Skip navigation to content

Case Study: Kirstie Macmillan

Personal details
Degree:Geography MA(Hons) Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences
Year of Graduation:Jun-2013
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Durham SCITT
Job title: Trainee Geography Teacher
Occupational Sector: Teaching
What has been your route to getting your current position?
I started by contacting Durham SCITT directly, checking entry requirements and getting advice on the application process. To formally apply for teacher training, you must go through a UCAS-style system online, choosing up to 3 courses of your choice. I was adamant that I wanted to do a SCITT course (School Centered Initial Teacher Training) and not a traditional PGCE route because of Durham SCITT's reputation as an outstanding small-scale provider which focuses heavily on school experience and subject mentoring from the best local teachers. The application process for any teacher training course is quite long and I recommend that you apply early to avoid disappointment as courses at popular universities and SCITT schemes fill fast! You will undergo an interview which will consist of a teaching activity, an interview panel and often some additional activities which test your literacy, numeracy and thinking skills. In addition to the interview, you will also need to take an official skills test in numeracy and literacy (similar to a driving test) and have a clear police record.
What does your job involve ?
During my training year at Durham SCITT, I have been trained by possibly hundreds of local and national professionals either in college-based time (lectures, seminars, conferences, subject specialist days) or whilst on 2 placements at two contrasting local schools. During the year, over 30 weeks are spent in schools teaching between 8 and 16 lessons per week in addition to subject tutorials and training. My course focuses on secondary Geography ages 11-18 which has included GCSE and A level classes as well as nurture groups. Additional training has included sessions on applying for jobs, working with other professionals, visiting a special educational needs school, working with primary children and developing the curriculum. There is so much more I could possibly add but to summarize: Being a teacher is a lifestyle, not a profession!
What are the best bits of your job ?
The best bits are definitely the children, they never cease to amaze me and I often learn as much from them as they do from me! No matter how hard you plan for a lesson, the unexpected always happens and there is never a dull day! The training is a huge learning curve and it's been amazing to meet, collaborate and liaise with some of the best teachers from the local area.
Why were you successful?
Before and during my time at university I have worked with youngsters in outdoor education settings through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Leader's Scheme and through qualifications gained whilst in the St Andrews University Canoe Club (StAUCC). A background working with children is essential for teaching, teach because you love children! You must also get some school experience, perhaps observing classes or helping out at a local school. Finally, enthusiasm is key to teaching!!
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
As a teacher, you are expected to develop your subject knowledge to stretch across the entire curriculum. The children really love someone who 'knows their stuff' and the range of modules at St Andrews has prepared me well for a teaching career. Obviously things like time-management skills, team working and planning are all essential skills. During my time at St Andrews I was heavily involved in the Canoe Club as a vice-captain and as the Athletic Union Publicity Officer. Both of these roles have given me the opportunity to develop skills which are proving incredibly useful during my teaching practice and I recommend that students make use of similar opportunities whilst at university in order to get the most from their time at St Andrews and simultaneously build essential skills which will give you 'the edge' in any field of work.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
Only be a teacher if you want to be a teacher. There are 3 things you need: Enthusiasm, real enthusiasm; commitment, true dedication to a teaching lifestyle; and a great sense of humour, light enough to appeal to teenagers but deep enough to overcome difficult days! It's a long and endless journey but if you embrace challenges and want to inspire a generation (or 2), do your research and find the best type of course for you!