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.
Today we have been thinking about self reflection and feedback in preparation for our first school placement in two weeks time. This is an area I find largely uncomfortable and certainly one that currently makes me nervous.
It has been interesting to watch feedback sessions take place with two teachers. It has given me some idea of the sorts of observations that someone may make of me. However, it also strengthens the knowledge of the sorts of observations I will need to make of my placement partner. Furthermore, through watching these videos today I have a much deeper understanding of the benefits of feedback and self evaluation.
Before today I would have been dismissive of recording myself in a classroom setting to reflect upon later. However it is clear to see that watching myself teach would allow me to see things happening in my classroom that I may miss while it is happening (in a good and bad way). Also, while I may feel that I come across to pupils in a certain way, watching a video of myself would allow me to re-evaluate verbal and non verbal communications which may be causing concern or confusion. Reflecting upon my own practice in this way will allow me to move forward in the right direction with my teaching.
Sue Cowley observed a third year student in the second of the videos we watched today. There was a lot to observe both good and bad about the practice of the teacher and Sue gave constructive criticisms and guidance to allow the teacher to better his practice with his class. In a group we discussed the video and found that we had very similar views to each other of the practices of the teacher. One difference of opinion that we did have was surrounding the teacher choosing to send three members of his class away from the main part of the class to sort out an argument they have been having over lunchtime. I felt that it was good to see the teacher care for the well-being of the children in this way. However other members of my group felt that this should have been left at the door of the classroom in order to not disrupt the learning for the whole class. Upon reflection, I can understand this stance and it will be something I carry forward with me.
There is now only two weeks left until I go on my first placement. I am nervous about the experience. Knowing where I am going and who I am paired with has lessened my nerves to an extent though. I am very interested to be within a school outwith the area that I live in and also one that is very small. I am intrigued by the logistics involved in a school with only two classes. The website for the school is informative and shows me that they are a busy vibrant school which I am looking forward to finding out more about.