers that will inspire our students. Hopefully the practical suggestions outlined above can compliment those skills and experiences and help you prepare for a successful application process and interview. I look forward to hearing from you!
Phil Ruse Secondary Teacher Training Lead
Being a School Direct trainee is a fantastic way of training as a teacher because from the beginning of the first term I have been present in the classroom experiencing the teaching environment. This has included observing, team-teaching and solo teaching and it has been a great learning experience and an opportunity to start building relationships with pupils and teachers from the word go. There has also been the opportunity to be part of the whole school community by attending staff, year team and faculty meetings and being involved in extra-curricular activities.
As a trainee I have felt well supported throughout the first term, through having an assigned mentor, ongoing professional development training and support from teaching and support staff. It can seem overwhelming at times especially when there are lessons to plan and assignments due in, however, keeping organised and speaking to my mentor and university tutor has helped to relieve the pressure. Through the experience I have gained in term one, particularly around dealing with behaviour issues, witnessing how this has been professionally dealt with and reflecting through written observations and assignments on the subject, I feel more confident about solo teaching going into term 2.
Trudi Massey, RS trainee, Tavistock College
'So far, the training at Tavistock College as an English School Direct Student has been a fantastic experience. There seems to be a well-established support network for trainees where you will have all of the foundations in place to thrive and get the best out of the training. I have enjoyed working with a wide range of students that work at different levels and have different needs, this allows for you to get a real understanding of how it is to be working within a busy secondary school. It has also been incredibly beneficial to be immersed within your department and feel like a member of the team as opposed to a trainee, having the opportunity to work within a team at a fast, realistic pace has allowed me to further understand what it will be like when working as a qualified teacher.
In addition to this, the route allows you to learn, observe and have much more contact time than any other route allowing you to become immersed within the school's community and strengthen relationships with students. I would argue that the School Direct approach is more demanding as you are on placement throughout the whole training year but this will test you and force you to be organized and, in turn, prepared for your career. Throughout my first term of teaching, I quickly learned my approaches as a teacher through experience at the front of the classroom but also through observing a vast range of teachers across different subjects. I have also realised the organizational skills that are needed to be a teacher and this is something that I will continue working on throughout my training. Overall, I have enjoyed the challenge of teaching and recognize that the training is a massive challenge, it isn't easy, there are tough moments but I am glad that I have the opportunity to progress.’
Robbie Bond, English trainee, Tavistock College