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Harriet Marrinan: Primary

Cohort 2020/2021

March 2021

It’s been a year since the first lockdown was announced. So much has changed since then. I naively thought that all this would have blown over by the time I was embarking on my teacher training, and the fact that I wasn’t able to visit my placement academy in person was the biggest concern. Little did I know that the pandemic would entirely reshape not only my teacher training year, but the delivery and experience of education at a national and international level. Despite the challenges this has brought, it’s also been a fascinating learning journey and a unique and valuable initiation into the profession!

In those first weeks, the idea of closing schools was unimaginable. The academic year was one of those certainties of the calendar, like Christmas (which also fell victim to the virus ultimately). So much about how we live has been turned upside down. I cannot help but think that for children, especially those of primary school age, this disruption must be demonstrating to them that the world is full of uncertainty, that parents and teachers do not have all the answers, and that their most fundamental norms (seeing friends and family, learning with others) cannot be relied upon.

At times, navigating this challenging year has felt overwhelming. Not least because of the responsibility of continuing to provide high-quality education to children in ever-changing and almost comically difficult circumstances. However, it has also reaffirmed my motivation to become a teacher. Schools are such a vital part of their communities, and our academy has continued to support families in a multitude of ways throughout the year. It has been more important than ever to show our students that we are there for them, whether we can be together in the same building or not. As a teacher, part of my job is to provide consistency for the children in my class, and I have done this as best I can through online teaching and welcoming them back to school as warmly as possible. When our school fully reopened two weeks ago, I was bowled over by how happy and excited the children were to be back with their friends and teachers, and how eager they were to settle back into a familiar pattern and get on with their learning. I was reminded of the reasons that I decided to train to teach: a dynamic working environment, meaningful challenge and the opportunity to make a real difference every day.

 

November 2020

7.45 – Get in. Check and print resources for the day. Have to queue for printer, but get to chat to a colleague while I wait which boosts my mood.  

8.30 – Children arrive. Greet them and say good morning to each child as they enter the classroom. Sometimes a child may need support to get ready for learning if they’ve had a tricky morning. 

9.00 – Teach guided reading. I re-cap the skills needed, then support children to complete the comprehension. They are reading Skellig by David Almond, and we have just got to the exciting part! 

9.30 – English. My mentor is the English Subject lead, and I learn a lot from watching her teach. While the children are working, I support and challenge children who I know will benefit from my input. 

10.15 – Break duty. It’s a great chance to chat to the children in a more relaxed environment.  Occasionally an enthusiastic football tackle results in a scraped knee that needs first aid. 

10.30 – Teach maths.  It’s their first lesson on finding equivalent fractions. The children work hard but are finding it tricky. We change the plan for tomorrow to allow time to consolidate before moving on. 

12.00 – Lunch. I make a start on marking and prep for the afternoon before grabbing lunch in the staff room. 

1.00 – Teach history. My mentor observes me, which I am used to now. The feedback always helps me improve. The children really enjoy the lesson which makes all the hard work feel worthwhile! 

3.15 – It’s the children’s hometime. We watch Newsround while the children take turns to collect their coats and bags. We talk about the US election and I’m impressed with their understanding. 

3.45 – Staff meeting, followed by marking books and planning. There are lots of people around to support me if needed.  

5.30 – Leave school. Do some reading for PGCE assignment while dinner cooks. Definitely feel like I’ve earned a good night’s sleep! 

September 2020

Although my overriding feeling was one of excitement, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about starting the School Direct programme. It’s hard to escape the gloomy narrative that the media paints of our ‘failing’ education system: teachers crumbling under ever-growing workloads, and unhappy children, underachieving and blighted by exam stress. And yet, there I was at the beginning of September, clutching my copy of the National Curriculum and proudly wearing my staff lanyard, stepping into an outstanding primary academy, and into my new role as a trainee teacher.  

So, what convinced me to take the plunge? I’d always been motivated by working with people and in roles which help change communities for the better. I previously worked in fundraising for some incredible charities, and although I got satisfaction from knowing that my work was having a positive impact on people’s lives, I became frustrated with the day to day and my enthusiasm dwindled. I wanted to find a role where every day was different, and I could see the immediate impact of my effort. After some soul searching, I quit my job at a leading mental health charity and volunteered at a local primary school. Fortunately, I was soon offered a job as a TA, and I’ve never looked back.  

I can honestly say that my experience so far with Harris Initial Teacher Education and my host school has been fantastic. I have yet to wake up with that ‘can’t face the day’ feeling which I used to know well. Even when I’m exhausted or daunted by the day ahead, the thought of my brilliant year five class and my encouraging colleagues helps get me going. The support has been great; my academy mentor and partner teacher are amazing, and I have learned so much from them already. Also, my link tutor at HITE has been really helpful in getting my head round our first PGCE assignment (it’s been a fair few years since I was at uni, and even then, essays weren’t my strong point!) The training curriculum goes beyond ticking the boxes of the teachers’ standards, and extends to environmentalism, wellbeing and social justice. In school, getting stuck in with whole class teaching has been so rewarding and a great, practical way to get to grips with the job quickly.  

Of course, there have been challenges: COVID-19 measures meant that the first few weeks were a real juggling act – with the timing of the school day shifting to accommodate the movements of year group bubbles and ending up with year five having to eat lunch in their classroom. It’s tricky to launch into a lesson on the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy when the children haven’t had as much time outside as we’d like, and there’s ketchup all over their desks. That said, it’s certainly interesting to be joining the profession in the midst of a global pandemic. Learning of the different ways that lock-down has affected the children in my class really highlights how vital schools are in supporting their communities they serve. I can’t wait to continue to get to know the children in my school, and hopefully become the teacher they need me to be.