By Chloe Organ and Paul Nugent
Chloe Organ and Paul Nugent are newly qualified teachers at two Ark schools in Wembley, Brent, and both trained with Ark Teacher Training last year. Here they reveal all about teacher training.
What were you most nervous about when you started your teacher training?
Chloe: Coming straight out of university, I was worried about how I was going to manage behaviour being so young, inexperienced and small — most of my older students are taller than me! Dealing with a room of 30 teenagers seemed like an impossible task, but after attending a two-week summer school before my training started I already felt equipped with strategies for managing behaviour.
Paul: I worked as a teaching assistant in an Ark school for two years before my training, so my initial worry was the transition from teaching assistant to teacher. This is a popular route into teaching, but I thought the relationships I’d developed as a TA would be very different to those as a teacher, and was worried about navigating this. I’d worked hard to build strong relationships with my students and didn’t want to lose that — I wanted to make sure they still liked me!
What was the most important thing you learnt during your training year?
Chloe: The most important thing I learnt was how crucial your attitude is to shaping the classroom and your interactions with students. You don’t always realise it, but the way you approach a conversation and your frame of mind makes all the difference. I learnt to always be as positive as possible when talking to students.
Paul: For me it was realising that teaching is a craft. The idea that you are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at it doesn’t exist. It is something you get better at over time and there are always new things to learn. Being able to see the profession as a craft means you can continually improve. It kept me reassured that I would get better when times were tough and motivated me when I was doing well, as I knew I’d only get better.
What did a typical day as a trainee teacher look like?
Chloe: For the first term, I would teach ten hours over the week, which might not sound like much, but having a few hours each day to plan, script and think carefully about my lessons allowed me to improve my practice and put into place all the techniques I was learning. Usually, I would also have either a one-to-one co-planning session with my coach, a department co-planning meeting, or a school-wide training session in the day. On a Thursday, I would leave school at lunch to travel to the Ark office, where I would meet with trainees from other schools for training sessions as a tutor group. I really valued that time out of school to talk about my week with other trainees and discuss any issues I was experiencing — having such a strong support network of other people going through the same things was so important to me.
Paul: A typical day as a trainee teacher is very varied. The number of lessons I taught differed per day, and it would often include one where my mentor would observe me in the classroom. I would then receive feedback, and a single action step to work on. We’d normally have a whole department meeting during period three, where we’d do some co-planning, looking at and discussing upcoming lessons. After school on a Wednesday, there would be new staff training sessions for all trainees and NQTs. This was so valuable as it was a safe place to work on our practice as a teacher, and the sessions were purposely aimed at staff who were new to the profession.
What is the one thing you wish you knew before you started?
Chloe: It takes time to develop your practice, and you won’t be great straight away. Establishing yourself with the students and within the school is a long process. When the students don’t know you, as frustrating as it is, you have to give it time for them to start to trust and respect you. It’s been so much easier going back in this year and not being a new face — my relationships with students have flourished in my second year, but that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been patient and consistent in my first year.
Paul: Lesson observations are for improvement, not accountability, and there is no need to be scared of them. I spent my first term worrying about my weekly observations, but it turned out they only helped me improve!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about training to teach?
Chloe: Choosing to become a teacher is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I would encourage someone thinking about training to teach to definitely go for it. But I would also advise them that teaching can be tough, and you shouldn’t forget to take time out for yourself too. As teachers, we want to give our all to our students and will do whatever it takes to help them fulfil their potential, but if we don’t set limits and take time out for ourselves too, we can’t be the best support for them.
Paul: If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher, don’t wait or put it off — just get on with it and sign up to a programme! I can promise you it is the most rewarding job you can do. No day is the same, and children are wonderful to work around. The difference you will make is absolutely huge!
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