Meet our Cohort 2019-20Back
David Smith: Computer Science Teacher
In this world of increasing nationalism, fences and gates are prominent as tools of exclusion. But the physical separation can serve other purposes; gates can also be welcoming - a divide between the unstructured world and a safe place - a secure door to a school community comprising teaching staff, specialist professionals, and, most importantly its senior leadership team.
One of the many features of a Harris ITE role is the opportunity for a contrasting, second placement. While the bulk of the training year is spent in service in the primary placement school, there is a three-week second placement. Using a military metaphor, one might consider it to be akin to a parachute drop in unknown territory. Or, thinking of the entertainment world, the trainee can reinvent her/himself and put to use the practical and academic knowledge and training gained in the programme up to that point.
I've reached the end of my second placement and there is much on which to reflect. But in my mind, I return again and again to the gate. Why?
In my main placement school, no matter the weather, temperature, or darkness pupils and members of staff are greeted at the gate by senior leadership staff comprising the academy head, the executive principal and vice principals. While pupil safeguarding is a key purpose, positioning the team at the gate reinforces the transition to a whole academy environment where there are clear rules and responsibilities for dress, behaviour and respect for learning. In both academies, there are clear expectations for behaviour and attentiveness in lessons. For example, praise for good work is supported by points frameworks.
At Harris ITE behaviour management is a major focus in weekly training sessions, in observations by both academy-based and ITE-based mentors and in trainee-produced evidence for the QTS panels. Revisiting the military metaphor, were it not for this training and mentoring, my parachute would have failed months ago and I would have crash-landed.
So to those of you who are considering a teaching career, be aware of the challenges in behaviour management, but do not be put off in applying for a role. The next generations will face pressures we do not yet fully understand as climate change, nationalism and the breakdown of multilateral organisations threaten our quality of life. Now, more than ever, there is a need for teachers to use their best practices to create and sustain the environment for learning so that our pupils have the capacity to understand and act upon urgent issues. And when you attend an interview at an academy, do take note of who is standing at the gate when pupils are arriving or leaving school.
I began my professional career in financial services in Hartford, Connecticut USA the year the IBM PC was introduced; Sheena Easton hit the charts with ‘Morning Train’, and Margaret Thatcher was in her third year as Prime Minister. I made good use of the family Smith Corona portable (manual) typewriter, sending application letters to prospective employers. I chose a few companies suggested by my university placement office based on summary job descriptions and a rather fuzzy fit to my BA in Economics.
There are some parallels between my first start and my first few weeks in the Harris ITE programme: competent mentors with a genuine interest in helping me to succeed, a training regimen including classroom training with other new starters from distant cities, a field office placement and rapid immersion into an organisation in transition. The old guard had built a relationship-based insurance business then under stress given economic volatility and deregulation. The de-coupling of financial markets from bank-led financing and the emergence of securitisation led to a boom in new financial instruments and a need for know-how; my career progressed rapidly and I joined a global insurance firm which relocated me to the UK in 2001. In time, I gained leave to remain, moved into a management consulting career and ultimately gained citizenship.
Why did you decide to train to teach?
I need to give back to future generations; I don’t have children, but I worry that they are growing up in turbulent times; economic uncertainty, gig economy work replacing apprenticeships and careers, food shortages, civil unrest and worse as our planet struggles to cope with the long-ignored climate emergency. To survive, our children need to use all of their resources, especially critical thinking skills; secondary education is fundamental in the development of life skills (reading, writing, numeracy) and the appetite for continuous learning.
Why did you choose to train with Harris?
Harris offer first-rate training, a salary (if on the salaried route), QTS and a PGCE. Being a late starter, I haven’t got time for the slow lane.
How have you found the first term?
Every day presents a new adventure: lesson planning, behaviour management, personal time management, becoming a reflective practitioner. I’ve got 150 student faces to learn; it’s a challenge - finding that I’m learning the names of the trouble-makers and top students. Today I’m testing a numbering system where I’ve allocated seats to students and hoping that they don’t peel off the numbers!
How have you been supported to develop as a teacher?
Support is excellent, especially in the academy. Encountering some class disruptions during the first week, I am grateful and amazed by the respect shown to my PE teacher colleagues. I’ve set a goal to observe two classes a week, especially the entrance and exit routines, and transitions, e.g. taking the register and starting up a lesson.