Month One: Orientation
The first phase of our ITT has been entitled 'Orientation'. I think this is to reflect that the aim of this initial phase is to simply immerse oneself in the school environment. This is where I feel school direct has a distinct advantage over uni based PGCE routes. Over the past three weeks I have been fully integrated into the flow of a secondary school. I now know who to ask about what; I know the SOP for making a cup of tea and the quickest route to the water fountain; I know the behaviour policy and have seen it implemented several times; and, most significantly of all, I know how to use the photocopier for scanning AND printing documents!! That was a major Friday win at the end of last week.
Some of these are trivial matters, but these experiences have made me feel very comfortable and confident within the school environment. This has alleviated a lot of my anxiety around stepping into the classroom as a teacher for the first time. I have the ability to focus on what's really important: delivering lessons to the best of my ability.
I have been extremely privileged to observe over 50 hours of expertly delivered mathematics lessons over the past three weeks. I've been interested in the pedagogy of mathematics for the KS3 and 4 curricula for a long time and have thus read many texts on the subject. The majority have been pro-inquiry based learning, but more recently I have become more interested in the explicit instruction approach. However, reading about these subjects really is only half the story. I now feel that it is not until you meet the children you will be teaching that you really know what approach is going to work best for you, but more importantly for them. Witnessing the attitudes of pupils has taught me invaluable lessons about the power of engagement but also the need for clear instruction. It has taught me where the true difficulty in this job lies: planning the right lesson for a specific class. I've seen the importance of thoroughly knowing your class. This is not as simple as knowing their names, SEN, and predicted levels of achievement. To plan the best lesson I can I'll also be thinking about the time of day of the lesson, what the pupils' previous lesson was, who their previous maths teacher was, whether they have a tutor at home, who their friends are, who their enemies are.... the list goes on. These are only things you can learn from being in the classroom with that specific class, and offer a district advantage to the SD trainees when all student teachers start teaching in the next couple of weeks.
The only disadvantage to the school direct program I have found so far is that I felt like a bit of a spare part on inset days at the start of term. I would have loved to have been involved with the group planning that was going on all around me but it was not the place to voice the ideas of a novice. However, that is a very small price to pay for the huge amount of experience I'm accumulating.
By Claire Ellison