Liam St John is currently a trainee teacher on a Graduate Teaching Programme (GTP). He joined the us for 4 weeks during term 4 as his second school placement. Liam has worked at Prior Park College as his home school.
Here is an open and honest account of his time with us, which is taken from his reflective practice assignment.
Soon after meeting Liam, it was that he has the ability to be a very good teacher of PE. His biggest challenge whilst being with us was to adapt his already strong teaching skills to suit the learning needs of our pupils.
Liam showed great resilience during his time with us, an essential characterisitic of a successful teacher. With all the ability and skill in the world, if you haven’t got the drive and determiation to keep going when things get difficult (which they often do), then those skills will not be of much use. Liam was determined to do the best he could and make the lessons as good as possible for the pupils. When encountered with challenges, he thought long and hard about how to overcome them, leaving his comfort zone to do so. A very promising future awaits him.
“Whilst my home school was an independent school with a self-styled “culture of kindness” and a recently graded outstanding ISI report, the second school, whilst only 10 minutes drive away geographically felt a world away in reality, with a large intake of pupils from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and having recently being placed into special measures by Ofsted.
Although I had never experienced independent schooling myself prior to working in one, having attended a state school and then a Further Education (FE) college in the north of England, I very much felt like a fish out of water upon returning to the state sector in my role as a trainee teacher. From having been a well liked and respected member of the teaching staff at Prior Park College (PPC), I was suddenly the ‘fresh meat’ for pupils at my second school to get stuck into. The challenges were immediate and provided a huge culture shock to me, really testing my ability to think on my feet with behaviour and classroom management skills. I found it a huge challenge to pitch levels at the right difficulty to foster a positive learning environment; too low and boredom would kick in, with pupils entertaining themselves in a myriad of disruptive ways, too challenging and they would disengage, giving up and again reverting to their own source of entertainment [Q30-31].
Day one started with me breaking up a physical confrontation between 2 pupils, resulting in 1 of the pupils becoming so upset that he left the teaching area – “Welcome to the party pal” was the thought ringing through my head as the dread at what next 4 weeks held in store set in. Luckily for me, the PE department at the school was a shining beacon of light, having been noted for outstanding practice within the Ofsted report, with the Head of Department and my mentor being a fantastic role model – he was described as a “Zen Master” by another member of the department, partially tongue in cheek, although entirely accurate in the way he managed the behaviour of the kids seemingly without breaking sweat.
Having watched the Head of Department in my visits to the school prior to starting placement, he made it look fantastically easy – being in at the deep end made me realise it was anything but. He was a big believer in emotional intelligence and exemplified “demonstrating the positive attitude, values and behaviours [teachers] expect from children” [Q2]– with his support and guidance I learned as much in 4 weeks as I could of learnt in 4 years at other schools. Many times when I felt the ‘red mist’ start to descend as the class teetered on the brink of chaos and my supposed role as alpha male of the group challenged, he would provide a much needed smile or thumbs up to keep me positive – when I thought I had it nailed, he would casually drop in a thought provoking comment to keep me on my toes and challenge me to do better.
Although the second school placement was much shorter than my tenure in the home school and didn’t allow full scope for long term planning and pastoral care, it gave me an absolutely invaluable insight into the realities of teaching and tested my ability to plan, differentiate, implement and manage to the fullest. I fully intend to pay further visits back there to learn the tools of the trade in greater depth.”
Liam St John