Will I enjoy working in schools as a trainee?
Take a read of some stories by our trainees. We've shortened them and made them anonymous, but apart from that, we haven't changed a word. (Don't forget, you could also meet us in person at one of Information Evenings).
"I peculiarly felt very much like most children do when they start back for a new year following the summer vacation. Everything is new and crisp like. You've got your best clothes on and you’re keen to make a good impression.
You walk around the school smiling, hoping those children and parents cannot see what a bag of nerves you are and how your stomach is filled with nothing but butterflies and stacks of them!"
"During the first week if I am honest I really doubted myself and did not think I could ever teach a whole lesson but now I am in the routine of planning and delivering a variety of lessons, for a range of ages!
I am thinking about creative ways to deliver my lessons, building positive rapport with my students and also thinking of differentiation strategies in order to stretch and challenge my most able pupils."
Or read more about our courses:
"Nothing can quite prepare you for stepping through the school doors on your first day as a trainee teacher. Will I fit in at the school? Will the children like and respect me? Will I be a good teacher? All these questions flood your mind with each step ... and then the bell goes.
Suddenly your mind snaps into focus, and your primary concern becomes about how you can do this job to the best of your ability, helping to give children a great educational experience."
"I came to teacher training later in life – a ‘career-changer’ they call it - and I think the experience has been different for me in some ways.
I really wondered if I would be able to keep up; I vaguely wondered what it would be like to be amongst a cohort of younger students; mostly I wondered if I really was up to the test."
"It truly has been a whirlwind of observations, lesson plans and an increased timetable.
I feel like everything I learned over the last year completely vanished from my brain and I had to start from scratch. That isn’t true, of course, and I’m finding that as time goes on and I get a little bit more settled everything is coming back to me. Slowly but surely!"
The long reads
Some of our trainees talk about their experiences...
Those first few days in school, I peculiarly felt very much like most children do when they start back for a new year following the summer vacation.
Everything is new and crisp. You've got your best clothes on and you’re keen to make a good impression. You walk around the school smiling, hoping those children and parents cannot see what a bag of nerves you are and how your stomach is filled with nothing but butterflies and stacks of them!
If you happen to be as lucky as me, you'll have one of the best teachers you've ever seen in action as your classroom teacher. He's careful not to introduce you as a student. Phew! The children think I'm a teacher, I couldn't have asked for a more positive start. Then from that day onwards, you push aside your title as trainee and do your upmost to be the best teacher you can be. So in reality, you are not a trainee for long!
Your eager to make new relationships with staff and children yet frankly, what you really want is for everyone to walk around with a name badge. Wouldn’t it be so much easier? You’ve lost count how many times you’ve said ‘yes you’ because you can’t quite remember that child’s name again. Nevertheless, while it takes some effort you do learn and that goes some way in building relationships and getting to know the children you will teach.
The children get to know you and seek your help when they need it. It is those small moments that make your first few days really worthwhile and after that, it gets even better.
I built up my teaching commitments by first taking small groups out of a class. It's a great way to make a start and actually the children feel they are somewhat part of an elite club as they are selected to come out of classroom whilst others are not. I won't tell them if you don't! This is very much how your journey will begin as a trainee, small steps but a lot of them. I never thought I would reach the teaching commitment of 30% by half term yet with all the amazing support on offer, it’s actually very achievable.
Just like all things in life, teaching has its high’s and then it has its low’s, even in your first week. You will relive every moment over and over in your head, mostly the ones you feel went horribly wrong. That’s the deal with teaching, you can’t wait to put something right and you won’t rest until you do and even then, your natural teacher instinct will tell you, ‘I can do that even better next time’.
My first placement was at a local school in Coventry, a mixed-gender inner-city Christian school with no catchment area (so it accepts pupils across the local area and isn't based wholly on pupils’ proximity to the school).
My first day was very welcoming and positive. We had a teaching training day where we received training, analysed summer results and talked through the agenda for the year, Ofsted reports and integral Governmental training schemes.
This was a lot to take in for the first day but I really felt it set me up well for the next coming weeks and was also insightful to have a background of the school. Alongside this, it made me feel settled and part of the staff team which is so important when starting somewhere new.
All of the staff were friendly, polite and on hand to help wherever possible which was comforting and reassuring. The next day students were in and my teacher training would begin!
Initially, I observed lessons in English and Drama and from doing so I noted was that there was a big crossover between English and Drama with some staff teaching both subjects. Observing English was really helpful to note the ‘standard’ classroom set up with desks and chairs, and I started recognise different strategies that were used to engage and inspire students.
In English lessons, group work was a recurring strategy used to engage students in written and spoken English which worked really effectively. I also noted that students were in seating plans, ranging from alphabetical order to the teachers own plan which was based on educational need or target grades, therefore students were constantly working with others which was encouraging.
In Drama, the classroom strategy is slightly different as it has a little more freedom, as of course it has no desks and chairs. I noted that the initial step in classroom management for drama lessons is to outlay the expectations before entering the classroom; what is expected, approach, conduct and behaviour in lessons.
The drama teachers were polite and friendly but also authoritative and this encouraged a mature response from all students across the years, which is something I will take away from my observations. Students in drama were encouraged to work together in small groups, devising small performances that were evaluated at the end of the lessons.
Throughout my observations I noted subtle but effective features; fair behaviour strategies, pit stops of assessments and the ‘3 classroom rules’ rule which meant students had the correct balance of freedom and limitation.
After observing for 2 weeks, I then began to plan and take over lessons (only KS3 at first) which was a valuable experience and also improved my teacher presence in the classroom.
For Extra Curricular, I have helped with drama club, student directed plays, the school musical production and also dance club which was been really helpful. It has allowed me to get to know more students across the years, but also find different ways to teach in both formal and informal settings. This has given me a wider view of the school and also taps into my interests as a performer and a dancer and meant I could get across my passion for the performing arts subjects. It has reminded me to not forget about my own interests and is important to put passion and enthusiasm into classroom, extra-curricular and cross curricular activities to inspire students (if you look bored, then this will reflect on the students!)
At the time of writing I'm in my fifth week and delivering 5-6 lessons a week, across year 7, 8 and 9.
During the first week if I am honest I really doubted myself and did not think I could ever teach a whole lesson but now I am in the routine of planning and delivering a variety of lessons, for a range of ages! I am thinking about creative ways to deliver my lessons, building positive rapport with my students and also thinking of differentiation strategies in order to stretch and challenge my most able pupils.
On my first formal observation, I received grade 2: GOOD with some qualities in OUTSTANDING for my year 9 (GCSE) lesson, which I am thoroughly proud of and will take forward with me in my next lessons! I am excited about the start of my career and am thriving on the pupil progress in my classroom.
Whilst it is tiring and sometimes planning till ridiculous times, it is thoroughly rewarding when watching your plans turn into realities!
One piece of advice which I have found most useful is to get straight into it, don’t be afraid, you will make mistakes but you learn more from the mistakes.
I am looking forward to progressing further and looking forward to what the next few weeks have to come."
*Tea tip* A soothing cup of Chamomile and Honey tea is perfect to see you through late night lesson planning!
My first half term as a NQT is over. It truly has been a whirlwind of observations, lesson plans and an increased timetable. I feel like everything I learned over the last year completely vanished from my brain and I had to start from scratch.
That isn’t true, of course, and I’m finding that as time goes on and I get a little bit more settled everything is coming back to me. Slowly but surely!
I forget that not all schools are the same. My training school was very different to where I am now and it doesn’t even occur to me half of the time that I actually have things to offer this new place.
My MA for example – however many thousands of words I used writing about an innovative classroom intervention – is actually something that people want to hear about. So why not let people know? I did and now I’m delivering a Continuing Professional Development session to the new trainees here, which helps them but is hugely beneficial to my own professional development as well, which is always good.
I feel like it’s easy to get bogged down and to almost take the job too seriously. I’m not for one second suggesting that the job isn’t a serious and very important one, because it most certainly is. But that’s not to say that you must be straight-faced and frowning all of the time.
Of course there is a time and a place for that, but it’s important for you and for your pupils to enjoy their experience. I’m starting to focus on that more and more as the term goes on and already I can see a difference in the pupils. In both behaviour – not that it was ever a massive issue – and in their own pride in themselves and their ability. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I hear a “Miss! I’ve done my homework look!!” in the corridor and the first thing I ask them is: are you proud of what you’ve done? And it makes me beam with happiness when they say “YES!”.
It would be dishonest of me to say that every day is a winner, because it’s not.
The other day I was super excited to deliver a history lesson to a year 8 class about the Tudors and the chemically laced cosmetic products they used. I had spent ages making a little booklet for them to go through and a question sheet for them to answer. But they didn’t get it. I could feel myself getting frustrated because I knew exactly what I wanted them to do, but they just weren’t getting it. So at the end of the lesson I went back to the drawing board and re-planned the whole thing, ready to deliver it to my other year 8 class.All of the little things which seemed so obvious in my head were the bits they were struggling on and so I made sure everything was 100% clear.
Yes it took ages, and yes I probably could have been planning another lesson, but this was a priority to me. The lesson went wonderfully, but there are still changes I would make (if I had a third Year 8 class ... admittedly I might have to put this one aside now and move on - difficult for a perfectionist!)
Some days are better but you still feel rubbish because you didn’t get time to have that cup of coffee you so desperately need. The trick is not to let it get you down. I’ve gone home feeling awful because of one or two little things. But when you stop and reflect, one or two little things out of a whole day of things isn’t really the be all and end all of everything, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re failing.
I’m spending more time focusing on the “what went well’s” and using any remaining energy to constructively look at any room for improvements. I feel like my life has become a giant lesson plan!
Life Plan: Monday
- To get through the day in a positive manner
- To make sure you remain professional but not too stuffy
- To make sure you have at least one cup of tea
A consistently happy mood from 9am – 3pm fun, creative lessons and a “can do” attitude! A perfectly crafted brew and at least five minutes to savour it (unlikely...)
So I guess that’s it for now – simple reflections about my new life with a proper job, making a difference somewhere along the line.
First half term advice: don’t try to be perfect. Master one thing at a time and you’ll see the benefits very quickly and, importantly, so will the kids.
Set the example, set the standards you want to see in them. They might fall short, but you need to pick them up, dust them off and help them try again tomorrow."
Nothing can quite prepare you for stepping through the school doors on your first day as a trainee teacher.
Will I fit in at the school? Will the children like and respect me? Will I be a good teacher? All these questions flood your mind with each step… and then the bell goes. Suddenly your mind snaps into focus, and your primary concern becomes about how you can do this job to the best of your ability, helping to give children a great educational experience.
After the first few hours fly by, introducing yourself to the children, the other teachers and all other staff, my personal experience is I instantly felt a warmth from the school. Quickly it became clear from the first introductions that the school was there to help me, to guide me through all the pitfalls that some trainees may succumb to. Sensibly, between my class teacher, mentor and I, it was decided I would spend a lot of my first two weeks observing. The university gives you many small tasks to complete and then evaluate, such as observe a Science lesson in Key Stage 1 or a PE lesson Key Stage 2. Doing this allowed me to really pick up some great ideas which I can adapt later on in the year to suit my own classroom. Furthermore, it genuinely helped me to bond with the other staff; I would help them out and learn from them, creating a two-way bond between us that made discussion in the staff room so much easier.
During these observations, some teachers asked me if I would like to take a small group – either low ability or high ability – and effectively coach them through the lesson. I would highly recommend gaining this experience, as you effectively teach a lesson that is pre-prepared for you to a small amount of children. I found it to be a great stepping stone that helped sharpen me up quickly at the start of the year.
Perhaps the scariest moment comes around two or three weeks into your placement. I had a meeting with my mentor and class teacher and was told they thought it was time for me to teach my first lesson unaided. Quite honestly, going into the course with zero experience, I can say that turning up on the day of your first lesson is terrifying.However, having built a good rapport with the children, they were all keen to listen, to behave and to learn.
Up the front, there was a teacher sweating and with dry mouth doing his best to ensure the lesson was running smoothly and that the children had met their success criteria relating to the learning objective. Then the bell went, and suddenly the classroom was quiet. The children had seen the lesson as “just another lesson” but for me it was confirmation that this was the job I wanted to do. Looking at their books, it was extremely satisfying that their work was of good quantity and quality. I set down to mark while the children filed back in as if nothing had happened previously, other than to say “I enjoyed that” to me. I left school with the widest grin on my face.
Today is a day of celebration – I have just been told that I have been awarded my (recommended) NQT and PGCE qualifications and, in so doing, have completed my training year. Some of my equally thrilled colleagues are probably out painting the town red and so they should be. For me, it’s a moment to breathe a sigh of relief.
I came to teacher training later in life – a ‘career-changer’ they call it - and I think the experience has been different for me in some ways.
I really wondered if I would be able to keep up; I vaguely wondered what it would be like to be amongst a cohort of younger students; mostly I wondered if I really was up to the test of standing up in front of class of students in a secondary school and come to that, whether, at my time of life, I wanted to go back to the beginning and put myself through any test at all.
One thing I did know was that, one benefit of being older was that there didn’t seem to be so much to lose. I also knew that I liked standing in front of groups of children and trying to help them with their learning because I’d taught before - albeit long before and far away – and I’d loved it. Given this starting point, I decided that, however difficult the experience might prove to be, it might yet actually turn out to be worth the trouble and I nursed a secret hope that it might even actually prove to be fun.
Not that there haven’t been difficult moments, or difficult days, or even weeks. Nothing about teaching seems to let you take anything for granted. The pace of work is seldom less than jet-propelled; there are children who, for diverse reasons, choose not live up to the ideals laid out in your lesson plans; job-hunting is still job-hunting and you may, if you’re like me, have moments of disappointment with your academic progress. And yet, somehow, here I am. Not the complete article by any means, but at the very least, a training-survivor.
I could attribute this moment to my own resilience - the ability to keep on turning up each morning and hoping for the best whatever has happened the day before. Perhaps that feeling that I had very little to lose never really went away and kept me coming back just to see what would happen next.
More important though, I think, has been the support coming from all directions. There have always seemed to be people ready and willing to keep me on the right path. These have included academic tutors at Warwick, who are more than able to disassemble a confused essay, locate almost instantly the value in what remains and give you the confidence and the sense to put it all back together in a more coherent way.
It has included teachers and mentors in schools who can see exactly what you are going through and who are just there each day as you make your hectic, frantic, chaotic progress from teacher-toddler to teacher-graduate.
It has included other students, who it turns out experience just the same triumphs and disasters as you do are ready to offer their friendship, wisdom and support. And, not least, it includes the children themselves, who it turns out, can make the whole experience worthwhile; they can test you to the limit but they do, as it turns out, of course, prove to be fun after all. Like one boy, for example, who one day when my words were being drowned out by the cheerful but digressionary chatter of the rest of Year 7, made me laugh by turning round and yelling indignantly at the rest of the class: “Be quiet you lot, Sir is TRYING to teach!”.
He was right, I was. Year 7 remembered the fact and turned back to listen. I still am trying to teach and will continue to be doing so until someone can show me either why it wouldn’t be worthwhile or why something that changes must mean that it couldn’t ever be fun any more.