Now successfully completing the full induction version of the Early Career Framework programme with Inspire Learning NW Teaching School Hub, Jennifer Chamberlain, 31, is also a recent graduate from the School Direct route into Teaching. Growing up she dreamed about being a singer or actress but deep down she always knew she was going to become a teacher. Before embarking on this career journey, she decided to explore other avenues and gain lots of life experience to help shape her as a person and, eventually, as a teacher.
Jen describes her own education as excellent, having gone to a girl’s grammar school on the Wirral, she secured great GCSE and A-level results and was able to pursue extra-curricular opportunities in drama and singing. She later secured a 2:1 in English literature and drama at the University of Manchester.
Jen said: “I would spend my summers working at an international language school in Switzerland. I got to teach students from all over the world – it was an incredible experience. This is really where my love for being in the classroom was ignited.”
In her 20s, Jen worked in a number of roles including PR and journalism, youth work and arts education. She gained valuable knowledge and experience during this time and eventually set up her own theatre in education company.
She explained: “I loved this work and I got to witness the impact that informal arts education can have on a young person.
“Deep down I know I was born to be a teacher. I have always enjoyed being a leader and this lends itself well to commanding a classroom. I firmly believe that gaining that experience and knowledge in my 20s has made me a better Early Career Teacher (ECT) as a result.”
Jen explored the different pathways into becoming a teacher and it was at a Get into Teaching event that she met Jane Kennedy, now Director of Inspire Learning NW Teaching School Hub.
“Jane was so helpful and talked in great detail about the School Direct programme and it was because of this that I applied for a place. I was pleased that it was based at St John Bosco Arts College, as I had worked with the school in the past on previous projects. I really value its Salesian approach, so I was delighted to be given a place on their course.”
For Jen, she was keen to be based in Liverpool and wanted to work with students from all backgrounds.
She said: “I am passionate about working in the city and, in particular, in the Croxteth/Norris Green community. Students facing socio-economic challenges deserve the very best teachers and with my passion and commitment, I strive to be the teacher who truly makes a difference and helps improve the life chances of our students in the city.”
The School Direct programme meant that Jen was fully immersed in the school community from the get-go. This was hugely important for her as she didn’t want to go back to university full time and do her PGCE the traditional way.
Jen explained: “I knew that I wanted to go straight into the classroom and learn on the job. The opportunity to observe both formal lessons and how a school functions day-to-day was also incredibly valuable.
“The programme takes a gradual approach, so you take on more and more independent teaching, as you are ready. Our School Direct Alliance also delivered a mixture of school-based development sessions and training, whilst the seminars with Liverpool Hope University were great for giving me the academic foundation.”
Upon finishing her training, a vacancy for an English teacher became available at St John Bosco Arts College.
Jen said: “It was fate! I went through a competitive application and interview process which was hard I’m not going to lie but I was delighted to be successful – it felt like I had come full circle in a way.”
As part of the 2020/21 cohort, Jen officially started teaching in September 2021 and now teaches 19-20 classes a week. She is a participant on the new DfE Early Career Framework (ECF) Professional Development Programme through Inspire Learning NW Teaching School Hub. The ECF sees all entrants new to the profession supported to further develop their professional practice across their first two years in teaching.
Jen continued: “It was quite daunting at first to start teaching a class on my own, but I soon got into the swing of things, and it quickly became second nature to me. My overall aim is to inspire the love of reading and I am delighted to say students are really engaged in my classes.
“I am supported by a fantastic English department and feel very lucky to learn from experienced colleagues, and my mentor, who are so generous with their time.
“I have had an excellent year so far and I get to teach across all year groups and different abilities. In my interview I talked about my ongoing professional development and how I wanted to eventually teach sixth form classes. I’m now observing sixth form lessons which is brilliant and I’m so grateful to be given this opportunity so soon.”
To say Jen has hit the ground running is an understatement. In addition to her classroom teaching, she now delivers two extracurricular clubs – a drama club and a wellbeing group for young people managing grief.
Whilst there is no glossing over the enormous challenges teachers and ECTs have faced over the past couple of years due to COVID-19, Jen believes it has only made her more resilient.
She added: “Being part of the school community from day one meant that I had no interruption to my placement at all. I was able to make the transition to online learning with my department and school’s full support and I think I am a better teacher for having gone through such a turbulent year.”
For Jen, she can’t recommend School Direct and the full induction programme for ECT pathway enough, but what advice would she give to someone thinking about exploring this option?
She said: “Do it! Whilst an academic underpinning is important in developing your pedagogy, teaching is about people. Getting into the classroom with students as early as possible, and for as many hours as possible, is, in my opinion, the very best way to learn how to teach.”
If you would like to find out more about either School Direct or the Early Career Framework programme, contact the Inspire Learning Teaching School Hub on 0151 677 6262 (option 1) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org