Tom Ding is a maths trainee on the School Direct programme at Ark Academy in London. Tom used to work as a strategist in advertising and marketing in the UK and abroad, and holds a 2:1 an MA in maths from Cambridge University.
Before you embark on a new career it’s only fair to know what your lifestyle might be like. With all the usual caveats (no two days are the same, everyone’s experience is different etc.), here is a rundown of a typical Thursday for me
7.10 – I arrive at school bleary-eyed, smiling as I shuffle past the other zombies queuing for the photocopier. After a quick tidy of the classroom, I write in the correct answers for last night’s Year 9 homework and save it ‘to the system’ so the rest of the department can show them to their classes.
8.00 – The first courteous student arrives, eager to set up my classroom, placing mini whiteboards, pens and glue on every desk in exchange for a merit. Meanwhile, I open the day’s lessons, re-familiarise myself with what’s to come and make sure I have all the resources I need.
8.25 – The pupils line-up on the playground for their reading groups. Since it is my training year I don’t have a reading group, but I do have a ‘transition duty’ on staircase C. I say good morning to pupils as they pass, reminding every second one to tuck their shirt in or take off their coat or both.
9.00 – Lessons begin, but I have a free period. I meet my mentor for our weekly catch-up. We talk about my target that week and the mini-observation that took place yesterday, then set a new target for the week ahead.
9.50 – Lesson one: Year 10, Set two. We are midway through a trigonometry unit and I’m just about to take the class out of their comfort zone. After a couple of lessons on SOHCAHTOA, we push past GCSEs and onto the ‘Additional Maths’ syllabus for some more challenging content. Some of the class lap it up, but others howl in protest and mutinously down their pens. It takes a lot of energy to keep the majority on course.
10.40 – It’s break-time, but three students must wait to see me at the end – one for a lack of homework and two because of doodling in class.
11.00 – Form-time. As a trainee, I’m not responsible for my own form, but am ‘attached’ to another so I can watch and learn.
11.25 – Lesson two: Year 8, Set three and my rowdiest class. I make them line up outside the classroom twice, but eventually they settle down. Our current unit is called ‘What does simple mean in maths?’ and it is mostly about drilling skills they have learnt previously, which makes it relatively easy for both them and I. After a quick demonstration to check their understanding, I put on the classical music and they work independently for 18 minutes. Then they mark their work, discuss what they have learnt and it’s all over.
12.15 – Lesson three: Year 7, Set five. Today is a recap lesson as the students practise all the skills they’ve learnt in the unit ‘Is beauty mathematical?’. Tracing paper flies around the room as they work in pairs, racing to translate, rotate and tessellate.
1.05 – The morning’s lessons are over and it is officially lunchtime. Unfortunately, I can’t relax because I need to be across London for School Direct training at 2pm. I rush to log the day’s merits, print off the materials for training and tidy my room once more.
1.30 – After two snatched conversations on the stairs, I finally make it out of the building, but as I go through the gate I realize I forgot to take my year 7 books with me. This means I can’t mark any tonight as I had hoped to do, but will have to do it at the weekend instead.
2.15 – Thursday afternoons mean School Direct training for me, and today is the second of three sessions on developing Literacy. It’s a chance to pick up new tips and to catch up with the other trainees. We cover reading, writing, talking and listening and they bring out sweets at the half-way mark to get us over the finish line.
6.40 – I arrive home before seven (rare on non-training days), but I’ve got emails to check, which takes twenty minutes. At this stage though, I’m secretly thankful that I left my year 7 books behind and settle down for an evening of light relief. Tough Young Teachers is on the TV!
There are a number of routes into teaching including School Direct, which has places available in some of the best primary and secondary schools across England. To find out more visit www.education.gov.uk/getintoteaching.