e-Qualitas’ Initial Teacher Training (ITT) curriculum places a great deal of importance on subject specificity in both secondary and primary education.
ITT trainees and apprentices are taught by designated subject leads in English, maths and phonics in primary education. Vicki Cann, a highly experienced teacher and former Head Teacher, is e-Qualitas’ Subject Lead for Primary Maths.
Here is our short interview with Vicki, in which she discusses her background, experience and her approach to teacher training:
(e-Q) What is your background prior to your joining e-Qualitas?
I became a primary school teacher upon leaving university, going on to teach in a variety of different primary schools. I’ve taught in Kent, Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. For most of my teaching career, I was the primary maths subject leader within my school. I have been a Head Teacher and more recently I have worked for e-Qualitas as a tutor whilst carrying on further study of my own.
What do you enjoy about educating the/educators of the future?
I think that people generally who want to become teachers are terrific; I love the enthusiasm that they bring. I particularly enjoy seeing the range of prior experiences that trainees bring with them, because a lot of them have done different things before they’ve come into education. Some have been working in schools as Teaching Assistants at various levels, so it’s lovely that they’re able to bring that experience to the role. I enjoy visiting trainees in schools and seeing how excited they are when the children in their class make progress.
It’s lovely seeing the pride in trainees when they have been working hard at something.
Seeing how trainees have worked hard to think about how they’re going to work with the children in their class and then how terrifically excited they are when they teach a lesson and can say to themselves: ‘Yes, I’ve got it’ is truly rewarding. Discussing different research and evidence and considering how we could apply that in a school context is exciting too.
How much importance do you feel wider subject knowledge has in teaching a curriculum?
It is very important; knowing how to make links across the curriculum is particularly important for maths because the subject is all about making connections and applying what you know from one aspect of maths to another. Primary trainees need strong subject knowledge across the board. If you’re going to be teaching fractions for example, it’s important to know how the children require knowledge of multiplication to be able to apply to what you teach them. The breadth of maths is knowing how you can apply it to real life situations, knowing how you can apply that across the whole curriculum. It is important to be able to look at maths from different perspectives, picking maths out of stories for example. Thinking about how relevant maths subjects are within history, like enigma machines and all those sorts of other exciting things. There are some terrifically exciting cross-curricular links that can be made, so having strong subject knowledge helps teachers make those links and make the learning more exciting and real for the children.
What do you feel are essential qualities in a teacher?
I think one of the most important qualities is that you need to love learning: to love learning for yourself. You can then teach children by showing them that learning is just an exciting thing to do!
It is important that as teachers, we value each child as an individual and we recognize the strength and uniqueness in all children. I think it’s incredibly important for teachers to be able to explain things in lots of different ways, tailoring your delivery for different groups and students. Strong subject knowledge and great communication underpins all of this.
It is important for teachers to have a sense of humour because I don’t think you get through the day if you didn’t… Being in a primary school classroom is really good fun and the sense of humour and quirkiness of children is all part of it.
It’s very important to have great behaviour management skills and strategies, but also to be able to adapt your teaching to meet the needs of the children that you’ve have in front of you.
Which areas of you’re the ITT programme could be most challenging for trainee teachers?
I think behaviour management can be one of the tricky things for trainees to get the hang of early on. In primary education, it can be difficult for trainees to work with the wide range of subjects that they need to teach, ensuring that their subject knowledge is as good as it can be across all the different subjects. I think in maths particularly, the areas that trainees find tricky are algebra, ratio and fractions. Some trainees can be daunted by teaching a subject area that they perceive to be difficult; in truth though, if you’ve got good scaffolding and good representation and you can make that really clear for the children, then these really aren’t difficult subjects to teach at all.
How have teachers inspired you in your own experience?
I’ve worked alongside many inspirational educators since I’ve joined the teaching profession, who have inspired me in many ways as a teacher. The teachers and educators I have found particularly brilliant, are those who really think about children as individuals and who think deeply about each child they are teaching. That means that if a child is stuck on something and a teacher really thinks about the bit that they need to do to be able to move that child forward, or what is missing for that child that need to do to be able to make a difference.
It’s the teachers who have really personalized the learning and thought of children as individuals who I think have made the most impact in the classroom for me.
What do you look forward to about the start of each new academic year?
I most look forward to meeting the trainees and finding out about their school context. I look forward to talking about learning with people, which is always exciting; thinking about what makes learning great and what great looks like in the classrooms. I look forward to going into classrooms and seeing the work that we’ve been doing with the trainees in action.