Since training to become a teacher in 2013 I have worked at various different schools within the West Midlands. During this time I have been able to hone and develop my craft as a classroom practitioner of Geography. I have also been a GCSE examiner for the past three years, and so I am well placed to offer you guidance on the new GCSE curriculum, and help with exam structure that will enable students to access the questions.
I am pleased you are interested in becoming a Geography teacher, as for me, there is no other subject within the curriculum that provides students with the vast array of skills they can learn throughout their geography careers, as well as being a subject that is extremely current and topical, affecting our lives each and every day.
Geography is a subject that continues to fascinate me, as I explore a different part of the world each summer. From climbing active volcanoes in Guatemala to discovering ancient civilisations and following in their footsteps along Inca Trail, it is these experiences that I am able to share with students that bring the subject of Geography to life and ensure they are engaged in their learning. From turning students into oil barons’ period one to slum children in Mumbai making spice bags to survive in period six, geography is the only subject where you can, quite literally, travel the world in one day.
Should I be concerned about subject knowledge prior to starting the course?
Geography is a broad subject and so it is impossible for anyone to be an expert in all of the topics you might be asked to teach throughout your training year and beyond. Whilst having a good foundation of knowledge is important for the key topics that are taught throughout the curriculum such as tectonic hazards (all of those topics we remember from our school days!), there are newer aspects of geography that have been introduced into the curriculum such as resource management, space and place, and geopolitics. It is these new additions and developments within these areas which keep our topic current. As such it is easy to supplement your subject knowledge through keeping up to date with current affairs, and reading around the subject area you have been asked to teach.
At interview, you will be asked to complete a subject audit, which is comprised of all of the different possible geography topics. This will help me focus the subject knowledge sessions on a Friday afternoon to the topics you are unsure about and that require further development. Throughout the course, we look at how to teach tricky topics such as coastal and river landforms, whilst also looking at the specific detail’s students need to know in order to gain the marks on their exam papers.
How are the subject knowledge sessions structured?
The Friday subject knowledge sessions are bespoke to you and your peers needs in Geography. We cover a wide range of topics throughout the year such as the history of the Geography curriculum, to looking at inventive ways to teach case studies, to identifying the key skills students need to be able to utilise to become effective geographers.
Every Friday afternoon session begins with a ‘starter a week’. This is where I aim to give you a practical idea to start your lessons with the following week. This is often found helpful by trainees, as the starting point of your lesson is what hooks students’ interest. Each Friday I ensure there is time for you to share your highs and lows of the week, as well as providing time to discuss what lessons you have coming up that week, and aid with any lesson planning you may be struggling with.
Friday afternoons are a forum where you can really get into the ‘nitty gritty’ of teaching Geography, from looking at effective ways to teach students how to read 4- and 6- figure grid references to planning your own human and physical fieldwork within the local area, going out and collecting the data the following week, before assessing the most effective ways for students to write up their fieldwork and evaluate their fieldwork process.
How do you help trainees across the subject areas gain employment?
One of our Friday afternoon sessions is dedicated to looking at how to apply for jobs and the application and interview process. During this session we will complete an analysis of your strengths as a trainee teacher, and look at what opportunities you can offer to schools. We will then critique different personal statements that have been used to apply for different jobs, before you embark on writing your own personal statement. During this session we also look at different questions potential employers might ask during your teaching interview and practice responses to these questions using the ‘STAR’ technique.
Why do you enjoy working with trainees?
Being an Subject Development Leader for the SCITT at NFTS, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. It allows me to interact with the future generations of Geography teachers, imparting some of my knowledge about Geography pedagogy, exam structure and skills as well as creativity within the subject. It is an enjoyable process to watch you develop over the course of the year, travel with you through the highs and lows, and reflect at the end of the year as to what a journey you all have made.