After graduating from Newcastle with a degree in Law, Thomas successfully applied for the Training Programme at Teach First. Now seven months in, we caught up with Thomas to see how he is getting on. Read below to find out what he had to say.
What does your role entail - could you tell us about what a typical day looks like for you?
As a first year participant on Teach First’s Training Programme, it has been a very busy seven months! The Training Programme is a two-year programme where participants teach within a school in a low socio-economic area, whilst also working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). On a day-to-day level, this means that I teach full-time in a school, with a teaching commitment of 80% - the remaining 20% of my time in school is used for lesson planning and to further my personal development, such as engaging in academic reading.
Every Teach First participant, no matter where they are placed, completes the same teaching commitment; yet, due to the fast-paced nature of working in a school, it is somewhat difficult to describe what a ‘typical day’ looks like for me – let alone for every Teach First participant! For example, whilst sometimes a ‘typical day’ will involve me teaching my class of thirty children lessons such as Maths, Literacy, Topic and Spellings, other days, such as this Thursday, are far from ‘typical’! This Thursday my class and I will be dressed as our favourite literary characters as we celebrate World Book Day in the morning, followed by a Tudor re-enactment in the afternoon. In fact, the only ‘typical’ part of this Thursday will be staff choir practice after the school day ends – did I mention that I work in a music school, where every child (and staff member!) loves to sing?
What’s been your highlight and most challenging moment so far?
Undoubtedly, my time in the classroom has been full of both highlights and challenging moments. For example, as someone who had limited classroom experience before commencing theTraining Programme, I found the first half-term particularly demanding, with the difficulty of balancing the challenges of starting a new job, grasping a new curriculum, establishing a rapport and routines with a new class, and living in a new area, all whilst ensuring that I completed the university work which is necessary in order to obtain my PGDE.
Additionally, whilst most participants are based in their placement school for the full two years, due to school-specific circumstances I changed schools at the end of my first term. Although this added further challenge to my training year, it also provided me with the opportunity to gain experience in both another school and in another year group: I currently teach Year Three. During my time in Year Three, a highlight for me occurred during a recent Maths lesson. At my first placement school, a number of children struggled with ‘place value’. Consequently, when teaching ‘place value’ at my second placement school, I was able to pre-empt the likely misconceptions which my pupils would have, ensuring that my teaching was personalised to the individual needs of my pupils - an example of how my past classroom experiences have shaped my current practice.
Therefore, despite such challenges, as I continue to teach Year Three at an outstanding free school in Bradford, I can honestly say that I would not have taken a different route into teaching. Yes, there have been some moments when I have wondered if I was suited to such an intensive teacher-training route. However, when I look back at the raft of experiences which I have gained over the past seven months, alongside the fantastic people who I have met on my learning journey, it is clear to me that I could not have developed so quickly, both in confidence and in my classroom practice, without the Training Programme. Furthermore, the support of both my colleagues and Teach First over the past year has been boundless, which has enabled me to enjoy my time in the classroom, and to ultimately fulfil the reason why I entered the classroom in the first place: to help every child, no matter what their background is, achieve their full-potential.
What are you most looking forward to doing in the next few months?
In the next few months, I am most looking forward to embarking upon my ‘Alternative Key Stage Placement’ – this is an essential part of obtaining qualified teacher status, and is when I will have the opportunity to observe and teach in a Key Stage which is different to my own. As I am a Year Three teacher, which is in Key Stage Two, my ‘Alternative Key Stage Placement’ will take place in Year One, which is in Key Stage One. Despite the likely challenges, I am excited to experience teaching in Year One as it will be an opportunity to put some of my own learning and development into practice, whilst also continue to learn from the practice of others. It will also offer me the chance to scrub-up on my knowledge of phonics!
If you could give a new graduate/intern any advice for their first few months, what would it be?
- Don’t rush into any decisions – you have a whole lifetime of learning to come. Whilst it is good to have an idea of what you want to do, you don’t need to have your entire future mapped out. Do what you enjoy, and take it from there.
- Show willing at every opportunity; if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that if you show that you want to learn and improve, people want you to do well – and if they can help you, they will. Likewise, try to gain as much experience as possible – this doesn’t have to be paid, and it doesn’t have to be directly-related to your ‘dream job’.
- Have confidence in yourself – after all, you’ve made it this far! If you have recently graduated and haven’t been fortunate to secure a job, don’t panic. Whilst the big employers tend to have specific application deadlines, a large number of smaller employers often recruit on a rolling-basis. Check-out the numerous online careers websites, explore the opportunities on networking websites such as LinkedIn, and most importantly – keep applying!