Teacher Trainee journeys: Kyla Bruff

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Kyla Bruff is a teacher trainee currently on the 2020/2021 cohort of our Harris ITE Teacher training programme. With a specialism in RE and Citizenship, she sheds light on her experience so far.. 

September 2020

As I applied to train with Harris, I was nearing completion of my PhD in Philosophy. During my twelve years (!) as a university student, I loved every minute spent in the classroom. Indeed, classes—which I often perceived to be “live events,” in which my mind was opened in real time and almost anything could happen—were always my favourite part of my educational journey. I therefore happily began working as a part time instructor at my home university in Canada in 2017. During this time, I realised that I experienced even more enjoyment in a teaching role in the classroom than in my capacity as a student. Teaching had all the excitement and spontaneity I knew from my student years, but with the longer-term joys and subtle pride that come with igniting a passion for learning and facilitating student growth and development. It became clear to me that the classroom was where I was destined to be.  

Accordingly, I decided to move into secondary education. As with secondary students, the intellectual and personal development of young people, as well as the value of classroom interaction, is even more immediate and obvious than in university. The secondary school teaching role is therefore, in my opinion, more challenging. However, it was a challenge I knew I was up for. I thus decided to begin my teacher training in the two subjects in which I figured I have the best chance at having a positive, lasting influence on someone’s life.  

Religious Education and Citizenship may not immediately seem like the most obvious choice as a focus for my teaching career, as my background first appears to scream philosophy and abstraction. However, a closer look at my previous education reveals an underlying logic in my decision to teach these subjects. My eclectic background includes a joint undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Political Science and a Master’s Degree in French and German Philosophy (which was funded by the European Commission). My PhD research was at the intersection of philosophy, politics and religion. It is in these three domains that my intellectual passion lies, and it is in the practice of teaching that my extroverted personality and practical skills find their home. In view of my university background, an added advantage of training with Harris is that, already in my training year, I was offered the possibility to teach the most intellectually demanding content at A-Level, while also guiding younger students in years 7-11 through a wide variety of content in religion and politics. I know how lucky I am to have a timetable made up of such diverse year groups, and to teach difficult content to students looking to enter university, while simultaneously learning the skills and strategies required when working with younger people. 

Now that I am in the fifth week of my training, I can say that teaching secondary school is an incredibly humbling experience in which one learns extensively about oneself. But nevertheless, I must underline that secondary students are not university students, and accordingly, the area in which I need to devote the most work is, by far, behaviour management. Luckily the staff both at my academy and the Harris Federation are incredibly supportive. There are no egos and there is no judgment. Everyone in my vast support network here at Harris have been open about their past difficulties, similar experiences to my own, and their vulnerabilities. No one gets it right the first few weeks. But with guidance, we learn how to.  

At the moment, I am working on everything from voice modulation to scaffolding learning activities for different abilities. In my view, to say teaching is a humbling profession is to express exactly this: we show our vulnerabilities and devote ourselves to others, but not in a chaotic or haphazard way. Rather via informed techniques, practical training, intentional action and by learning from others who are more experienced than we are. As teachers, we are motivated by the conviction that everyone deserves an education—a great education, in which they have the opportunity to learn about the world, how people live collectively, and their own personal values. This is the type of knowledge, consideration and self-exploration that Religious Education and Citizenship offer as subjects. As I improve as a teacher, particularly in behavioural management and content delivery techniques, I look forward to better serving the students at my academy, and those I will teach in the future.  

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