As I approach the end of my first year as a qualified teacher, I am beginning to reflect on the highlights and challenges of a year in teaching like no other. As schools were reopened in September, I was excited to get back into the classroom, but also apprehensive about how I was going to take on the responsibility of my own classes under such unusual circumstances; especially because there were disruptions to the end of my training year. This apprehension was eased immediately as I returned to school because of the support of my department, Nexus and the ECF programme.
As Oldham is one of the pilot areas, I have been following the ECF programme before it is introduced nationally in September 2021. I have found it useful to have the allotted time and self-study sessions to keep my targets for development focused, as well as continuing my professional development and pedagogical reading. I also have a dedicated ECT Mentor and an incredible department who have been so supportive – not only in terms of my professional development but also in helping me learn to manage the workload efficiently.
I have also had continued support from Manchester Nexus as I have transitioned from a trainee to a qualified teacher. We continue to receive support regularly through training sessions for first year teachers. These sessions look at different aspects of teaching that become more important as you take on more responsibility as an ECT. Having theses training sessions has been a great way to not only continue our professional development and understanding but also (virtually) get together with fellow trainees from the 19-20 Cohort.
I feel like the different obstacles and limitations put in front of us this year have enhanced my development within the teaching profession – I have had to be adaptable to whatever is thrown our way and the support I have in place allowed me to continue to progress within my teaching career.
I wanted to become a teacher whilst I was completing my degree in Biology. During my final year at University I was looking to get some experience at a school so I could support my application for teacher training. That is when I came across the Manchester Nexus SCITT website and booked myself onto a taster day. I was very impressed with the core values expressed on the day and the fact that I could be in a school at the very start of the academic year was exactly what I wanted. I knew then that I wanted to train with Manchester Nexus SCITT.
Despite the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt really supported by the SCITT team, even before I started my first placement in September. When I arrived at my first placement, I was welcomed as a member of staff, I enjoyed being able to be getting involved in lessons at a pace that was suitable for me. The contrasting placement has definitely helped with improving my teaching practice. I am forever grateful for both Science departments for their advice. The professional and subject mentors were very helpful and have been key for my progress as a teacher.
Being able to share my knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion for Science to help improve the life chances of my students was the reason I became a teacher. I have been able to do that during my experience with the SCITT. I am so glad that I made the decision to train with Manchester Nexus after that taster day. I love being immersed in the school environment and the network of other trainees has been fantastic. They have definitely helped me become the best teacher that I could possibly be.
Darianne Brown – Secondary Mathematics
Why I teach?
Having worked in corporate roles previously, I knew that what I now needed was a career in which I was doing something that I believed in. I wasn’t motivated at the end of each month as the aim was simply to generate more and more money which just didn’t seem right to me. I need to feel as though I am making a positive contribution to the world and that everything that I do is for something that I am passionate about. That’s what teaching is for me. First of all, I have such as a strong love for my subject (Maths) so it fills me with joy to just simply be exploring the subject again. But more importantly, I can work with, teach and inspire young people which just makes it more special and worthwhile. Even in these very early stages, I am starting to see the benefits of working in this profession. What a student in one of my lessons looked at me and said “Miss, this is magic” when she was working through maths problems, I knew I had made the right decision.
One of my main fears about teacher training was being thrown in at the deep end. So far, I have felt extremely comfortable and I and my mentor have worked together to ensure that I am working at my own pace. I am loving the process so much more than I could have ever imagined and I am so glad to have taken the leap of faith. Teaching can get such bad press and it’s understandable that people may be hesitant to join the profession but all I can say is that, so far, the positives majorly outweigh any struggles and I would urge anyone considering teaching to go for it.
Secondary – Social Sciences.
Something I recall from the first year of my PhD (Sociology) over ten years ago was that we were expected to lead our own seminar groups for undergraduates. There were about fifteen undergrads in my group. This included marking an essay they were required to submit: giving a grade and a few comments. My peers diligently and, quite rightly, awarded a mark and a few encouraging comments. My own thoughts were that this was an opportunity to give extensive feedback and guidance to young adults learning about the requirements and style of academic writing. I set about dissecting each essay with ways in which they could improve each phase of their writing. I put a number next to the sentence or word in the essay and then on a separate piece of paper I typed up my thoughts for them. I returned each essay to them with pages of notes that they could use and look back on for the next three years of their course. To this day I have no idea if it helped them or not in the long-term. I did not see the students in the following years. The office staff said they had never seen a doctoral candidate go to such lengths before and that it had been appreciated. Although time consuming, to me it was the most natural thing to do. I wanted to help as best I could, rather than go through the (perfectly acceptable) motions.
Many years later, having gone on to pursue other passions, I took a Support, Teaching and Learning course and I was employed as a Teaching Assistant by the school I had volunteered with as a requirement of that course. I was aware that my prospects lay in and around the teaching profession but at that stage I was not entirely sure which route I would take. My TA role was at a big and challenging secondary school. The Inclusion department was quite large, and the staff were excellent. Nonetheless it was a sharp learning curve to suddenly have responsibility for the learning and behaviour of a diverse range of pupils across all ages and subjects, many of whom had particular needs. It was probably the best experience I could have asked for. As a TA I could now observe a plethora of teaching styles and approaches to behaviour management and face the general day to day challenge of establishing boundaries with pupils around the school, not just in lessons. As a TA it was sometimes hard to command the full respect of pupils who know you are not the ultimate decision maker. Now, in a teaching capacity, this underscores the responsibility I have with regard to building relationships with pupils that embed notions of respect and cooperation with all staff at all times.
As a TA I was situated with my SEN pupils and they were my primary focus. I tried to imagine what I would do if I was the teacher when difficult situations arose, and it can be easy to spot ‘errors’ when it is not you that is ultimately responsible for delivering the lesson. I came up with my own ‘solutions’ whilst noting the particular strengths of each teacher. I was effectively beginning my observation notes, one of the first things you do at your school as an associate teacher in the Nexus training programme.
From the very outset, my department at the Blue Coat School have made me nothing but welcome and a part of their team – more so than I expected given how busy they are at the start of term. The first day was about helping the department get ready for the influx of over 1700 pupils. On my second day I got underway with my observation timetable and was attached to a form class to shadow. At the end of my second day I went to Oldham Hospital where my wife gave birth to our second son shortly after midnight (twelve days later than planned)! My subject mentor urged me to take the time I was entitled to which was nice to hear.
As I type, I have in my own mind – and I had this from prior to starting at the school – a desire and a sense of purpose to demonstrate a professional willingness to do everything I can in my role. Not just to be led and guided but to lead for myself and guide others. One of the defining differences so far from being a TA is that I am involved with lessons around which I have some knowledge or expertise. I can think about how I would deliver key points and ideas and why I would do so in a particular way, how I would talk about key authors and concepts, how I would encourage a high standard of writing and which strategies I would employ so that pupils can recall key information. These and several other considerations are embedded in the observation timetable we receive for the first couple of weeks of term. I am a part of my school. I shadow the form at form time, go with them to assemblies and all the trainees attend the professional training sessions on Wednesdays to learn important skills and strategies and share information and experiences.
Having previously worked across several industries it is striking how professional and invested the Nexus team are in the development of their trainees. Their dedication to our growth as rounded, skilled and professional practitioners – and the extensive support they offer from the outset of being accepted on the course – is always evident. From that the expectations of us as trainees is clear: this will be a big challenge and I could not be in a better place to meet that challenge head-on.