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Laura Ulyatt: Chemistry Trainee - Harris Academy Wimbledon

Cohort 2021-22

October 2021

Laura ulyatt“What did your first week entail?” 

Shoes polished, lunch packed, bike wheels pumped – I’m ready for my first day of school! Only this time, I’m the one standing at the front of the classroom… terrified? Yep! Excited? Absolutely! But what if the students can sniff out a trainee like a bloodhound? Act the part! ‘Fake it till you make it’, they say. I knew I could do that. After all, people say teachers are actors, surely I can act like I’ve been teaching for years?  

Enter week one. The school towers above me as I cycle towards it, so this is the new office, hey? I can deal with that after almost a year of using my kitchen table as my office. It only took a global pandemic for that little voice in my head telling me to ‘take the teaching plunge’, to turn into a real-life action! I guess sometimes we need that space and time from the hustle and bustle of life (especially London life!) to realise what makes us feel fulfilled.  

I am handed my timetable for the first week and it looks like I’m teaching Year 7 first period of the new academic year, which also happens to be the hottest September day humanly possible! In the sweltering heat, I line my Year 7s up outside, ready to take to them to their (and my) first ever science lesson.  

We enter the classroom and I see coat hooks on the side of the wall. My instinct on such a hot day is to tell all students to hang their blazers up. This is met with confused bumbling and questions about whether they should hang their bags up too. After 5 minutes of bumbling-bag-blazer confusion, I have already learnt my first lesson – always get students to keep belongings on them!  

Secondly, never underestimate the treasury tag. Remember treasury tags? The little bit of string with two plastic tags used to attach hole punched paper. With Year 7 straight out of primary school, they had never seen one before (one student even asking me if they could eat theirs). I spend most of the lesson going from student to student showing each one how to treasury tag. The beauty of hindsight is the ‘what I should have done’ is so glaringly obvious, and I now know the tremendous value of demonstrating before a task.   

Every day is a school day, quite literally now! And this is all part of the learning as a trainee teacher. I always heard the first day would be a bit of a shambles, and I did feel a bit like Gilderoy Lockhart trying to contain the Cornish Pixies in his Defence Against the Dark Arts class (to all those Harry Potter fans out there!). But hearing a student say ‘thanks Miss, see you tomorrow’ as they left class, reminded me of why I’m here. I want to be the teacher I still remember making a difference to me when I was at school. It was a big decision to change career, but one I’m so glad I made - bring on Term 2!