Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a trainee teacher? Bryony, a trainee history teacher at Ark Helenswood Academy in Hastings, talks us through her typical school day. Bryony moved to Hastings from London in September 2016 to start her training with Ark Teacher Training.
My morning routine
I usually get up at 5.45am. It is early, but it means I have time to exercise, I like to walk down to the old town and back, get ready for work and plan some lessons – all before 8am! My commute is so easy now, it’s just a 10-minute drive to school. That’s one of the great things about living in Hastings. As well as going from having a tiny bedroom in a shared flat, to having my own one-bed flat with a garden!
9.00 – 10.15am: A coaching session with my line manager
I teach between 11 and 13 hours a week, so not a full timetable, which gives me time for coaching, training and co-planning.
I’ve got a free period this morning and I’m having a coaching session with my line manager. We’re going through the great teacher rubric (a teacher development framework designed to allow teachers to measure their own professional development against precise and measurable standards at every stage of their career) and seeing where I want to target my efforts in the coming week.
This week I’m going to focus on communicating with teaching assistants, to make sure that we’re hitting the learning objectives for students who need a bit of extra support. It’s so handy to get small, achievable targets that I can work on and review the next week – it really helps me to progress.
Some mornings we’ll also do co-planning together. My lessons usually involve an interactive task and some independent practice. They can be quite tricky to design as a trainee, so it’s really useful to work on it with a history specialist who can help me come up with a solution or give me some advice.
10.15 – 11.30am: Studying the British Empire with my year 8 students
This morning I’ve got one of my year 8 classes. At the moment we’re studying the British Empire. My students at Ark Helenswood are great, they’re really engaged and they’ve always got their own opinions – they love debates!
One of my favourite things about teaching history is seeing the students make a link to modern day. For example, when studying the causes of WWI, they started making links to the fighting in Syria at the moment. It’s great teaching history in Hastings, because so much of what shaped the identity of our country happened on our doorsteps. It’s exciting to be able to share that with my students.
Afternoon: Travelling to London for my weekly training
One afternoon per week I head up to London with the other trainees for a session with Ark Teacher Training. It’s a fairly quick journey, less than two hours door-to-door and I can always catch up on some marking on the train.
The sessions vary from week to week. Sometimes we’ll have whole cohort training – it can be subject specific where we’ll focus on the history curriculum. And at other times we’ll be in our tutor groups. My tutor, Michael, is brilliant, he’s incredibly supportive and has got so much experience.
This week we’re having a whole cohort training session. We’re looking at the most effective assessment methods to gauge whether students have learnt something or not. It’s particularly helpful for me, because it has resolved a problem I’d been having with teaching my year 7s about source analysis.
The sessions are always very practical. We’ll have a group discussion so we can share our own experiences and then we’ll usually practise a technique in pairs. It’s one of the most useful tools for improving my teaching. I can actually practise a new concept, maybe a behaviour management technique or a way of introducing a new skill, see what problems may occur and fix them before I even get in the classroom. It means that I’m having a greater impact on the students and making my teaching the best that it can be.
My evenings in Hastings
When the weather was warmer, I’d spend my evenings on the beach! But tonight I’ll head out to a new seafood restaurant with Sophie, one of the other trainees here at Ark Helenswood. There are so many nice restaurants in Hastings, it has a real foodie culture, there are always new pop-up cafés and bars opening up.
There is lots to do at the weekends as well. There’s a festival or big event every couple of weeks. There’s a big music culture in the town, and a selection of bands play every weekend.
Moving to Hastings and training to teach is the best decision I have ever made, both for my career and for myself. Ark Teacher Training is outstanding – the programme is so well put together and the tutors have so much experience. I’ve got a brilliant way of life down here in Hastings. I can afford to do more things and it’s such a beautiful place to live. I can definitely see myself being here for quite a few years.