Memoirs of a Teacher: Part 1

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These are memoirs of my trainee-teacher placement from 1996.

During the process of writing my second book about teacher-resilience and what keeps teachers stuck in the classroom, I have delved into my teaching practice file to rediscover my reflection journal from a 12-week teaching practice in 1996. I am reading the notes to see what issues have changed (if any) in teaching over the past 20 years. I am also keen to understand if there are any indicators in my own memoirs to suggest a certain type of character or resilience is needed for the classroom.

Reflections Journal:

These memoirs are taken from the 4th school that I was placed in during my BAEd at Goldsmiths College, University of London. This was a comprehensive school in Hextable, near Dartford in Kent. I believe the school is now an Oasis Academy.

There will be subtle differences in my memoirs, but surprisingly, there are many similarities to what we are all familiar with today. I plan to publish them all here throughout the summer of 2015.

shutterstock man reading a magazine journal writing

Image: Shutterstock

In my journal there are over 20 handwritten pages that I kept as part of my teacher training. My tutor regularly asked to read my reflections, but I’m still not sure if the reflection journal was ever part of the assessment; what I do, is know that after a very long day of teaching practice and a very long commute back to college digs, I found the reflection workload, made teaching just that little bit harder than it needed to be.

What I was totally ignorant of, was that during my 4-year teacher-training degree, I was laying the foundations for me to become a reflective teacher in the future; something that I still (thankfully) withhold today and encourage in every, single teacher I mentor.

27th  September 1996:

Week 1: despite this being my fourth teaching practice, I am still required to complete one full week of observations within my new school. This experience varies from school to school; I remember during my first placement, my subject mentor pushed me straight into the classroom on my second day to see ‘how you get on!’ This was something incredibly frightening to do as a 19-year-old … but something I was later thankful for.

shutterstock Businessman pushing the door suit

Image: Shutterstock

It has taken me longer than usual to settle down into this teaching practice. I have no problems with the school, staff or pupils – it’s just maybe a nervous chord plucking away inside of me; it all seems a little daunting! 12 weeks when you are unqualified as a teacher is a very long time to see through. I haven’t really had much to do, except mingle with the pupils and staff and find my footing around the school building and life of the school; understanding projects, talking to pupils and offering my advice.

Overall it has been a gentle dive into the deep end with the occasional teaching on my first few days. I really don’t mind. I just want to get stuck-in and get to know the pupils. I can’t wait until I’m settled in – then I can really enjoy myself.

Mixed Ability:

One thing I have noticed is the mixed ability of the pupils. It is quite surprising comparing this school with the other schools I have worked in. I supposed a BAEd does give you that much more experience than just the two schools offered through a PGCE route. I can see the difference in how disadvantaged pupils value their work compared to the independent schools I experienced in year 1 and 3 of my degree. Hextable School pupil standards are quite far behind my expectations!

For the first time too, I have come across a statemented pupil much closer than I ever have before. This is a new experience for me and one which will become the focus for my final education thesis as part of my Education Research assignment this year. This child is under constant supervision openly in front of the class. I admire this as an observer, as most pupils in my time at school were often whisked away to a private office for assessment with little opportunity to mingle with ‘their’ friends and associate/learn within ‘real’ lessons. This class in particular are quite challenging to control, so it should be an experience!

Overall, today has been a gentle introduction to the groups I will be teaching and mentoring in the school. The department staff are very welcoming, as is the whole school. Each morning there is a ‘briefing’ meeting for all the staff. Sometimes it can be extremely funny which is a welcome to any outsider!

Up early in the morning, whilst my college mates rest until their first lecture at 12pm …

shutterstock Empty classroom with chairs and desks

Image: Shutterstock

You can read more about my teaching memoirs in my forthcoming book, released in the autumn of 2015.

A very young TT.

*note there are NO whiteboards, PCs or computers!

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