Name: Antonia Armstrong
Degree studied/year gained and classification:
Bachelors 2:1 Sunderland University (English and Creative writing)
Masters Degree: Merit (English Literature)
School/Institution providing ITT:
Carmel College Darlington – Provider
Cardinal Hume main training placement. St Roberts of Newminster second school training placement.
|What was your previous career (if applicable)?
Prior to training to teach I worked part time at Starbucks Coffee company whilst pursuing my academic career at university.
|Did you have transferrable skills/experience for a career in teaching?
Working as a barista certainly gave me the confidence to converse with customers and staff. It gave me invaluable multi-tasking skills; I learned a variety of communication styles; I learned how to be a positive and contributing member of a team whilst also gaining the freedom to work independently.
I had also completed volunteer work. I had volunteered for several years at Glynwood primary school helping to co-ordinate a routine for a group of students to perform in the Gateshead gymnastic festival. This gave me the first taste of teaching. Although supervised by teaching staff, it gave me the opportunity to trial teaching in a coaching role which I loved.
|Why did you decide to train to teach? / What inspired you?
I always had a passion for education; I always knew I wanted to be an educator. I have a firm belief that teachers shape young people’s minds and I wanted to play a part in helping young people to reach their potential.
Furthermore, I have always had a love for English Literature. After spending four years completing my Bachelors and Masters degrees I felt equipped to pass on that knowledge to young people and to hopefully instil the same enthusiasm for learning.
My education was shaped by inspirational teachers, from my primary school teacher who taught every subject with such passion and professionalism that no child could help but be motivated to learn. She was a childhood role model who I looked up to and aspired to become. To teachers at Cardinal Hume (who ironically are now my colleagues) who’s knowledge of their subject and dedication to the profession was awe-inspiring. I was inspired to become a teacher because I had wonderful mentors to look up to; who themselves were the paragon of inspirational teachers.
|Why did you choose your chosen teacher training route?
I chose a School direct route with Carmel College because the course came highly recommended. The school training was majorly within the Trinity Training alliance of Catholic schools in the Newcastle and Hexham diocese and I was keen to work within this trust.
I was impressed by the support and dedication Carmel College offered their trainee teachers, the staff were friendly and professional. The training provider offered a whole range of training services on a Thursday in accessible locations and geographically this suited my needs. The statistics for job opportunities after teacher training with this provider were very promising, with many trainees staying within the teaching alliance which was also something I was keen to do.
|What were the benefits of this route in comparison to the other teaching routes? (for instance SCITT, School Direct etc)
I chose the school direct route with Carmel College because it suited my ‘hands on’ approach to learning. It was a well-established course which offered rigorous academic structures and a range of professional support networks such as regular visits from the institution.
It was an effective way to begin teaching, in my opinion, because you were immediately immersed in school life. You were seen as a member of staff straight away and that helped me to feel like one of the school community. It helped me to swiftly learn on the job, to follow rules and routines, to observe other members of staff freely and this helped my teaching practice enormously. Being able to watch established members of staff in their teaching roles and extra-curricular roles was hugely beneficial to my own teaching practice, observing a range of teaching styles helped me to find my own style. All of the colleagues I have worked with were very forthcoming in sharing their own experiences and to help in any way they could to aid my training: their feedback was invaluable.
|Did you apply for any bursaries or scholarships (if your subject was eligible)?
|Please describe your experience of teacher training.
. My teacher training experience was wonderful! Embarking on a career in teaching was the best decision I have ever made. There is no doubt that the year is challenging but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I had grown professionally and personally over the course of the training year and EVERY experience further prepared me for what I hope is a long and fruitful career in education.
My year began with an initial induction into training at Cardinal Hume (my main school placement) then a week of training at Carmel college, this training (although front-loaded) was definitely helpful to apply immediately into my training practice. The induction process was supportive, my timetable offered time for departmental and cross-curricular observations, to gain ideas and tasks to embed in my own teaching. I started with an independent timetable, however after now being a mentor myself for three years, commonly it is the case that to begin with a trainee will have a timetable of no more than 4-6 hours. The initiation process is trainee-led, as a trainee you are given the scope to choose when you are comfortable to expand your practice. So often is the case teaching will begin with starters and plenaries and in the coming weeks aim to move to teaching full lessons by October half term.
During my main school placement my mentor offered me hourly mentor meetings but she also gave up a lot of her time to complete joint planning, informal feedback and general support which helped to refine my teaching practice. I was in my teaching role for four days out of the five day week, on a Thursday we travelled to one of the host schools within the alliance to receive training on a wide variety of topics. The training was always varied, well-structured and informative. It was also a good opportunity to network with fellow trainees to share experiences and offer support and guidance to one another. During my main school placement I received two support visits from my Carmel College professional tutor. The visits were always positive and the feedback was always constructive.
After completing placement one, in January, I underwent my second school placement at St Roberts of Newminster which was a tailored second school placement because the catchment area was far different from my main school placement. I had an equally wonderful placement. The support and guidance from my mentor was second to none, the school was welcoming and I learnt a lot from the experience. I taught a 12 hour timetable after a week of observations which I felt very prepared to do. Like in placement one I received another support visit to ensure I was making good progress towards achieving QTS.
The final weeks of the course were spent working with my timetabled classes and preparing for next year. I feel very lucky that I was offered a job at Cardinal Hume after my training year so I used the time to prepare for my NQT year.
Lastly, the celebration ceremony at Carmel College was a great event. We attended a graduation ceremony where all of the professional tutors, professional link mentors, school mentors and the Carmel training team awarded us our certificate of achievement. The event was an excellent way to celebrate the progress everyone on the cohort had made, share our job opportunities and reflect on the year.
|What level of support have you received/did you receive throughout your training?
I received bountiful support from my mentor, both English departments at Cardinal Hume and St Robert, the Carmel training staff and my professional tutor.
|What are/were your job expectations?
I hoped to gain a job in the Trinity alliance within the catholic schools in the Newcastle and Hexham diocese. I was very lucky to be offered a permanent position in the English department at Cardinal Hume. Since then I have been lucky to have had a promotion to 3rd in department and last year to Acting 2nd in department. I have been given numerous whole school opportunities to lead research and development groups and deliver literacy training. More recently from an ethos perspective, I have fundraised (through Cardinal Hume) to build a dormitory in Malawi to help vulnerable young women finish their education.
|Will you be awarded a PGCE? / When were you awarded a PGCE?
I was awarded with my PGCE in July 2015
|What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting into teaching?
Teaching is a vocation, do not go into this route lightly. The job is challenging but if you choose to go into teaching expect to find one of the most rewarding, diverse and fulfilling jobs there is. Take your time to research different routes into teaching, the variety is wide and you can find a course which will suit your expectations and requirements. Ask as many teachers as you can on which route they took, I have found that teachers were very helpful and forthcoming with advice.