“This time last year….” Trainee teachers discuss their first term

Looking into giving your career a complete overhaul? it's a daunting concept, but you should be striving to walk a path that will bring you happiness and fulfilment. It's also important to remember: you are not alone. Ark Teacher Training brings you the story of three of their current trainees - Robert, Jenny and Charlie - who this time last year were pursuing completely different careers. They discuss the highlights and challenges that they've faced and offer some advice for graduates who find themselves in similar positions. 

What were you doing this time last year?

Robert, maths teacher: I was still in my old career in strategy consulting; most likely working until 1 in the morning finishing a 246 page presentation!

Jenny, science teacher: I had already decided I wanted to teach and was teaching English as a foreign language to secondary students in rural Thailand. I was also enjoying delicious Thai food and exploring the beautiful country at the weekends!

Charlie, maths teacher: I was working in my previous career as a police officer. Although both careers involve challenging circumstances, it was still a big career change for me. It is safe to say though that I am enjoying teaching a lot more though!

What has been your teaching highlight so far?

Robert: Teaching my first full lesson. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, so that helped to settle a lot of nerves.

Jenny: There have been so many! Recently I got to demonstrate a use of electromagnets in every day life to my year 8s – the circuit breakers in our electric door bells. It was great to see their eyes light up; it’s so rewarding to see their enthusiasm for scientific concepts and demonstrations grow over time. I’m hoping it’s a sign that I’m finally convincing them that science is an exciting subject with so much relevance to their daily lives!

Charlie: Seeing the progress of my students is always a wonderful moment. It’s such a good feeling when you see them learn something new and knowing you taught it to them.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced?

Charlie: It can be slightly overwhelming if you’re having a bad day and your lessons aren’t going well. It’s a challenge to pick yourself up from that and bounce back ready to start the next day afresh.

Jenny: One of the biggest challenges has been learning how to manage the negative emotions that students can bring into the class with them and how to regulate my own mood when responding to them. I learnt early on that it’s my mood that makes “the weather” in class. During my first half term, the climate in my classroom was very dependent on whether my pupils were having a good day. Since then, I’ve put a lot of effort into building relationships and have got better at recognising warning signs. Now I’ve noticed that I remain a lot calmer when dealing with challenging behaviour. Although I can’t prevent my pupils from arriving at my lesson in a negative emotional state, overall I’m seeing them respond more positively to my interventions.

Robert: It’s been tough to get used to breaking things down into small chunks. There have been many times when the class have lost interest because I’ve assumed they could all take a step that they couldn’t.

What transferable skills from your past career have been useful in teaching so far?

 Charlie: Remaining calm in challenging circumstances is a skill I honed as a police officer, it has also been incredibly useful here. It can sometimes become quite difficult, especially being new, the students can try to test you. But being able to rise above it, stay in control of a situation and learn from each occasion has made each time a little easier.

Jenny: Coming from a high performing team in the Higher Education sector, I recognise the importance of teamwork, building strong relationships with colleagues and offering support. On becoming a teacher, I have recognised that these skills are critical for the running of our school, delivering quality education and ensuring that our pupils achieve great outcomes. A great team spirit among the teaching staff also reflects positively on the pupils. They learn the importance of positive relationships and cooperation skills; important things to develop to prepare for life beyond school.

Robert: My previous career taught me how to manage my time and juggle lots of things at once, which is definitely extremely useful in teaching. Oh, and I can make a mean spreadsheet, which has saved some other teachers a lot of pain at times!

What would be your advice for others considering a career in teaching?

Robert: Go for it. You will find it thrilling and fulfilling. There are kids out there who really need your help.

Charlie: Be prepared to challenge yourself, stay organised and don’t forget to put aside time for yourself each day in order to relax and better prepare for tomorrow.

Jenny: It is one of the toughest things you could consider doing. But from day one you absolutely get out what you put in when it comes to working with children. From helping them understand how electromagnets work, to teaching them how to tie their shoe laces – nothing beats knowing that every day you are making a difference and hopefully making the future of your students a little brighter.

Inspired by Robert, Charlie and Jenny and ready to begin your teaching journey with Ark's Teacher Training programme? Apply now for September 2019