Meet our Cohort 2019-20


Elisha Gray: Primary Teacher

Cohort 2019-20

Elisha grayOctober 2020

All the lesson and classroom preparations during the summer could not have prepared me for the whirlwind that was ‘the first 6 weeks of teaching’. Tiring, but successful comes to mind. Many of us have not taught in a classroom since lockdown back in March and to say I was nervous coming back in September would have been an understatement. Nervous for many reasons… new COVID guidelines, staggered start and finish times and the unknown of how the time off has affected children (mentally as well as academically).  

The first week was tiring but unbelievably rewarding! To have students coming in excited, happy and showing a positive attitude to their learning every day was, and still is, heart-warming. Teaching them something new and seeing them apply it independently in their learning reinforces the passion I have for teaching. Even with all the new changes!  

I had the chance to work with my previous mentor implementing Black History Month for the whole school this year. We gave each year group a theme to learn about and planned to have a ‘Hall of Fame’ exhibition at the end of the month. The students loved it! Year 3 learnt about Black Scientists; Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Daniel Hale Williams and George Washington Carver. Whilst I felt at the time that I had taken on too much in terms of workload, I can say now that it was worth it! Students were engaged, enthusiastic and keen to learn more. They couldn’t believe that crop rotation, used in the farming industry today, was influenced by the work of George Washington Carver. In discussions they really empathised with the experiences that individuals from the past and present have faced, and still face, due to the colour of their skin. 

Anyway, back to the Autumn term… yes it has come with its challenges, many tears and doubtful moments but as I reflect on it so far, I have really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to another positive half term.  

April 2020

We are now entering the sixth week since the government announced school closures. It all feels very much surreal and I must admit I have struggled!

For many of us our new routine now consists of planning home learning tasks, weekly phone calls home to students and planning future lessons in the hope schools will re-open soon. The highlight of each week has been calling my students every Wednesday. Hearing their voices and talking about all the amazing learning they have been doing at home is very uplifting. I miss them all very much!

My academy has now joined with three other primary academies in the area. To maintain social distancing, we now work on a rota basis with each school taking the lead on teaching from week to week; with no more than 5-6 people in at any time. If we are not scheduled to teach, we work from home. 

“How does that work?” I hear you ask. Well, every evening we are sent an updated teaching schedule and on Fridays we receive a ‘working from home’ checklist with tasks for the week. These vary for different staff members, but mostly consist of planning lessons or resources and completing suggested CPD courses. Our Vice Principal also emails a weekly staff newsletter consisting of updates, pictures of home learning and weekly events to look out for, such as our new book club and quiz night, accessed via Zoom of course.

To inspire and encourage students we will be posting challenges on our school Twitter page, and this week I am the first feature (alongside my children). Very exciting! I managed to film and edit my own challenge…pizza bagels! I am looking forward to seeing the creations that are sent in.

Let’s not forget our new virtual training sessions! We still receive our weekly emails on Monday, with planned subject days such as P.E and DT completed through interactive and reflective tasks. I am currently waiting for the vehicle I made using recyclable materials to dry. The adjustments everyone has made have certainly helped to provide a sense of normality.

I have used this time to reflect on areas of pedagogy that I would like to develop further. So far, I have completed a Maths course on ratio, proportion and scaling in addition to refreshing my knowledge of specific topics in Science. I have even started teaching my 2-year-old phonics using the skills gained from our phonics training days and he can confidently recall: m, a, d, s and t.

Times like this highlight the incredible strength and resilience children have! That we all have in fact! My message to you during this time is to take each day as it comes, stay positive and stay safe.

February 2020

I’m not ready for it to end…I’m excited to have my own class next year… Or should that be a scary thought?! What am I going to do without the Thursday training sessions? Where has the time gone? That’s my current thought process as the realisation that we are over half-way through the training year sets in.

A much-needed break has arrived in the form of February half-term. As I sit to type, a great sense of relief and achievement falls over me after completing 3 weeks in a contrasting placement. Originally in year 2, I was placed in Key stage 2- year 6. Yes…year 6! Whilst I was not jumping for joy at the thought of this experience, it has been one of great value. I have learnt so much in such a short amount of time and I am confident I will be able to implement strategies observed within my own practice.

Highlights this term? It has got to be our music subject day! Imagine 50 primary trainees standing in a large circle singing…and I mean singing! Vocals warmed up, correct posture and singing as if we were in a choir! They really do know how to push you out of your comfort zone on this course, and rightly so. We expect our pupils to try new things and challenge themselves, so we need to lead by example. Placing yourself in the shoes of your students really does get you thinking.

Engaging in weekly reflective tasks has supported my development as a teacher and I can safely say I am proud of the progress I have made so far. I am confident that by the end of the school year the thought of having my own class will no longer be scary. For now, Spring 2 here I come!

September 2019

I honestly do not know where to start! I am only four weeks into my teacher training course and already I am riding the rollercoaster of emotions. I have cried, I have felt stressed and overwhelmed at times, but I really wouldn’t change a thing! Why? Why would I put myself through that? Well, to see the smile on my students’ faces when they succeed, to witness students grow into confident and enthusiastic learners, to inspire and support the next generation… the list could go on forever! My point is, teaching - albeit hard at times - is an extremely exciting and rewarding career. I have no regrets in making this transition.

I completed my BSc in Criminology and Psychology at Roehampton University eight years ago. I had my son in my final year but continued through and succeeded in graduating with a 2:1. He was my motivation! I wanted to show him that anything is possible, no matter the circumstance.

I had worked at Sainsbury’s for 7 years when I decided it was time for a change. I had been ignoring my desire to teach for a few years and my son was starting his first year in school when I was offered a role as graduate teaching assistant in Harris Invictus Academy Croydon. My hunger to teach grew even more whilst working there as I realised quite quickly the impact teachers have on students’ lives. I became intrigued by the work that went into preparing children for secondary school. I wanted to be a part of building a strong foundation in the earlier stages of children’s education.

Fast-forward to September 2018 when I started working as a teaching assistant in Early Years at Harris Primary Academy Shortlands. I was lucky to work with such an amazing team of people who all had different levels of experience and made my transition very easy. I treasured the thirst for knowledge that children entered reception with and watching the progress they made over short periods of time was truly astonishing!

The trainee teacher I worked alongside was amazing! She made teaching look easy, she took the time to go through lesson plans with me, provided clear guidance when needed and was a pleasure to work with. Working alongside such great people and students pushed me to make the leap of faith. I knew that I was finally in the right place and was overjoyed when I was offered a place on the Harris ITE course.

I am adjusting in my new role and finally starting to get my head around marking and planning. My mentor is great. She’s extremely organised and gives me really good feedback after lesson observations. They are not as daunting as they sound!

All in all, my transition from teaching assistant to trainee teacher has been a pleasurable experience. I was worried at first regarding how much training would affect my home life. With two young children and my husband working shifts, no two mornings or days are the same. Luckily, we have a supportive and understanding family who help a lot with the children, but communication is vital! I have even found myself being so organised that I now send a weekly plan of who is doing school drop off and pickups on specific days. It is important that I become the best teacher I can be whilst also maintaining a healthy home life… so I make sure weekends are family time.

Whilst I enjoy the hands-on approach that training through Harris provides, I find myself feeling excited for our training days at Harris Academy Bermondsey. It really does give you the opportunity to touch base with everyone; swapping tips, sharing ideas and experiences. Its reassuring to know that you are not alone on this journey. You leave feeling enthusiastic and determined to try new methods of teaching.

I entered teaching because I want all children to leave primary education with confidence, enthusiasm for learning and, most importantly, the key skills and knowledge they need to be successful in secondary education and beyond. It is going to be a challenging but rewarding year ahead!