Trainee Blog

Who better to keep you updated with our programme than the trainees themselves. Keep track of our trainees progress here...

"Hello! My name is Robbie and I am proud to be one of the trainee’s in this year’s cohort at the National Forest Teaching School, training to become a secondary history teacher. Over the next year, I will be sharing my experience of teacher training with the NFTS in these blogs. Teaching has always been on my radar as a career for me. After finishing my undergraduate degree several years ago, I continued into the world of postgraduate study and research and then became a part-time tutor – an experience that really fuelled and confirmed my passion for teaching history."

Main Placement

"Hello everyone. It’s half term and what better chance to sit and reflect on what I’ve managed to achieve so far with the SCITT. Since I blogged last, I have now spent four weeks at my Home School placement. This is my main placement school which I will be based at until Christmas, and then again between Easter and the end of term. As soon as I arrived at my Home School, I was made to feel very welcome, both around the school in general and within my department, and many teachers have extended open offers of help to me and the other trainees. There are two other trainees at my school, and I often end up stopping to say hello and share our experiences during the week. I’m really pleased to say that the sense of community that we built in the first two induction weeks extends out to our placements, and I hear similar things about other groups of trainees in their placement schools. The support we’ve received from the SCITT has remained strong, and I am always reassured to know that the staff at the training centre are always there to help if we need it.

As part of our induction in our Home School, and in order to complete one of our school-based tasks for the training school, I completed a ‘pupil pursuit’. This meant shadowing a particular group in their lessons on a particular day, and seeing the experience of school through the pupil’s eyes. This was very useful, and the best way to remember what it was actually like to go to school. This has set us up with a good idea of what our pupils will be doing from day to day, and how we can make our lessons fit in with what else our pupils might be doing. I must admit, it was also really interesting to go back into subjects that I’ve not studied for over ten years now – I definitely learned a few things along the way!

After the induction week, I began to observe the classes which I would eventually teach this year, and after I had spent a few lessons getting to know them and the curriculum they are learning, I started teaching some activities and lessons! I must admit, I was very nervous starting out, which I did expect. But getting going so soon was the main reason why I wanted to train on the SCITT route and I can already see how much more I’ve learned by working in classrooms than I would have done in a lecture hall! Something I’ve realised in the past four weeks is that it is completely normal to have butterflies in the stomach when you are teaching lessons, but if you can harness that power and put it into your lesson, everyone (including you) will enjoy the class more. This term I’ve been looking at the outbreak of World War One and life in the trenches, and the history of medicine in Britain between 1600 and 1900 - two contrasting topics, but both have been fascinating to teach. Thankfully, my mentor has been really supportive in getting me off the ground with classes, and I can already see some improvement in my teaching thanks to their advice. Our mentors don’t leave you to teach solo at this stage, which is a big reassurance, but I’m also really pleased that we are given enough chance to try teaching in different ways and to develop our ‘teacher persona’. Again, I’ve been impressed with how much support and guidance we get with this particular scheme.

So, looking back on the first few weeks, I can see that it has been busy and it has been challenging, but it has been worth it! Now we have made it to half term, this has been a useful time to relax and regroup, but also get ready for the weeks ahead also. I’ve just been planning my next lessons and I am looking forward to them – fingers crossed my classes like them too! I’ll let you know how we all get on in my next post…"

The Primary Placement.

"Hello again everyone. I made it through my primary school placement! With only a week in the school, it was one of our shorter stints but I have learnt so much in a short time. I spent my week in classes from all the year groups in the junior school, observed a range of lessons, got involved in plenty of activities, and spoke with the teachers and pupils about their school.

Having learned a bit more about the inner workings of primary schools this week, I should take this chance to reiterate some really useful advice if you are thinking of teacher training: organise some school experience and ask as many questions as you can. It doesn’t take too long to get the feel of life in a school, and to see what a typical day might be like as a teacher (at either the primary or secondary level). Watching the lessons this week confirmed my respect for primary teachers, and also reminded me why I am set on specialising in teaching History at the secondary level. I discovered this first when I completed some experience days last year, and so I really recommend looking into them.

As with all of our placements this year, we were given guidance from the NFTS on things to look out for, questions to ask, and small bits of research to complete during the week. I am really glad of this, as it gave me a purpose and framework to organise my time during the placement. One of the topics to investigate was how primary schools prepare their pupils for the transition to secondary/high school. For example, the school I visited streams its literacy and mathematics classes in the higher year groups to help stretch pupils to achieve their best, but it is also done to serve the purpose of giving pupils more experience of working in different groups, with different teachers, and in different rooms in the same school day – all central experiences of secondary school education. Learning about these issues has certainly deepened my understanding of where my primary pupils will come from, and how I can help welcome them when I am their teacher or tutor in secondary schools.

Of course, I couldn’t write this post without adding in something about the History I saw - one particular lesson might actually be the highlight of my week. Imagine the scene: it is 815 A.D. and 31 excited ‘Anglo Saxons’ (year 6 pupils) decide they need to find out about the new Viking raiders who are arriving on the coast. Working in teams, they send over spies to the coast (climbing frame on the playing field) where they find two Viking longboats (pictures printed on A3 paper). Returning to their groups, the spies reported back on what they found and described the ships. As you can imagine, the children loved it, although their excitement precluded any stealth that they might have had in their spying abilities… Even if it looked like a lot of fun and games at first, the activity succeeded in exercising the group’s observation skills, memory skills, clarity of expression, and some historical analysis when the pupils had to use their prior knowledge to suggest what it was about the longboats that made them seem daunting and/or successful. It has made me think more about how useful the fun and creative activities can be to help pupils practise a host of historical skills.

Anyway, I hope that’s given you a flavour of the week I’ve had so far. We’re back in the training centre for our first Friday session tomorrow. Next week we head to our main placements where we will be teaching before long! But, more on that next time."

Induction

"So, last year, when researching the possible ways to gain QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), the prospect of a SCITT (a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training) route really caught my eye; I enjoyed my time at university but I was eager to move on and develop my skills as a teacher in practice. I discovered the National Forest Teaching School, attended one of their autumn information evenings and spent a day gaining school experience at the John Taylor High School (next door to the SCITT’s training centre). I was really drawn to the programme they offered here. In particular, I liked how well the course is organised, including opportunities to train on two main placements in addition to a number of enhanced placements throughout the year (look out for blogs on all of these in future), as well as the support network offered to the trainees by the SCITT team who have already taken the time to get to know us as individuals.

I’m writing now at the end of week two, which was our induction. Looking back on these weeks, I feel so much more confident about the year ahead. Even though I wanted to learn on the job, I’m grateful to have been given a busy week and a half of practical training before we venture out into our placements. We have been given such a wide range of information. Talks and sessions have included reviews of course information and how to compile our teaching files, sessions on various aspects of pedagogy, guidance on behaviour management, safeguarding training, sessions on developing your own teacher persona, voice and presence, and also (some might say, most importantly) how to look after ourselves as trainees and as teachers in the busy months and years ahead. The sessions have calmed many of our nerves and concerns, and set us up well with an excellent toolkit of strategies to which we can add when we begin our training placements next week.

One of the real advantages of spending this week with the NFTS has been the range of speakers we have met. The Teaching School invited speakers with a range of specialisms from across the schools in its network, and this has given us a well-rounded perspective on several issues. They have shared their experience of teaching in different schools in the region, and given us a glimpse of the variety of challenges that we might meet when training in contrasting settings. I found this really insightful and a great way to hear more about the wider school network in which we will be working.

Of course, the other highlight of this week has been meeting my fellow trainees. There are 24 secondary trainees this year from for a variety of subjects, and we have got to know each other well already. Our backgrounds are diverse. Some of us have only just graduated; others have spent years in industry before looking for a new vocation in teaching. I am really pleased to have found such a positive sense of community among the trainees. I am looking forward to working with them in future Friday training sessions, and to share experiences with them and support each other as we venture out into this exciting new career.

I will close this post for now. Our first placement next week will be in a primary school, and I will update you all on that in my next post." 

Laura

"Hi, I’m Laura, one of the trainees on the SCITT this year. I’m one of six people learning to teach secondary English – so I’ll make sure my SPAG is up to scratch in these blog posts.

Main Placement

"Things are starting to hot up a bit now, as we are teaching more and more. I'm up to five hours a week in front of a class, and I know some of my colleagues are doing more than that. It means a lot more planning and creating resources, which does involve a lot of work, but thankfully I'm enjoying every minute of it. 

I have three classes who I see several times a week; one in year seven, one in year nine and another in year 10. All of the classes are doing literature at the moment, and the texts are really engaging. They're great fun to teach, and I love planning new ways to make them fun and keep the classes fresh for the students. 

I feel as if I've learned a lot in such a short amount of time on the course, and it's a great feeling to know I'm developing with each lesson I do. 

One of the fantastic things about this course is that you're encouraged to reflect on everything you do in lessons, from your manner, through your activities, to your overall subject knowledge. This approach has helped me to develop my teaching style and persona, and also to understand why some of the ideas I have tried have not been successful. My rather quiet whole-class debate on An Inspector Calls springs to mind here...

I've been very fortunate so far in that all of the teachers I work with have been willing to observe and give me some constructive feedback. Even though some of the comments can be difficult to take sometimes, I really value the feedback from professionals, and they have definitely helped me to make the initial small steps I need to start to improve in my role."

 

"Hi, it’s Laura here, checking in after a bit of a busy period. We’ve been based in our home schools for a few weeks now, and I feel like I’m starting to settle into the department and the way things work in my school, John Taylor.

I’ve had a brilliant time so far. I’ve met all of the classes which I will be teaching, and have started to do a few activities with them to test the water. Some lessons have gone better than others, but I’ve had some very constructive feedback after each one which has really helped me to improve. It’s been a bit scary at times, but I feel like I’m making progress already.

One of the reasons I chose to do the SCITT course was because it was so school-based. As someone who has come to teaching as a second career, the idea of sitting in lecture theatres was not something was not something I found appealing. I wanted to get my feet wet, to continue my earlier metaphor, and I feel like having the opportunity to get involved with the lessons at an early stage has allowed me to do that.

Getting down to business, as it were, has also helped me to embed some of the theory delivered through the SCITT sessions on a Friday. Trust me, you can’t gain a real understanding of behaviour management until you’ve seen it in action – or even spectacularly failed at it, as happened to me this week.

The good thing about spectacularly failing at behaviour management – or anything else, for that matter – is that there is always someone in the department who can offer you advice and support you in improving that thing for next time. My mentor has been invaluable so far, in terms of the support she has provided, which is incredibly encouraging moving forwards. After all, we’ve only just begun!"

Primary Placement

I must be honest; I was apprehensive about spending four days in a primary school. I don’t have a lot of experience with younger children, either in my professional or personal life, and in all honesty, I’m a little unsure of them. However, I could absolutely see the value of this placement, so I went into it with a view to gaining as much experience as I could.

With that in mind, I had a brilliant week at John of Rolleston Primary School. The school is based on a split site, with infants in one school, and juniors in another building. I was with Year six in the junior building. Rolleston has a two-form entry each year, and teachers for each year group work together to plan coordinating lessons delivered to both classes. I spent time in both classes, which meant I was able to gain a great impression of the differences in style between the two teachers.

I observed daily English and maths lessons, a history lesson, an art lesson, PE, and some SPAG sessions. The teachers were also kind enough to let me sit in on one of their planning meetings, which offered a great insight into the curriculum. I also spent time chatting with children working at different levels and helping out with sentence construction, story structure and improving spelling, punctuation and grammar. As an English nerd, it was great to see the kids were so receptive in this area.

I also spent some time with the little ones in Year one, who were learning phonics. I found it fascinating to see how they broke the words down into sounds to understand how the words were formed. Sitting listening to the children read afterwards provided me with a great chance to see phonics in action.

All the kids I spoke with were friendly, welcoming and beautifully behaved, plus they were very happy to answer all my questions. The staff were also beautifully behaved – and even offered me biscuits in the staffroom!

I felt like I ended the placement with a fantastic overview of the knowledge and skills children have when they complete key stage two and move up to Year seven. I really valued having the chance to experience that, and to learn more about the curriculum at this vital point of learning.

That said, it’s definitely convinced me that secondary school is the place for me. I can’t wait to get started on my placement at John Taylor now!

Induction

"I’ve come to teaching via a rather circuitous route. When I was at university I was torn between the idea of teaching and journalism, so I got involved with a ‘students in schools’ scheme and tried out some work for the student newspaper. I loved both, but as I left uni and developed a zeal for changing the world, I decided journalism was the career for me. Ten years, three newspapers, a training role and a communications job later, I’ve finally decided my future lies in teaching. Here’s hoping the kids agree!

We’re two weeks into the SCITT course now and I’ve loved every minute of it. We’ve been based in the training centre so far, which has given us a great chance to settle in and get to know our colleagues. We’ve had sessions on everything ranging from behaviour management and the emotional development of children, to voice projection, developing the teacher persona and developing a good level of resilience. We’ve had an interesting selection of speakers, with teachers from Paget High School, Kingsmead School and de Ferrers Academy joining staff from John Taylor High School, where the SCITT is based. I’ve appreciated having the insight of staff working in different schools and different areas, as it has given me a much more rounded impression of school like than I would have gained from just one set of teachers. The sessions have been very interactive and engaging, overall, and we’re encouraged to comment, share our thoughts and opinions and get involved with the sessions – it’s what we’ll want our students to do, after all!

Towards the end of the week we had a few sessions about the Masters element of the course. As someone who hasn’t touched an academic essay since I left university in 2006, I’m a little apprehensive about this side of things, but I think I’m up to the challenge.

We’ve not spent any time in our schools yet, and we won’t be doing so until a week on Monday, after spending the next four days on placement in Key Stage 2. Although this seems like a long way away, I’ve really valued the opportunity to get some theory under my belt. I’m someone who likes to be prepared, so I’m thrilled that I’ll be heading into the classroom with some behaviour management tools and a few ideas on how to encourage the students to learn!

That’s all for this post, but as I said, we’re in primary school this week. I’ve not got a lot of experience with younger children, so I feel like I’m setting off on a bit of an. That said, as an English language fanatic, I’m really looking forward to learning more about how children use phonics to learn to read.

I’ll let you know how it goes…"