Overall, my placement has been an enjoyable experience and I have expanded my knowledge on several key issues regarding learning and teaching in the primary school, foreign languages and embracing different cultures. One of the main benefits of the placement, for me, was having the opportunity to come abroad and experience a primary school from a different cultural perspective. This has led to me making a lot of comparisons between Scotland and France, which has helped highlight to me some of the great features of school in Scotland and some of the aspects we could perhaps adopt from school in France. I think that having the opportunity to compare two different education systems has helped me to become more critical and reflective, but it had also caused me to become more passionate about education in Scotland and what it stands for. In France, their educational philosophies different significantly, they focused a lot more on academic achievement and teacher-led learning, as opposed to the more creative and child-centred learning through discovery and play promoted in Scotland. These differences were even evident from the aesthetics of the classrooms, which left little to no room for group activities.
Before embarking on this placement, I had began to question whether primary teaching was suited to me after worrying whether I had explored every option. However, this comparison has really opened my eyes and reassured me that I am following the right path. This was further confirmed to me after experiencing some level of frustration when I was not given many opportunities to develop my practice and build a relationship with the pupils through teaching. This was perhaps the biggest challenge of the placement, as I felt as though I was not given the opportunity to reach my full potential and grow as much as I did during first year placement. However, I do understand that the intense period of observation I did in the school was still very valuable to me as a professional, as I was continually receiving new ideas and learning new techniques from more experienced teachers without the added intensity of having to be responsible for a full class for extended periods of time.
Living abroad has also impacted me on a personal level as this has been the longest period of time that I have spent away from home in Scotland. Living in Orléans has had it’s challenges, even simple tasks, such as going to the supermarket, have been made quite difficult due to the language barrier and French culture meaning that shops are not open as regularly as in Scotland and the concept of convenience is very different from back home. I think that from this experience, I have learnt how to be more independent and self-reliant, even just by managing manoeuvring public transport to and from school on my own. My living situation has also brought out more of my communication skills as I have been living in shared student accommodation for the last 8 weeks. This has involved having to share one small kitchen with 30 other people and also working with the other girls on my placement to coordinate meals and travel plans etc.
As a whole, I am proud of how I have adapted to being away from home and how I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone by working in a school where I had to speak French. Being a position where I felt frustrated and unused has made me more determined to prove my worth to a team and so I feel as though when I am on my next placement, I will not be as shy and reserved as I might have been before.