School Based Training: more dura et aspera

There is a myth about teacher training (well, tbh there are thousands: this is but one!) that somehow the completion of an ITT (ITE) programme from a BA/BEd, through a Masters-led PGCE or School-centred programme to “You have a degree, here’s six weeks on how to cope” means that at the end you are a teacher. Compliant and complex, informed and (to some extent) uniform, here is the student who was Rosie or Ryan and suddenly “Here is Miss Smith, here is Mr Jones, your new teacher.”

It’s September the whatever, and the job you applied for, schmoozed for (and perhaps when you got it felt smug about or trepidacious over) is yours, and you’ve met the team and put a mug in the cupboard in the staffroom and the headteacher introduces you to the class, and you shut the door and smile and you are the teacher.

You know you are a teacher because… Answers on a postcard.  The NUT guidance asks the question “I have QTS: What’s next?”  What indeed?

One of the key things that may keep you in the profession, it seems to me, is how you learn on School Based Training. I’ve written about the “hard and harsh” – what St Benedict calls the dura et aspera –  of parenting before and teaching is not dissimilar, with the important difference that your school-based training gives you a chance to see teaching for real in a way that many modern parents don’t get to see bringing up babies.  Seeing it without rose-tinted specs may be just what you need to keep you going in three years’ time. On a placement you get to (this list is a bit tongue-in-cheek):

  • iron;
  • smile at people you don’t like;
  • sing;
  • be someone special for children;
  • learn children’s limits of patience, attention, social skills – and how (and when) to stretch them;
  • learn your own limits of patience, attention, social skills – and how (and when) to stretch them;
  • learn your own language of teaching – do you like “stretching” and “pushing” as models of learning?
  • learn to treasure weekends – switching off is an important skill, if only so you are switched on on Mondays!

You also get to dress up for World Book Day. Something elaborate like the Very Hungry Caterpillar (“How the heck will I teach in this?”) or something less so (“George from George’s Marvellous Medicine? But I’ll just look like any boy!”)?  Something ambiguous (“Mrs Twit? Will they notice I dressed up?”) or something ambitious (“Aslan? I’ll roast in this costume!”).

So how do you learn on School Based Training?

Very Hungry Caterpillars aside, you learn by doing, by picking up (consciously and unconsciously) on how to use your teacher voice, your real smile, or how to identify the people to charm (and please remember the parents!!!) – and by making mistakes.

  • By not backing up your records before you dropped the laptop;
  • by dropping the paintings from the class while they were still not annotated;
  • by saying something so vastly comic you could hardly keep from laughing  out loud (“So while we are learning the /sh/ sound, what could we be shovelling?” [You meant ‘shiny things;’ that’s not what your TA thought]);
  • by forgetting the head’s name with her standing right next to you…

And by wishing you’d gone as Miss Trunchbull instead.

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