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Sunday, 14 February 2016

"Sir, how can I mix red?" #talesofatrainee

Rich Dansie, our resident Art trainee blogger reflects on his year to date - as he prepares to move to his second placement ...

It’s a windy Wednesday afternoon in December, my classroom is currently occupied by a year 10 Art GCSE group. One jubilant young chap puts his had up with a question, “Sir?”, “Yes?” I confidently reply, waiting with baited breath for an insightful question to aid his education.
“How can I mix red?”  What followed could only be described as the ‘Picard Face Palm’.

Let's rewind the clock, way back to September of 2015, back to when I started my first placement as a trainee secondary school teacher of Art. A career choice I had not entered into lightly, deciding to enter into the profession at the ripe old age of 31, bringing with me a wealth of both life and academic experience, coupled with an unbridled passion for all things ‘Art.’
Introductions and heroic back-story aside, let's come back to September 2015, when I first stepped foot in a classroom with a name tag that rather prematurly read ‘Art Teacher.’ I had been selected to work in this particular school by my training provider, the amenable Wildern Partnership SCITT, since it was suited to both the needs of me as a trainee, and the needs of them as a host school. Having been introduced to my department, a process which takes far less time than one of the ‘core’ subjects due to its streamlined size, I was asked to spend my first week observing the various members of the team teach, taking notes and absorbing the many details which go in to teaching.
The week after that my mentor recommended I start to take sections of the lesson, be it the starter or the closing of the lesson wrap up. A few days after that I was attempting to lead complete lessons, which, with the benefit of reflection were not my finest work.
This however, was my very first fledgling step into teaching. In the months that followed I participated in general professional and subject studies at the SCITT's training centre and partnership schools, to train me, in a more rounded sense, while leading classes and then receiving detailed, constructive feedback from my department on the lessons I was taking with increasing frequency. This process has taken me from merely surviving lessons to being graded ‘Good,’ in many lessons at the time I write this. (For those un-initiated in the various codes and vocabulary of the profession, ‘Good’ is teacher talk for above average, with only ‘Outstanding’ being a higher grade, which after 5 months I am pretty pleased with!)
I have reflected on my practice, improved, been inspired and progressed as a practioner. To say it  has all been sunshine and lollypops would be disingenuous and I would be selling the experience short. I have had some truly epic ‘ups’ during my training, like seeing a student's face when that light bulb goes off and they really grasp a concept or a theme. Or the time I have spent with some of the more challenging students - those removed from the main-stream classroom, having one of these students come into class with a burning passion to create because I have managed to hook him with the theme of the lesson or stretched the outcome to make it relatable to him is truly priceless.
The ‘downs’ have been just as world shaking, despite an abundance of information before signing up I was not prepared for the hectic workload and pressure, whatever you have heard or assume. It is more. I have crashed emotionally some nights after a particularly brutal session in school, but thanks to the support of the SCITT, my school and the relationships I have fostered with my fellow trainees I have always picked myself up, dusted myself down and started again the next day.
This brings me to now, its February 2016, I have just under took a week of Enriched Learning Experience with my fellow trainees, which shows us both primary and further education in order to be a more effective teacher, seeing what enviroment the students come from and what they will need when they leave my care. I am on the eve of starting my second placement at my ‘contrasting school’ to bring even more breadth to my training and I’m excited. Usually exhausted, but excited neverth ess, to continue this journey, the kids are worth it.

(I know your all dying to know, that student now knows you can’t ‘make’ red. I won't lie, it was emotional for both of us.)
Rich Dansie. Trainee Art Teacher.  Redbridge Community School, Wildern Partnership SCITT

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