Today is my first day back at university after two weeks on placement in a primary school. I have been in a small school which has only 42 pupils. There are two teachers, one head teacher and one support assistant within the school. The school operates with two multi-composite classes, primary 1-3 and primary 4-7. I worked mainly within the primary 4-7 class, however I was also able to spend a little time within the primary 1-3 class. It is a rural school but is close to a large town. Only a handful of pupils are from the village the school is in, the rest of the pupils come from placement requests from nearby towns and villages. There is a large percentage of children with different sorts of additional support needs within the school As a Mum of a child that falls within this category I was very interested to see how the children responded to the intimate environment that a small school provides.
Going into my placement, I expected to enjoy myself. I am looking forward to the day that I can lead my own class and this was another step in the right direction towards this. However, I was not prepared for just how much I would enjoy my placement. There was so much I could do to help the teachers to teach their classes. I felt that the time I spent there was not only worthwhile for me but also for the teachers and the children in the school.
Having previously spent time in another school and also having my own children, I know that I enjoy empowering children with knowledge and allowing them to enjoy the freedom that this knowledge brings to them. Over the course of my placement I had several opportunities to do this. In numeracy the Primary 4-7 class were building on their knowledge of place value. One primary 6 pupil was using sums to increase numbers by hundreds of thousands or millions. I sat with the child and asked her about the link between the first number and the resultant number. The child very quickly showed me that they could see the link. I reassured the child that the teacher didn’t need them to do sums but if that was what they needed to do that it was alright. They moved on independently without using the sums and completed their work with more confidence in their own abilities.
Before entering my placement I was paranoid about my verbal communication skills. I have had bad experiences in the past where I have been misunderstood by people and had accusations made against me due to poor communication skills. After these two weeks out on placement I feel that I may have left that part of me behind. I was able to make great communicative connections with the children on the placement. One of my biggest fears was communicating with the staff in the staff room. Small talk is a large weakness of mine. During breaks, we had some insightful conversations in the staff room. I was able to do a lot of learning in those times as well as while in the classroom. Going forward into another placement I will not be so worried about this side of it, I now know that I can maintain appropriate professional conversations with others.
Everyday the primary 4-7 class watch Newsround on BBC iPlayer. The class teacher would compile a quiz on the contents of the programme which would then be asked to the different groups in order for them to build up points for their groups. Towards the end of my placement, the teacher asked my partner and I to devise the quiz and ask the children. This was a good exercise with us. We found it difficult to make sure the questions were challenging to the children – they were very good at it. This is something I would like to take forward with me into my teaching career. It is most suited to older children but could easily be adapted to the age and stage of the children.
One of my main observations in the school was how well behaved the children were. As I previously said there is a high percentage of children with additional support needs in the school. This can bring with it poor behaviour. However, this is not the case in this school. The children are, with very little exception, very well behaved. They are respectful of their teachers and the other adults within the school. The teachers have developed strategies to allow them to keep control of the whole class, even when they are teaching 4 different year groups at once. The professionalism of the teachers enables them to overcome anything that happens in their classroom. They are a good team and clearly support each other very effectively.
I will be returning to the school to help soon. I will also be attending to watch the children take part in their nativity show in December. I really look forward to seeing everyone again.