School experience: advice from current trainees

By Mark Sharman, i2i Teaching Partnership

Having transformed lives, led, and inspired in schools for almost 20 years, Mark Sharman now trains the next generation of teachers with the i2i Teaching Partnership and Weydon School. He asked his current trainees about their thoughts on school experience, and this is what they said.

What research did you do before embarking on your school experience?
Most of our trainees used the internet as a starting point to find out about the school. They looked at official reports about the school, school websites and teacher training websites.
Many also wanted opinions about teaching from people who had experienced it first-hand. Some trainees asked teachers in their network of friends and family. Others sought out blog posts by career changers, trainees and NQTs to get a ‘blunt’ introduction to the potential highs and lows of a training year and career in teaching.
At my school, we share a link to the blog post on how to get the most out of school experience, which many found useful.
Several trainees also utilised the Teacher Training Adviser service and attended national Train to Teach events, as well as local events organised by providers in the area.
What was school experience like, and what did you get from it?
Our trainees talked about feeling very much ‘welcomed in’ by the teams they were visiting, which enabled them to gauge the broad culture of the school and training provider. They were looking for a culture of positivity, cohesiveness, collaboration, reflectiveness and passion for their subjects. Where they saw this, they knew they were on to something!
Having a well-organised timetable and information in advance made the experience less daunting for trainees, but also gave them the opportunity to confirm what they had read on web pages about the approach to teacher training: for example, a professional, well organised and bespoke approach. If your provider is getting this right at the school experience stage, it is a good indication of what is to come!
Trainees said that having access to a broad range of ability groups, ages and teaching styles all added depth to their experience. They also benefited from our team being able to organise experience days across our partnership of training schools, which further broadened the experience.
Many trainees mentioned the teachers who kindly took time out to explain why they were teaching in a particular way or using a particular technique in the classroom. They also found it helpful when teachers shared experiences from their own teacher training. This also reveals something about the culture of the school: if it is open and welcoming, you will be getting a great insight into how your mentor may be during your training year.
Number one for all our trainees however, and this has to be the most important for us all, is the interaction with young people. They described these interactions as ‘revealing and motivating’ and the advice they give is to first discuss with the teacher how they would like you to interact in the lesson, but wherever possible — get stuck in!
What would you do differently if you had those days again?
Overwhelmingly, the trainees said they would seek ways to get even more involved, be this by joining in with extra-curricular clubs after school, asking to join a team meeting, attending a school professional development session or helping with 1–1 or small group teaching. School experience is a great opportunity and you should really find every way to ‘squeeze the lemon’ and gain the absolute max out of it!
What confirmed teaching was the right career path for you and that you had chosen the right training provider?
To quote one trainee,and representative of all, ‘you can’t possibly have a clue what you are committing to do and if it’s right for you without getting in there and getting the experience with teachers and pupils’. Many talked about ‘being able to picture themselves as the teacher’. Most trainees also organised experience with other training providers to make sure they were making the right choice, so don’t be afraid to approach more than one school.
One trainee was so impressed by their school experience that they decided to live away from home during the week so they could train with us. A provider that is willing to go the extra mile, answer questions and make the experience bespoke — even at this stage — is likely to do the same throughout training. Many trainees talked about the flexible approach of some schools and the friendliness they encountered, which helped them firm up their decision.
You are likely to find several amazing providers. If so, look out for the features that you think would really make an outstanding school and provider, and consider which provider best fits your needs. Through your observations and through discussions with teachers and students, the school’s whole culture and approach will shine through. For example, many of our trainees were looking for a mindful, positive approach to education where the school vision is at the heart of everything.
As a potential teacher on our training programme, we would welcome you with open arms to see if the best profession in the world is right for you and to help us live up to our vision! But wherever you choose to get school experience, make sure you make the most of this great chance to explore your options and get your journey to becoming a teacher off to the best start.