Sunday, 15 September 2013

School Direct: Reflecting on every breath, or so it seems!

The key to teacher training, or so I am lead to believe so far, is reflection.  In fact, it would seem like I have to reflect on every waking breath!  For anyone that doesn't know, these reflections are used as evidence that I have met 8 standards to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).  In the past there used to be something like 32 of these, each requiring a folder full of evidence.  Some training routes still require a folder per standard, which can be confusing when trainees within one school are on different programmes.  As I'm doing a PGCE I will just need one folder at the end of the year, this includes my weekly journal, a reflection on each of the standards and yet more paperwork and forms.  As well as this I will complete 3 assignments over the course of the year, they are Professional Investigations: Professional Studies, Enhanced Studies and Curriculum Studies.  I only really know anything about the first one at the moment and that the Enhanced Studies will be researched whilst I am on a two week non-teaching placement at another school.  I'll also be doing a teaching placement for four weeks at another school, this has to be a contrasting school to my main placement so I presume it will be a grammar school.

Over and above my training requirements I'm trying to get involved in other things going on around the school.  So far these have centred around my own department, I've gone along to after school sessions, marked some primary transition work and even been out to a primary school to talk about how the school can work with them on some MFL sessions in year 6.  This week I get the chance to be involved outside of my department when the students are off timetable for the day, working on activities in their form groups and colleges (or houses).  As far as I know this event is to start off some competition between the colleges for the rest of the year and to encourage what has been described as a family feeling.  I'm really looking forward to it and think this has to be one of the main advantages of School Direct as it is allowing me to be part of the school from day one and really get involved just as any other member of staff.

In terms of the school/PGCE balance things are going fine so far, but I can already see that changing as I start to take over starters and parts of classes bit by bit from this week.  I'm conscious that there is going to be so much to do and so little time to do it in, but I knew that when I applied for this programme so it's just something I'll have to deal with.

On a less personal note, the ITT figures for this year have been released recently.  They show that whilst there were many many more applications for School Direct than places available there were many places left empty, I think it was around 45% or something similar.  It seems that this comes down to the schools involved in the process.  As schools have a much bigger say in the selection of trainees than they would with PGCE placements they are applying the standards that they would in selecting their own staff.  Unfortunately, this seems to mean that there are many unfilled places for teacher training this year, as less PGCE places were available.  Although the quality of School Direct training is high, there won't be enough Newly Qualified Teachers around at the end of it.  What worries me is that the mistakes made this year are going to tar what could've been a very successful programme in the future.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Three days in and not a student in sight.

After all this time I can finally say I have started School Direct and am officially a trainee teacher!

My first two days in school were INSET days, or Professional Learning as the academy I'm at calls them.  I've been to all the same sessions as the usual staff as well as some specific sessions for new staff members and trainees/NQTs.  I have a feeling that I'm going to be swimming in paperwork this year, and next for that matter.  I have journals, assignments and reviews to complete for my university, but at the same time I have reflective logs, records and more reviews to complete from the academy.  It's going to feel like a lot but hopefully it should make it all easier for me at the end of the year.  For those that don't know, there are 8 teachers standards that all trainees must meet in order to be awarded Qualified Teacher Status and these have to be evidenced in a portfolio at the end of the year.  At the end of the day it's all about ticking boxes but if I don't collect all the information and evidence as I go along it will be a total nightmare.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to go about managing all this yet but I'm sure I'll get used to it once I'm settled into school.

I guess I'd never really considered how much has to be done in those couple of days before school starts.  As well as attending all the training sessions the staff were sorting out timetables, seating plans, books and boxes.  As a new member of staff I had to get my laptop sorted, get an ID badge, class keys and access to the car park, not to mention sorting out somewhere to keep all my stuff in the day.  All seems straightforward enough but it takes a while to deal with.

Today was the first day of term at my school but unfortunately Wednesdays are my training day out of school and so I missed it.  It was good to see all the other trainees today, there's been so much going on that it feels like ages since we last saw each other, in reality it was only Friday but we had plenty to catch up on.  It's at this stage that we realise the variations from school to school.  We have all been assigned different amounts of hours on our timetable, different expectations for when we will take over the class and access to different resources in school.  I think this is part of the draw of the programme, in theory it can all be tailored to our needs, although at the outset it does seem a little inconsistent.  We still don't have a concrete schedule for our training, and there is still some confusion on where we will be, when we'll be there and who we'll be with but I'm sure it'll get there soon enough.  What I do now know is that I will be spending the first half term in January in two other schools, 4 weeks in a school contrasting to my own and 2 weeks researching in another school before returning to my main school.

There is just so much to take in that I'm trying to take as many opportunities as I can to write my thoughts down and get things straight in my head!  I'm observing classes tomorrow and Friday before the weekend so I'll be able to get a sense of things and start with that in mind next week.