My experience of BA1

Getting my results

In August 2019, I got the result that I would be going to the West of Scotland University to study BA (Hons) Education. So I packed up all my boxes and made the drive from Northern Ireland to Ayr. It was daunting at first to leave behind everything I knew to be fully on my own for the first time, but I adapted quickly and found I prefer living on my own anyway.

Making some friends

The first day of classes was nerve-wracking. I felt like everyone knew each other, but luckily by the end of induction week my friend group had formed (who are also all in the same mentoring family). Having a stable friend group made things so much easier throughout the year. For me, it was super important to have someone there to complain to or voice my concerns or ask questions and receive support from people going through the same things. I do believe if I did not have this support system, I would have struggled a lot more throughout this year.

Term 1

In term 1 the modules I had were Mathematics for Understanding, Literacy for Understanding, Health and Wellbeing for understanding and Spanish 1.1. For me, this term was more relaxed than term 2. I was just coming to grips with university life, and even though I don’t go out, I still went to a concert and died my hair purple (which I got rid of in December). Because I liked stayed inside, I focused on my work and the independent study tasks we were given.  Throughout the year I made sure each of my folders was categorised and organised, which I am so glad I did because it made the assignments at the end of the year a lot easier.

In terms of the modules, I found most of it easy to understand. Health and Wellbeing felt repetitive but useful. It taught me the importance of your own health as well as the health of children, and how if your health isn’t good, it won’t reflect well on theirs. Maths was very useful for seeing the different methods of solving equations, and a good insight into what would be taught in classrooms. I struggled most with Literacy, having never been very good at English in high school. But even though I struggled, I still benefitted as I saw what we had learned in class come through on placement. I found Spanish fun. I had already done Spanish for my GCSE’s back in high school, so most of the class was a recap for me, but I did learn some new things. I got to help my classmates out too, even though I wasn’t fond of participating in class due to the fear of mispronouncing something (most likely due to my accent). If I have one regret, it’s that I wish I did participate more, and answer more questions, especially when I knew they were right.

Term 1 Assignments

In terms of assignments in December, we only had 2. An essay for  Literacy and an essay and presentation for Health and Well-Being, as Spanish and Maths exams were being held at the end of term 2. I am glad we were eased into the assignments, as it was very different from what I was used to, and I was often referring back to the assignment brief to make sure I was doing it correctly. The UWS Ayr library was a great resource, as I probably took out 8 or 9 books in that time, and I was glad for living in University Accommodation only a 7-minute walk away. With assignments done, I headed back to NI for Christmas. Luckily, I passed both of my assignments, which meant I could relax and focus on term 2’s modules.

Term 2

My term 2 modules consisted of Spanish 1.1, Maths for Understanding (both from term 1), Situated Communication and Society and Lifestyles. There was a big jump I felt from the content given in term 1 to term 2, but I kept up with my organised system to try to stay on top of things. I enjoyed Situated Communication a lot, as it involved moving around and getting involved and having some fun, as well as being very useful for placement. It taught us how to move our bodies, and use our voices and be animated in front of children. I found it really beneficial to learn these things before stepping into a classroom. On the other hand, I really struggled with Society and Lifestyles. The lectures were long and information-full, and so were the independent study tasks. I found it difficult to focus on those classes because they were about topics I’ve never learned or heard of before, but everyone else seemed to have. If I could go back, I would tell myself to get more sleep and bring some chocolate for that specific class. On one hand, it was informative and showed me a lot I didn’t know, however, I didn’t see the connections for being in a classroom like with my other modules.

Term 2 Assignments

Unfortunately with the outbreak of Covid-19 in March, our year ended early, and our exams were cancelled because it just wasn’t possible to go in and do them. This meant we didn’t have to do the Maths, Society and Lifestyles or Spanish exams (though I still did as much of the Spanish as I could and got great results). All that we had to do was our Situated Communication Assignment which consisted of recording us telling a 10-minute story to a group of children without a book. After this, we had to write an essay reflecting on our experience. I am still waiting on my results, but hopefully, I have passed both aspects.

Placement

Being on placement was amazing. We started off having 5-serial days every Thursday and then moved on to our 3-weel block. I got placed in a small primary school a 25-minute drive away from where I was staying, which worked out perfectly for me. I was even lucky enough to have one of my friends as my placement partner, so we already got on well and didn’t have to introduce ourselves. The serial days were used for observation of the class and the teacher. Our class teacher was wondering and extremely helpful throughout the entire process, and answered our questions no matter what we asked. I truly believe she made our experience a lot better. However, when the 3-week block began, was when it got a little harder. In week one we focused on getting our Situated Communication story done. We did a practice run before the real thing and found that really beneficial for seeing what our timings were like, and how pupils reacted to what we were telling them. This was nerve-wracking for me, as I had never been filmed before, but I like to think I didn’t do too bad for my first time experiencing something like that.

In week 2 I did my first class lesson which was a maths lesson on area. For this lesson, I made 5 different worksheets and was prepared for it, but I didn’t realise how hard it was to take on a class of 21 who were all at different levels at the same time. I  felt like I had to rush to keep them focused on me so I could move on from one group to the next quickly. After I gave out the worksheets (which may have both been too hard and too easy) I was more relaxed, as I was more used to walking around to pupils who had their hands raised. Overall for my first time ever teaching a class, I found it successful.

In week 3, I did my last two lessons: literacy and health and well-being. I learned from my maths lesson, and for my literacy lesson, I focused on 1 group after starting off with the entire class. I found a group more manageable and wish I had done that for maths. The lesson was about spelling, and I helped my group create their own roll and read activity using difficult words they came up with which had the sound “f, ff or ph”. My health and well-being lesson was about friendship, and I took the whole class for it again. This lesson was fun, as it got the pupils talking to and learning about classmates they may not have known as well. I also showed them ways to be helpful and to make friends. This was a fun lesson to end on, but I wish I had done it sooner so I  could’ve learned more about the pupils earlier on.

In the end, placement was a really enjoyable experience, and I was sad to leave the school and not return, but glad that I got all 3 weeks before Covid-19 took full effect. The teacher we had was amazing, and helped us plan every single lesson plan and gave us helpful advice after each lesson we took so we knew what went well, and what went less well. The pupils were so fun and interested in us being there and asked us lots of questions. We managed to go into the playground at lunchtime twice while we were there, and while it was cold, it was really nice to see the class in a different environment than the classroom.

The end of the BA1

Unfortunately, the year ended in an unideal way. My friends and I didn’t get to share stories face to face but instead wished each other well over text. We didn’t get the closure we wanted of going out for a nice lunch after assignments like we did in December but instead will have to wait until September. The year was a great year, and I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I’m sure BA2 will be stressful and hard, but I hope to get a lot out of it just like I did this year. Throughout the year our lecturers were amazing, and some of them really made the course as enjoyable as it is. All of them were approachable and kind and happy to answer any questions or emails you sent them (of which I sent my fair amount). I hope the lecturers I get in year 2 are just as good and enthusiastic about what they teach. Here’s to a great BA2! 🙂