This month, I catch up with teacher and author Lauren Aldridge to chat about her brilliant new book 'Diary of an ECT'
Tell me about yourself Lauren
I’m currently teaching Early Years in a mainstream Primary School in Lawford, Essex. I am about to go into my third year of teaching, having just passed my two-year ECT induction period. I live at home with my Husband and my beagle, Barry. My husband is in the army, so we have lived in a few different places including Germany and Northern Ireland. I have enjoyed moving around, it has given us lots of opportunities to see the world. I have been lucky enough to have had some amazing jobs and gained lots of great experiences, which have shaped my classroom practice. I am passionate about SEND and children’s mental health and wellbeing.
What was the first job you had?
I worked as a support worker for young adults with SEND whilst I was completing my A levels at sixth form.
I know you worked as a Sensory Coordinator at a family adventure centre. That sounds really interesting. Can you tell me a little about that role?
I worked here whilst we lived in Northern Ireland. The sensory room was based in a clip and climb centre and had just opened when we moved there in 2019. I worked with families in the sensory room, facilitating sessions and interacting with them. We had some amazing equipment including a bubble tube, vibrating plate and a projector. I also ran some baby sensory sessions in the sensory room and group sessions with children and young adults with special needs. I set up PECs in the centre and we then started autism friendly clip and climb sessions where we were sensitive to sensory needs by turning off the music, adapting the safety briefing, using PECs to communicate if needed and limiting the number of people entering the centre. I really loved this job; it was a pleasure to work with the families and to set up somewhere to support people with SEND. My favourite part was our sensory storytelling event. We had a Santa experience with use of the sensory room and I delivered a sensory story to the families. It was lovely to be able to offer this experience.
What sparked your interest in becoming a teacher?
When I was in secondary school, l was planning on going into social work. However, after I finished sixth form, I decided I didn’t want to go to university straight away, so I started working as an LSA. I then worked as an LSA for a few years before moving onto working as a senior support worker with young adults with autism. I have always enjoyed working with people and supporting others. I then returned to being an LSA when we moved to Germany. We lived there for four years and I worked in the local MOD school. I had the best time at this school, the children and my colleagues were amazing. This influenced me to go into teaching. I was completing my degree through The Open University whilst working, so once I had finished this I went onto my teaching training. Personally, I have found it really helpful to work in different settings before starting my teaching journey, I have learnt a lot from these experiences and use many strategies I have learnt in my classroom today.
Tell what inspired you to write ‘Lessons Learnt: Diary of an ECT’
I have had a long journey into teaching due to travelling and studying, so I wanted to share how these experiences have shaped my classroom practice. I also realised in the first term of my ECT years how much I was still learning and how many different emotions I was going through at the time. You finish your teacher training and there is still a lot to learn and get your head around, so I decided to start writing this book to support other teachers in their ECT years. I was part of the first cohort to have a two-year ECT induction period, so this was the perfect time to write a book and share my experience of this with other people. I really enjoyed writing the book and I can only hope that it helps support other teachers.
How did you find the time to write your book?
We all know teaching is a very busy profession. Some weeks it was hard to find the time to write, however, I just focused on small parts at a time. I made notes over the last two years and slowly added this into my book. My husband has just returned from a 7-month deployment, so whilst he was away, I used the weekends and evenings to write. This also kept me busy and allowed me to share my experiences through writing. I am really passionate about supporting other teachers and this motivated me to find the time to write.
If you could change anything about the teacher training process, what would you change?
The paperwork! There is a lot of unnecessary paperwork and as a trainee teacher you spend most of your evenings completing this. They expect in depth lessons plans, observation notes and reflection notes and this is not realistic practice in a school. The main priority needs to be experience in the classroom and making sure you have an impact on the children’s progress and that they are happy and safe also that you are looking after your own wellbeing too, it is a very intense year.
Can you describe a typical (school) day?
I arrive at school about 7:30am to set up the classroom, I set up resources for my teaching and continuous provision activities, open my tabs on my laptop and put two books out for the book vote. Some mornings we will have a staff briefing to discuss the events of the week. At 8:30am the children begin to arrive, they can arrive between 8:30-8:50am – I am by the door greeting them as they come in and available to talk to any parents. The children come in put their bags away then complete a morning activity. Once the gate is shut, I will do the register and we have a morning meeting to look at the date, the weather and to count how many children are in class that day. We will go through the visual timetable so the children know what is happening that day (this is great for putting their mind at rest and they do refer to it throughout the day to see what we are doing next). After this we will usually have a phonics lessons then handwriting then learning through play. During play we might have some interventions running or interacting with the children in play. After this we will have maths then some singing or a story before getting ready for lunch. After lunch we have some mindfulness and then our topic lesson or on a Monday we go straight to the forest for the afternoon. We then have some more learning through play, sometimes followed by a whole school assembly or a story and a chat/reflection of the day to finish. After school, I will be setting up for the next day or attending a staff meeting.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The children! It is so lovely to see them grow and progress over the year. The children have great personalities and I feel really lucky to work with them every day. Building positive relationships with the children is my favourite part, you spend a lot of time with them over the year so it is important to get to know them in order to support their learning and wellbeing. Every day is different and every day the children make me laugh and smile. You will see I have a chapter in my book dedicated to things children in my class have said over my first two years teaching.
What is the funniest thing a student has said to you?
There are so many moments but the funniest one has got to be when a parent said that their child was upset because they didn’t want to be a radiator in the nativity. It took us a while to realise what she meant, but turns out she was the narrator and had gone home and told her family she was going to be a radiator. We had a good laugh about this with her parent too!
What is your proudest career moment?
Writing my book has to be top of my list. It was a process over the last two years and I’m so proud that it is finally finished and published. I am excited for other teachers to read my book and to hopefully gain some advice from it.
I know a lot of ECT’s will be starting their new roles in September, do you have any advice or tips?
Take it slowly. You don’t have to have everything set up and perfect for day one. You will learn and adapt every day, so be flexible. If you start off with less things going on in your classroom, it will be better for you and the students, too much too soon can be really overwhelming.
Also, my top tip would be to talk to other teachers. You will be surprised to hear that even many experienced teachers will be feeling the same as you. You might feel overwhelmed but you will feel a lot better once you talk to people.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are so many resources and plans already available, probably on your school system or online from other teachers, so use them. Your time is precious and you won’t have time to do everything from scratch. Make sure you don’t overwork yourself, think of ways to reduce your workload and take time to look after yourself too.
Which three historical figures would you invite for supper and why?
Queen Elizabeth 2nd – she devoted her life to serving the country, it would have been a pleasure to meet her.
Dr Suess – I think his imagination would bring a fun side to the evening.
Florence Nightingale – To hear her stories and experiences.
You have a time machine set with two trips. Where are you going?
Mauritius – where we got married, I would love to go back one day. It was the most amazing day and such a beautiful place to spend two weeks.
I would like to be on the boat when Christopher Columbus set sail to discover the USA.
What three items would you take to a desert island?
A book, a swimming costume, a lilo – teachers need a break.
If you had a superpower what would it be?
Teleportation – so I could go anywhere, whenever I have time
What advice would you give your younger self Lauren?
Believe in yourself! You can do anything you put your mind too.
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Teaching Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teaching_with_mrs_aldridge/
Link to 'Lessons Learnt - Diary of an ECT'