Meet our Harris Academy MertonBack
Ryan Kan - History Trainee
Harris Academy Merton
January 2023"How has your first term with Harris Initial Teacher Education been?"
My first term has been a learning curve. Teaching is a profession that is plagued with ‘sayings’ and I’ve heard a few in my time; ‘don’t smile until Christmas’, ‘every lesson shapes a life’ and ‘teachers are only in it for the holidays’. This term has, as stated, been a learning curve and one of many things I have learnt is that each of those sayings is totally wrong.
Starting with the latter, many of my friends think that teaching is all long holidays, perhaps believing that their 9-5 is more laborious than trying to convince 30 12-year-olds that the Medieval Taxes is in any way interesting. They remind ‘you’re only doing it for the holidays’ whenever I voice a mild complaint (and, occasionally, a less mild one) implying that because I get a couple weeks off for Christmas, I should care less. Sure, the holidays are delightful, and nothing makes me happier than staying in bed whilst my partner leaves for work on a frosty October morning, but that’s not the only reason to do this job. In my time as a teacher, I have seen students make friends, grow in confidence in subjects they initially hated and have the widest smiles when they succeed in a test. It is an immensely difficult job and there are challenges, but it is easily the most rewarding job I have ever had.
Secondly, there is an ad that prompts a nudge from my partner each time it comes on the telly. She finds it hilarious that I ‘teach over 100 kids, so if I wanted to I could shape my own small army.’ I find that less funny. Regardless, there is a myth that everything I do in my day will somehow inadvertently shape someone’s entity, and though that may sound pleasant it does bring implicit pressure. The truth lies somewhat beyond the grandiose self-importance of the advert, as I may not exactly shape their lives, but I could inspire them to follow certain paths, pick certain subjects or even jobs, much like my teachers did for me. Though I am not shaping their lives like a comically overpowered puppet-master, you do have the capacity to influence young lives and help improve them.
Finally, the notion that all teachers must retain a permanent scowl until the holidays is ridiculous. We all remember teachers who never smiled, and I believe I speak for most people when I say that I hated them. This term has taught me, more than anything, that I am at my best as a teacher when I am having fun and smiling because the students have fun and smile back. You don’t have to be Ronald McDonald to get this, but you do have to show the students you enjoy their presence because they want to know you care.
My first term has taught me to leave both my own and the world’s preconceptions at the door. In truth, I have learnt and developed more in these 3 months than I thought possible, so I can only imagine where I will be at the end of the year.
October 2022"What did your first week entail?"
As I had already worked at the school for almost a year as a Teaching Assistant, my first week was slightly different from those fresh into the school. Rather than spending my time on school tours and getting to know the different members of staff, I was more focused on getting to grips with a new role and working out how to transition into a new relationship with the students.
I had a lot of training on the new behaviour system, the different IT systems and the best and most modern pedagogical thoughts on the classroom and this all placed me in good stead for the challenges ahead. As I had several classes in different rooms, the first thing I did was create a small box of essentials I could take with me to each room; spare paper, spare pens, whiteboard pens, green pens, post-it notes, board erasers and a powerpoint clicker among other things. I had already read through the long term plan for the year for each KS3 year group, so the rest of my first inset day was spent further familiarising myself with this or in more CPD sessions with seasoned professionals. It was especially reassuring to me that all staff got this training, as it meant we all started with the same help and I was not starting further behind.
Once the children arrived, doubt began to creep in a bit more. What if the students didn’t respect me? What if the computers went down? What if I fell flat on my face walking through the door? These fears quickly fell when I began teaching. I had been advised to spend as much of my first lesson as I needed setting expectations and establishing routines with my students and I can honestly say, weeks down the line, this has been a huge help. My students know exactly how to enter and exit the room, where to sit, how to complete starter and plenary activities and, perhaps most importantly, the behaviour I want to see from them.
I continued to receive CPD throughout the first week but more than that, my colleagues from both my new team of teachers and my old team of teaching assistants regularly checked in to see how I was coping with the new workload. I observed many teachers across different subjects and at different stages of their career and I began to notice trends and subtle nuances which have helped inform my own choices. I noticed little details, from where they stand when giving out instructions to non-verbal cues to summon a response or quieten down chatter, which have all been added to my own repertoire.
The first week of any job is stressful. But I think it's fair to say in teaching, when you have a captive audience in front of you. Doubting yourself is natural and part of the stressful challenge of the role. However, with the help of those around you (both in and out of work) it is certainly a challenge worth rising to.