Meet our Cohort 2018/19Back
Dario Papavassiliou: Physics trainee
25th March 2019
I’ve maybe picked the wrong day to write this post. Today feels like the epitome of everything teaching shouldn’t be: I spent most of last night procrastinating, so despite having a reasonably clear idea of what I was to teach today, I woke up earlier than I’d have liked to be in school earlier than I’d have liked to ensure the day’s lessons were prepared. I gave out a large number of detentions (and should have given out even more, had I not been so flustered during a Year 8 class that I forgot to take in the homework and see who hadn’t done it). I am now pondering on how tomorrow will be.
Of course, it’s not always like this. I have had days which went well, where lessons seemed to teach themselves, where I felt that the good practice I have spent months learning was starting to come naturally. I made it through three weeks of a long commute to my second placement and emerged exhausted but optimistic and full of ideas of how to improve my practice, and now the days are starting to get longer again, there’s light in the evenings and the Easter holidays are almost upon us. From being ‘the new teacher’ with a very light timetable, greeted by children with ‘do you work here?’, I am now an established member of my department, occasionally even giving advice to colleagues, rather than just receiving. My classroom presence has grown, almost imperceptibly, and it is a surprise and a relief that I can now teach lessons at my normal speaking volume (some of the time at least!).
It has certainly been a tough term and it was difficult to re-engage mentally following my second placement, and then again after the half-term break, but I am now looking forward to completing my final PGCE assignment and organising my QTS portfolio - the end is in sight!
9th December 2018
The biggest surprise for me upon starting teaching is what an emotional rollercoaster it is. I tried to write this post a few days ago in the middle of a slump, when I had taken in two class sets of books to mark and realised many more students than I had realised had not actually understood what we were doing, and I found it hard to be positive. I’ve also had moments, or even days, or entire weeks, where I’ve felt on top of everything, like my lessons were going well; I was building up strong relationships with my classes; my students were surprising me with the quality of their work; all my marking was getting done on time. Not many jobs elicit such a strong emotional response!
I have been educating young people in one way or another for years: I supported myself during my undergraduate degree by tutoring maths and science, and during my PhD by teaching undergraduate tutorials. After my PhD, I became a full-time tutor for a couple of years, in which I taught students ranging from primary school pupils to Masters degree students; from private boarding schools to PRUs; in mainstream education and alternative provision.
I got restless helping students go from an A to an A*, while in alternative provision I saw first-hand the cycle of disrupted education and felt out of my depth. While I did feel like I was making a positive impact, it was also very limited. I had been thinking about teaching in schools for many years, and finally decided to take the plunge. I applied to train to teach with Harris School Direct through the Researchers in Schools programme, which aims to bring PhD expertise into the classroom in order to inspire children who might otherwise not consider going to university.
The first half term was spent essentially trying to keep my head above water: I was due to teach the first timetabled lesson of the school year and trying to figure out what to do for it took me all of a very frustrating evening. However, the lesson itself went well and was over in a flash.
Since then I have felt huge progression, combined with moments of realisation of how much work there is left to do. Things that felt almost impossible in the first couple of weeks are now part of my daily routine, while my admiration for the multitasking abilities of an experienced teacher has grown to many times what it was before! While it is difficult picking apart which aspects of this experience are common to all trainee teachers in all schools, and which are particular to working within the Harris Federation, it is clear that the wealth of experience in the Harris Initial Teacher Education team has been enormously helpful and inspirational. I have also found my colleagues at Chobham Academy to be very helpful and knowledgeable, and I feel like I am part of a family. I was warned that these dark winter days in November and December are tough, but I’ve felt warmth at Chobham and Harris that has made it, if not easy, a worthwhile and very fulfilling challenge.