Though I knew I was joining Teach First in October 2014, it didn’t make my final day in York any easier. It definitely wasn’t easy saying goodbye to friends I’d made, while knowing also that The Willow would soon be closing down too.
Perhaps it was less that I ‘decided’ to leave York, and it was more that I had to. At 22 years of age I felt I needed to see somewhere new, to test out what I had learned, and to take my memories of this city I loved to somewhere new.
We all have to leave York one day.
Teach First is a charity that works with schools serving low-income communities across England and Wales. Their flagship graduate scheme, the Leadership Development Programme, places trainee teachers in schools where they work to ensure that no child’s success is limited by their socio-economic background.
On the scheme I’ll be studying for my PGCE teaching qualification alongside first-hand experience in classroom teaching. The scheme is all about working with the local and wider communities to ensure that our schools can support students to the highest degree.
It wasn’t until I met Brett Wigdortz, CEO of Teach First, when I realised just quite what a task I had undertaken. Apparently the Programme, also known as the LDP, amounts to “around one and a half times the number of hours involved in other teaching routes”.
In at the deep end
So far at the Summer Institute, the residential six-week training course I’ve been attending prior to my allocated school in September, I’ve had mountains of reading, classes, seminars, lectures, teaching episodes, one-to-one evaluations, reflective pieces of writing, and even a 2,000 word essay.
Not exactly what I expected to start doing before I’d even graduated.
Every day has brought new challenges and new discoveries that I couldn’t have predicted. Though I volunteered extensively with York Students in Schools throughout my time at York, I did relatively little work ‘at the front of the class’ teaching.
My first class
The first time you stand in front of a group of students is terrifying. All of a sudden you forget how letters form words and whether your legs are meant to be wildly shaking. Back at the University’s Pantomime Society, I’d been on stage in a variety of shows, venues, and outfits, though I’m not quite sure if singing “Wrecking Ball” as the pantomime dame was quite as daunting as explaining place value in a suit to my Year 7s for my first lesson.
I’m definitely still finding my feet, in every sense of the phrase. Being at Summer Institute has probably raised more questions than it could ever answer about teaching, but that’s no bad thing.
The 8am-9pm days might not seem too bad either, but do them every day and your eyes start to droop a little. It’s an intense, though thoroughly enjoyable experience.
My 2015 Wales cohort have welcomed me with open arms to the country, a place I’d never been before this year. Though I could perhaps not be much further from York without leaving the UK if I tried, I’m already eager for my first proper trip back.
I look forward to sharing my journey with you each month via this blog.