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Lauren Hillier: Primary with Maths Trainee - Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane

Cohort 2021-22

January 2022Lauren hillier"What have your students taught you?"

The first term of my teacher training has been a rollercoaster of emotions. It has, at times, been overwhelming, stressful and exhausting, but I am finally beginning to feel like a teacher. One of the reasons I am enjoying my time in the classroom is that I am constantly learning. My students teach me something new every day, whether it’s a random fact about how many black bears live in North America blurted out in the middle of a Maths lesson (~900,000 if you’re interested), insight into a different religion or culture, or just a new shortcut on Word. 

I used to feel uneasy when students told me something I didn’t know in a lesson, as it can feel like you should know everything as a teacher, and I definitely remember expecting that of my teachers in school. However, recognising that we all bring different experiences to the classroom and allowing opportunities for students to share knowledge and learn from each other has made a massive difference to my lessons and helped to create a positive classroom culture. This is most visible in RE and PSHE lessons, but it also helps students feel confident to speak up and contribute ideas in all subjects. By listening to the experiences and perspectives of their peers, they not only learn to respect their differences, but also often improve their understanding of a topic as it helps them relate it to something they know. In addition, being transparent about learning new things as a teacher models and hopefully instils the love for learning we want our students to have. It also teaches them that we can’t know everything, and that it is a positive thing to recognise that – a very difficult concept for children to grasp. So my advice to any new teachers would be to let your students be the teacher sometimes by encouraging them to share their own knowledge and experiences in the classroom. 

Being open to listening to and learning from students also helps build positive relationships, something I very quickly learnt is essential in managing behaviour, especially in a primary school. The more you get to know your students, the more enjoyable and effective lessons become as you are able to plan and deliver engaging and appropriately pitched activities. I think it’s important to recognise students as individuals, not just learners, to be able to build relationships successfully and teach interesting lessons. It is sometimes surprising to discover (after sharing a fact really enthusiastically) that my definition of ‘interesting’ doesn’t always correlate with theirs, so taking time to understand the interests and backgrounds of different students is extremely useful. For these reasons, I would also recommend encouraging your students to tell you about their life outside of school; their hobbies, family, random facts about dinosaurs. Allow them to feel like their interests and opinions are important and that they are more than a ‘student’. I can’t over-emphasise the value of this, even after the five long minutes I spent feigning interest in a student’s latest Minecraft construction at 8am this morning. 

October 2021

Transitioning from TA to Teacher 

Having volunteered and worked as a teaching assistant (TA) in primary schools for years previously, I had thought about training to teach on countless occasions, but I put it off over and over again, primarily because I was scared. I loved my experience working with children in schools, but I had observed and experienced the challenges of teaching and the thought of being wholly responsible for the education of 30 individuals terrified me. Good teachers make teaching look effortless, but when you begin to analyse their actions, the complexity of the role is clear and extremely daunting. Primary teachers in particular have to be masters of all disciplines, a concept which felt far-fetched as I desperately tried to recall what I had learnt in my History GCSE.  

 

After encouragement from colleagues and senior leadership in the Harris primary school I was working in, I finally bit the bullet and submitted my application. By this point, I knew I really wanted to be a teacher, but I still wasn’t sure I’d be any good at it. When it was announced to my class at the time, I was braced for their reaction as the most honest people I have ever met. But they didn’t laugh or question, they were encouraging, supportive, and excited for me. They told me I’d be a great teacher. They provided me the reassurance I didn’t know I needed and changed my mind-set completely. Some of these children are in my class this year and, when they saw me on the first day sitting at my ‘teachers desk’, there was a chorus of whoops and cheers. They remind me daily that I made the right decision to embark on this journey to become a teacher. 

 

By September, the fear I had felt had mostly subsided. Instead, I felt excited, proud even, and I couldn’t wait to get started. I quickly discovered that my experience as a TA acted as a real advantage, having observed countless lessons and worked with children in different contexts. Although I still feel like there are significant gaps in my knowledge, it expands with every training session and every lesson I teach, so I feel confident that the expertly-designed course delivered by the team at HITE will cover everything I need to know to be able to start my career as a qualified teacher in less than a year from now(!!) 

 

I won’t lie and say that I don’t have moments where I doubt my ability as a teacher, in fact I have them daily. The overwhelming and continuous support of my mentor, tutor and colleagues, though, means these moments are becoming less frequent and are insignificant compared to the joy and excitement my students bring to the classroom every day.