From journalist to Now Teach trainee
Cohort: September 2018
Where: Archbishop Tenison’s School
I’m six weeks into training. I wake up every morning feeling pretty positive and looking forward to the day ahead. It’s all completely new and there is a lot to do but I’m enjoying all the different challenges. I come from a journalism and content marketing background so I feel I’ve got an advantage in some aspects, particularly with the planning and preparation side of things. The downside is that I can spend too much time on that and not enough on other areas. So I have to rein in some of the creativity and be a bit more focused on the basics, like how to control a lesson.
A school is a very sociable and buzzy place to work.
Mind your language
Behaviour is not an easy one and it can be an issue in particular schools. I do know some strategies but it can be tricky putting them into place. It’s a bit like learning to drive: suddenly you’ve got to do lots of different things at the same time and you haven’t mastered any of them. That can be difficult to hide in front of a classroom! My pupils can be quite challenging: it’s not always easy in getting them to behave the right way in the first place. They can be unfocused, they like to chat and there are quite a few with special educational needs. But they are quite kind if things go wrong and like to help.
The focus is on getting the pace right and making sure you’re using instructional language. I fall back into that, “Would you mind….?” and “Please can you….?” and that’s a no-no in teaching.. You’ve got to be much more direct. And don’t ask questions unless you want an answer! Pupils love to have a bit of an argument with you as well so you’ve got to close that down straightaway.
It helps that I’m not intimidated by them. That’s probably to do with my age: I’m 51 and I also have children myself. You’ve got to go in there and not worry because what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’m more worried about the amount of learning that is going on. That’s the main emotion for me: feeling guilty that I’m not good enough as a teacher. You can see when you’re planning how much work they’ve got to learn and half of me wants to just get through the lesson but I also want to make sure they are ready to learn.
I wake up looking forward to the day ahead.
A stimulating environment
There are loads of aspects to working in a school that I’m really enjoying. It’s very sociable and a buzzy place to be. I enjoy interactions with the staff, and it’s quite an intellectual environment. I think I’ve been lucky in my school because it’s at a stage where I feel I can add extra value. I got involved in a PSHE Drop Down Day about plastic pollution where I was given a lot of responsibility, including speaking in assembly in front of lots of students. I felt like I was really needed, not just a trainee getting in the way. It’s been great that you can have so many different roles to play and you can help in the school’s development.
Why time management is key
The downside to the job is that is always takes longer to get things prepared than you think it will. Time management is really important. So I would say it’s about making sure you’re working as smartly as possible and not spending too long on certain things. I’m taking on more lessons so I’m keenly aware the workload will only grow. I need to make sure I’m really organised. I grew up speaking French so it makes sense to me already, but I have to find ways to bring it alive for the pupils and instruct them well. I also wish I felt a bit more natural standing in front of the classroom. Some people are naturally very engaging in front of people whereas I’ve got to work on that. I’ve got to crack it but it’s not something I’m overjoyed at doing. And explaining grammar in a way that’s really interesting can be a challenge!