The best way I can describe entering my second term of teacher training is like the transition from Year 7 to Year 8; you’re still not quite up to speed with the older kids, but you walk into the school gates with that extra confidence knowing you’re no longer the baby. Much like the first 8 weeks of training, this term has brought with it some new challenges; like having a national lockdown to contend with. However, in the midst of so much isolation, I have found that school has become an even tighter and more integral community than ever. Against the odds, we have managed to find new ways of bringing people together; through daily virtual liturgy’s (otherwise known as God TV), staff book club and creating Christmas hampers for the local community to name a few. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think there is a single thing at school we can’t adapt for teaching in a global pandemic by putting ‘virtual’ or ‘socially distant’ in front of it.

Along with new challenges, there have been many new experiences this term. For example, I received an award for one of the first times in my life! I was named the RE departments biggest spender (on photocopying).  Anyone who knows me outside of teaching will not be shocked by this title. I am looking to make this a trust-wide contest if any other trainees want to challenge my current spend. Notable mention from memories this term must be given to my narrowly escaping recording a solo rendition of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ for the Christmas mass. I also had to give out and host my first detention this term, where I found out that signing student’s homework diaries is as close to signing autographs as I will get in my lifetime. Unless of course my signing of Christmas hymns takes off.

This term I was also asked one of the most important, ground-breaking and controversial questions I have heard so far on my training year: ‘Miss, when can we start secret Santa?’ Whilst it was decided that Christmas stays in December, this didn’t stop the question being asked repeatedly from November 1st to November 30th, I can’t fault the students for their dedication to the cause. Although, upon starting secret Santa, I have discovered that much like their understanding of the term silent, the word secret is another term which my Year 8 form class have no concept of. The Christmas cheer these small treats have brought to the pupils is just one reminder of how important schools are in developing, not just academic achievement, but patience, charity and kindness, especially during this year’s festive period. I must admit, I did initially think that these treats were just for the children. That was until I found myself hinting to everyone in the class about my favourite kind of chocolate bar (Oreo if anyone is wondering) and subtly finding a way to let them know that I am still yet to try the Terry’s white chocolate orange. My countdown to the secret Santa exchange is on.

On a more serious note, it has hit me over the past week that I only have a short time left with the department and classes in my main school that I have grown to love before I move to my second school placement. I am going to miss the relationships that have been built so far but I am excited at the prospect of growing through my second placement, both as a teacher and as an individual. Just like the elf on the shelf I will make sure to turn up every day for a few weeks, trying not to cause too much trouble. And much like those people without kids, who watch the drama of the elves unfold on their phone screens, I have prepared my mentor for daily updates of my goings on, even if she gets sick of them.

In a sense, saying goodbye to my main school placement (for now) is also a goodbye to 2020 and the crazy journey it has taken the world on. So, I want to take this time to be thankful, thankful for the memories I have made so far, thankful for those around me on this journey, both at work and at home, and thankful for what is to come in 2021. In the words of my favourite TV Show’s theme song (TOWIE) ‘the only way is up’.

Amber Ainsley- RE Secondary Trainee Teacher