We’re back with another interview with a brilliant Sheffield-based trainee teacher who has secured his first teaching job. Isaac Brooks originally studied BA (Hons) Geography with International Study at the University of Manchester, which included a year abroad at Arizona State University. He then went on to complete a PGCE in Secondary Geography with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He decided to train to teach with local school direct teaching school, Teach North, the Outwood Institute of Education, and Sheffield Hallam University.

Q. Why did you want to become a teacher?

“I wanted to become a teacher to ensure that students had every opportunity to succeed in life. To raise student outcomes and be the role model for the students whose only positive role models are at school. Studying Geography has provided me immense opportunities to live abroad and partake in overseas research trips. I wanted to share my passion for an increasingly important subject and ensure future students had those same opportunities.”

Q. What did you imagine it would be like to be a trainee teacher? Has it lived up to those expectations?

“I imagined that teacher training would be difficult, that it would demand me to step outside my comfort zone and challenge me in ways that other careers would never do. Teacher training has certainly lived up to those expectations. It can be a steep learning curve at times which is why it is important to choose the best route. What has surprised me the most is just how much I have enjoyed training to teach. Whether it is in the classroom trying new things or reading about different approaches, the good thing about teaching is that every day is a fresh day with new opportunities.”

Why Teach North

Q. Why did you choose to be a Teach North trainee teacher, as opposed to training with any other providers? 

“I chose to train through Teach North with the Outwood Institute of Education (OIE) because I firmly believe in their model of putting ‘students first’ and elements of collaborative learning. I was a student at Portland before it was taken over by Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT), so I witnessed firsthand the difference Outwood can make to student outcomes. Your training year is so important to building strong foundations for the rest of your career. I knew that by choosing to teach through the OIE I was ensuring my training would be as strong and as well-supported as possible.”

Q. Can you talk us through the support you’ve received from Teach North?

“The OIE helped me arrange two experience days with my old secondary school to ensure that teaching was the right profession for me. During the interview process they helped to put me at ease by providing support for personal statement writing and preparation for likely interview questions. Before and during my course communication was great. I knew which schools my placements were going to be well before any of my university-led colleagues. This helped with planning. The good thing about a school direct route is that you receive support from both your university and school direct provider. This is critical during uncertain times such as these because I knew if there was ever an issue I had plenty of people around me who I could ask for support and guidance.”

What is life like as a Teach North trainee teacher?

Q. Take us back to that first day when you had to take a class yourself. What was it like and how were you feeling?

“Nervous, but my mentor helped by saying that first-ever lessons are never going to be perfect! I wanted to start teaching quite quickly after I got into my first placement school. I was seeing all these brilliant things fellow teachers were doing and wanted to start trying them myself. Normally you get a choice of whether you want to teach the whole lesson or do some team teaching first. I chose a whole lesson because I felt there would be more opportunities for feedback right away.”

Q. Can you tell us a little about your placement schools?

“I did my first placement at Outwood Academy Newbold. I was there in school from September to Christmas. My first placement was also extended until February half term when schools were closed to in-person classes and lessons transitioned to online. My second placement was Outwood Academy Portland from mid-February to June. Both schools are Outwood schools so that meant that students were firmly put first. Expectations of behavior and world-class teaching were high. A benefit of training in OGAT schools is their open-door policy, which meant that during free periods I could freely go on learning walks to see some of the great things other teachers in the academies were trying. Observing other teachers teach is some of the best CPD (continuous professional development) you can do, especially in your formative years of training.”

Transitioning from trainee teacher to Teacher of Geography

Q. Can you tell us about your first interview for a teaching position?

“I have had one teaching interview and was lucky enough to get the job on the first attempt. Teaching interviews are quite demanding and involve a whole day of activities. Including teaching a lesson in front of senior leaders. During my interview, I was not required to do any planning as I wasn’t told the topic until I arrived there in the morning. Once I was told the topic, and given details on the class I was given an hour to plan a 50 minute lesson. Once I had taught the lesson and provided feedback, I was given a tour of the school with the other applicants. The next stage of the interview process was for me to complete an A-Level paper in my subject, which was a test of my subject knowledge. Following this was a chance to meet the department I would be working in, and start to build those important working relationships. The final part of the interview day was the interview itself, with the Principal, Vice Principal, and Head of the Humanities Department. Questions included my own reflections on the lesson I had taught, and how I would respond to a number of different scenarios.”

Q. Congratulations on receiving your first teaching job offer! Can you tell us where you’ll be teaching?

“My new school is South Axholme Academy and my role will be Teacher of Geography. I can’t wait to start working there in September.”

Let’s see some of the brilliant homework Isaac’s students have created

“One thing I’ve recently done with my Year 7s is ‘How does ice and water shape our landscape?’. Examining the classic physical Geography topics of glaciers, coasts and rivers. During the unit I gave them a homework project to make a creative piece such as a model, poster or leaflet about something we were going to learn about. Some of the student’s work for this project was absolutely amazing. We had models of pyramidal peaks, posters about spits and bars, and great examples of coastal headlands that students had researched themselves. Seeing the passion I give to every Geography lesson spark my student’s curiosity and love for learning, which inspired them to go off and create such fantastic pieces of work in their own time, gave me immense pride.”

Q. What are you most looking forward to about having your first permanent job as a teacher?

“Having my own classes, continuing to learn and develop my skills so that I am the best possible educator for my students. Building those student relationships and watching them develop as academics and young adults over time. And finally having my own form group. The pastoral side of teaching is often overlooked, but leading a form group during my teacher training has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career so far.”

Final thoughts

Q. What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a teacher?

“If you are passionate about raising student outcomes and want a career that is challenging but deeply fulfilling then you should do it. It is a privilege to teach and see the tangible rewards of your hard work on student progress, which no other profession can offer.”

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to say about Teach North?

“Teach North is an amazing opportunity to ensure your training year is as rigorous but as well-supported as possible. I have witnessed first-hand trainees being let down by their first placement school. By training to teach through the OIE you will ensure that there are people to support you at every stage of the training process, and you are given the opportunity to shine at every opportunity.”

Wow! It certainly sounds like Isaac is going to be a fantastic Georgraphy teacher. The students of South Axholme Academy are incredibly lucky. For more stories of trainee teachers in Sheffield and Rotherham check out our other interviews here.