Tara James

As a programme leader I was overwhelmed by the resilience demonstrated by Tara at such a time of grief”

The SCITT process to gain QTS is a demanding one for every trainee, let alone those who are faced with a major life event. This blog highlights the grit and resilience of Tara James, our nominated ‘hero trainee’, who inspired us all at the Bedfordshire Schools’ Training Partnership when life presented her with the most incredible personal challenges. It also celebrates the continued efforts and resilience of all our trainees during the time of Covid-19 and suggests that each trainee, in their own way, adds to the workforce of teaching heroes. It was an honour to work with Tara, and all our trainees: they each make a difference to schools and we are incredibly proud of their achievements.

Although Tara began her ITT with very little classroom experience, at interview it was clear she had a certain special something to suggest that she would make an excellent primary teacher. During the autumn term, Tara experienced a family tragedy and sadly witnessed the death of two close family members. This turned Tara’s world upside down, but despite this catastrophic event she went on to demonstrate the most tremendous resilience, successfully completing her ITT course in a calm and measured way, and became a true asset to the team at her placement school and our training programme.

For Tara, it is very clear why, but the term resilience strikes me as the best way to describe all of our trainees during the period of a global pandemic. In March, we were faced with a situation where online and blended teaching and learning become the norm. This was recognised as something unprecedented in education in modern times, creating media talk and so many questions relating to the effectiveness of teaching and learning during this period. As always, when faced with challenge, experienced teachers adapted and navigated a new way forward.

What has been somewhat overlooked, and worthy of celebration, is that right behind them trainee teachers like Tara were there with their own fears and challenges put to one side, ‘ready’, ‘willing’ and keen to learn how to be ‘able’ to support their school communities. Ordinarily, trainees would turn to mentors and school staff to be guided on how to approach teaching successfully and effectively. What made this so difficult was that no-one really knew what best approach to take with home schooling, bubble teaching and blended learning. Trainees and experienced staff were, in fact, demonstrating grit and learning together in being instrumental in classroom learning during Covid-19.

As a programme leader I was overwhelmed by the resilience demonstrated by Tara at such a time of grief, but also of all our trainees in continuing with their training during times of worry and uncertainty. Not only did our trainees rise to this challenge in planning and delivering lessons online, they exceeded their own and others’ initial expectations, giving considerable thought to a holistic approach to teaching and learning. Tara was no exception and used her love of storytelling to create audio stories that the children could listen to, be inspired by and share at home with their families. She brought the stories to life with the most wonderful music and sound effects and was soon guiding other trainees, supporting them with the skills and confidence so they could do the same for their pupils.

Other activities that trainees were involved in were providing accessible and practical high-quality opportunities across the curriculum. Hands-on science investigations, problem-solving mathematics opportunities, real-time PE sessions and multimedia art projects to name but a few. The imagination and creativity of trainees involved in planning these activities was remarkable and created a hub of exciting possibilities among the group, as they shared ideas to take back into their schools and pupils’ homes.

During lockdown, our central training programme at Beds SCITT moved online with trainees once again having to tackle another new normal of distance learning. To this they responded with collective enthusiasm and positivity, not only sharing ideas as previously mentioned but offering support to each other in terms of their mental health and wellbeing at what was an uncertain and challenging time for them. Again, Tara was no exception, she would always take the time to ask how others were and showed empathy and compassion when colleagues were finding things difficult despite going through tough times herself. This she replicated with her school team and Tara would always be there to offer help and respond with kindness.

When all school staff were working harder than ever before, mentors and class teachers reported how valuable the input of trainees was in schools during 2019-2020. Handing over some responsibility to trainees opened a little additional head space for class teachers and mentors so they could concentrate on coordinating a continuous high-quality curriculum. Trainees were involved in not only planning and delivering lessons under the guidance of experienced staff but reporting back on pupil progress and staying connected with pupils and carers via phone or video calls when face-to-face contact was lacking. Trainees proved to be both flexible and accommodating in contributing to the curriculum in their schools, whether it be teaching from home or in bubbles at school. Mentors and trainees developed close bonds over the year and the support became a two-way process.

Caroline Downing is Primary Programme Leader at the Bedfordshire Schools Training Partnership (Beds SCITT). 

MY COVID-19 TEACHING EXPERIENCE

“My training year was, in many ways, the toughest of my life so far. Initially, my main worries were entering the classroom as a person with less experience than others in my cohort. However, armed with my determination to be the best teacher I could be and my biggest supporter on standby at the end of the phone (my sister Nicky) I felt prepared to take on the challenge. Luckily, I was placed in an amazing team at an equally amazing placement school.

The support and guidance I received there became crucial when disaster struck my life in an unexpected way. Witnessing the death of my sister and niece changed me in many ways and left me questioning if I had the resolve to continue with my teacher training. However, after much deliberation and soul searching, I managed to continue my training with the unwavering support of the team at the Bedfordshire Schools Training Partnership. It was in these dark times that I realised how important it is to have the support of others, and the support I received from the Bedfordshire Schools Training Partnership team and the school was unparalleled.

The next challenge I encountered was Covid-19 and lockdown. It was another new normal I had to accept. During lockdown I was tasked with creating engaging resources for the pupils to access whilst at home. I created PowerPoint presentations that included animated images and audio. This made the PowerPoints more interesting to learn from and supported the pupils to be independent learners. I also created audio stories for my class to listen to. These stories were especially important to me as they were stories from one of my sister’s favourite childhood books. In this way, I was able to share the stories my sister loved with others and bring them to life through music and sound effects.

My experience during my training year, although challenging, prepared me for my next role as a teacher in an international school. My experience has enabled me to develop the flexibility, confidence and resilience needed to work abroad. Although the Covid pandemic interrupted my teaching hours, it also provided the opportunity to explore how technology can be used creatively in the learning process.”

Tara James, Primary NQT, London Academy, Morocco

 

2 Comments

  1. Sharelle on December 5, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    Absolutely breathtaking, what an inspiration!

  2. Kim Francis on December 7, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Awe-inspiring – humbling to read this – thanks for sharing your story, Tara

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