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Ben Acton

Ben Acton

Physics Trainee 2018-19

"If you're considering a career in teaching then experience days are an invaluable insight into a day in the life of a teacher"

Ben graduated from Bristol University with a degree in physics and is currently training to teach Physics with the i2i Teaching Partnership. Here, he tells us about his school experience and how it helped him to decide that a career in teaching was right for him.

 


I am often asked the question “Why do you want to be a teacher?”

It’s probably the question that trainee teachers are asked most often and it’s not an easy one to answer. Everyone gives a different answer — and for good reason.

There are so many answers I myself could give: “To make a difference”, “Every day is different”, “To give something back”, “For those light bulb moments when a child gets something”.

But the truth is, I really wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be a teacher until I’d experienced it first-hand.

I’d considered a number of other careers: finance, civil service, law, even gardening. I obtained experience of each of them, and each experience helped me refine what I wanted from a career.

I went in to my experience days at school looking for a career that offered me variety and a chance to have a long lasting positive impact on the future (a tad grandiose, I know) but what I came away with was the realisation that it was all about the people. What I wanted was a career with a sense of community, and after seeing the relationships between the teachers and the students, and generally how friendly, enthusiastic and supportive everyone was, it confirmed to me that it was something I would like to be a part of.

The experience days not only helped me to decide that teaching was something I wanted to do but also gave me the chance to find out more about the i2i teacher training programme and why that particular programme was right for me. I had considered other routes into teaching — staying in Bristol where I did my degree and following the university route was a distinct possibility, and I had been to a number of talks about it, so until I did my experience days my mind was certainly not made up — but having the opportunity to speak to recent trainees, current staff and one of the leaders of the programme, any questions I had were answered and I was able to wrap my head around the specifics of the i2i programme.

The integrated approach taken at the teaching partnership, where one day per week is dedicated to training and the other four days to teaching, appealed to me. As well as this, I liked the way trainees were initiated into the school effectively as a proper member of staff from the get go, and how they were given opportunities to get involved in the school community, for example, co-tutoring a year 7 tutor group with an experienced member of staff. Both of these things made me feel less like a ‘student’ who came in to the school every now and then, an outsider who the students may be confused by (as I feared), and more like a real teacher.

If you are considering teaching and have been convinced of the value of school experience days I would offer the following advice from myself and several of my colleagues:

1. Get involved

If you want to get the most from the experience days you should talk to people — both staff and students. The students may sometimes seem intimidating but they will be used to frequent visitors in the classroom and will often more than happily take a break from their work to chat to you. Walk around the classroom, ask them what they’re learning and how. If you don’t, and you just sit quietly at the back of the room, you’ll get bored, you won’t get much from the experience, and you won’t make an impression on the people you are hoping may offer you a training position.

2. Talk to the teacher

A great way to gain an insight into the role of a teacher is to ask them why they do what they do in a lesson. Only then will you realise just how deliberate and carefully planned the actions of a teacher are, as well as how many things a teacher has to think about at all times and quite how mentally taxing a career it is! Find the right moment and be empathetic to the fact that their number one priority is giving the students the best education they can.

3. Speak to a trainee

The best perspective you can get on what the next year is going to look like for you is by speaking to someone who is living it right now. They can tell you all about their expectations before they started and how that compares to the reality of it — what the workload is like and how that is balanced by the constant ‘joys’. They can also answer any questions you have about the programme from the perspective of a trainee.

In summary, if you’re considering a career in teaching then experience days are an invaluable insight into a day in the life of a teacher as well as being a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have. The important thing is that you talk to people — not just to get a better understanding of the programme and the career but also to start getting to know people — they could well be your future colleagues and friends!


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