Getting the most from school experience visits

The journey to become a teacher can be exciting, surprising and confusing. You will have a lot of questions and will probably be wondering what teaching is really like. Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions but before you begin your training you need to be absolutely sure that it is right for you.

That is why getting some high-quality school experience is vital. Spending a few days in a school can answer a lot of the questions you may have as you will get the opportunity to speak to a variety of pastoral and teaching staff. It can also give you the opportunity to find out about the training options that could be available to you.

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your school experience:

Finding and contacting schools

Start by shortlisting the schools you would like to visit and aim to visit more than one type of school. You could also consider shortlisting schools that offer teacher training and enquire about the options during your visit.

There are many ways to arrange your visit; you could contact schools directly, ask a local teacher training provider to set up a taster day for you, or use the Government’s School Experience Service. If you are getting in touch with a school directly try to find out the contact details of the person responsible for teacher training – schools are busy places and often receive lots of generic requests for school experience. Alternatively, try contacting a local teacher training provider to help organise your visit. A provider will happily organise some school experience for you and will then support you with the application process.

Do some planning before you go

Schools put a lot of information on their website, so spend some time browsing their site before your school experience. This can help you understand the context of the school and you can use the information to plan questions you might ask during your visit. 

School experience can give you a valuable insight into the culture of a school and help you gain an understanding of what training there might be like. Plan what you want to get out of your time in school so that it can help you make decisions about courses later on. You could also use the experience to give you a strong focus point when you are called for interview.

Get the most of classroom observations

A large part of your school experience will probably be spent observing lessons. Observing others is an important part of training to be a teacher but sometimes it can be difficult to know what to look for. Often an experienced teacher can make teaching look easy and it can be hard to work out what it makes a lesson successful. Observing a variety of teachers with a particular focus can help de-construct the different elements of what makes a good lesson.

When you are observing remember that you are only seeing a snapshot of a teacher’s work with a particular class. Being observed can put extra pressure on a teacher to make sure you are courteous and respectful. Be sure to make the most of your visit by engaging in the lessons and with students in the class.

Ask about training opportunities at the schools you visit

Finally, use your school experience as an opportunity to make yourself known to a training provider and also to find out about what training with them might be like. Many schools work with local alliances to offer School Direct training places and can use your time in school to ask about training opportunities.

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