The past year has passed by in a flash. I know I’m not exactly old, but I now realise how true it is that time seems to fly by as you get older. There’s no more sitting in a classroom trying to keep my eyes open on a Friday afternoon, or traipsing to classes I didn’t enjoy only to sit there disinterested for fifty minutes. Instead, I blink and first year is over. I’m doing something I truly enjoy.
As I enter the second year of my teaching journey, I feel as though this is a perfect time to reflect on my experiences thus far. First year saw me face many challenges and handed me new opportunities and experiences; my most favourable being my school-based placement. This gave me the opportunity to put what I had learned in lectures, into practice.
Second semester was a bit of a whirlwind. One day we were sat in the lecture theatre learning about strategies for behaviour management and the next, we were using them in our own classes. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit overwhelmed during this semester, having to think about lesson planning, curriculum knowledge, behaviour management strategies and lesson content all whilst preparing for two assignments and two exams. I felt a bit lost-as though everything had been thrown at us all at once. As much as I felt I had been hounded with information, I was so excited to get out on placement and use what I had learned.
Placement was exhausting, but extremely rewarding. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic placement experience, in a great school with extremely supportive mentors and a hard-working and respectful class. This does not mean, however, that I didn’t run into any challenges. Placement taught me a lot.
Here are my top 6 tips for a successful placement!
- Teaching is an ongoing journey and you cannot perfect everything in your first six weeks of being in a classroom – I was fortunate enough to have two fantastic mentors, who I was able to collect lots of tips and tricks from, and whilst I feel a lot more confident in my teaching ability, I still have A LOT to learn.
- Relationships are key. Get to know your pupils needs, their abilities, their interests, THEM. Strong relationships are an integral part of an effective classroom. Once you get to know them, it will make your experience much easier– your pupils will engage more in your lessons if they’re tailored to suit them.
- Whilst what we learn in lectures is extremely beneficial and helped me enormously, you really do learn the most when in the classroom. Go in and observe your mentor(s) AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – get the most out of your time there, it’ll go by in a flash!
- Making mistakes is okay, in fact, it’s crucial. The mistakes you make help shape you into the teacher that you’ll become. Looking back, the lesson in which I made the most ‘mistakes’ is probably the one the children enjoyed the most, and the one which improved my teaching enormously.
- Have time for YOU. Whilst it is obviously vital that you spend time planning lessons, marking work and reflecting on your teaching, it is important that you find and maintain that work-life balance; something that in the past, I have found challenging. To allow you to work to your highest possible standard, it is important that you take time out to do something else. Don’t burn yourself out.
- HAVE FUN AND ENJOY IT. As daunting as it may seem, being told that you will have full responsibility over the class for a couple of days, everything falls into place nicely. I can safely say that my placement made my first year of university.
I cannot wait to get back into the classroom come November and do what I love doing.
Until next time x
Concept-based learning is an approach which excites me- it moves away from subject specific content and instead focuses on ‘big ideas’ that span various subject areas. For example, children may learn about ‘change’. They may do this through change of value in mathematics, change of leaders in history and through studying the life cycle in sciences.
This form of learning is said to encourage pupils to think about content and facts at a much deeper level.Further, it mandates more critical thinking at increasingly higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. (Erickson, 2012). The diagrams below show the 2D and 3D models of learning; the latter being concept-based. It illustrates that there is more to learning than memorising facts, and suggests that with concept-based learning comes a whole range of new skills.
It is important for us as educators to see the clear difference between a topic and a concept. Concepts can be taught in any classroom, no matter what the content includes. A concept is a broad idea that is both universal and timeless, and should drive pupils towards higher levels of thinking.
Growing up with the 3-18 curriculum, and latterly the CfE, where the results we get in our exams seem to determine our futures, I find it tricky to understand how concept-based learning can be assessed. This is something I most look forward to seeing in practice, during my time in a school which have adopted the IB curriculum, next year.
As a future Primary Teacher, it is very alarming to hear that so many of our pupils fail to see the relevance of our learning. Learning in my opinion, and in line with the aims of the PYP curriculum should be fun, engaging and relevant. If our pupils have the view that it is in fact the opposite, we must be doing something wrong.
To suggest that all learning is useful, is naive. Of course we can’t teach content which is useful to every pupil, all of the time; it wouldn’t be possible. But what we absolutely can do is make sure that all of our pupils are catered for by offering a broad range of activities, allowing personalisation and choice to provide the best learning opportunities for our pupils.
It’s our job as educators to dispel any misconceptions about the irrelevance of learning. But what we first must do, is fully understand the relevance ourselves. Once we are confident about the purpose of what we are teaching it is absolutely vital that we convey this to all pupils by applying it to real life situations.
If you had presented me with the above statement when I was thirteen years old, or in fact this time last year, I most definitely would’ve agreed with it. To some extent, I still do. It isn’t a waste of time, but when taught without context, it is difficult to understand its purpose. It does matter, but without teaching them why it matters, it’s useless.
International mindedness needs time to develop. It is not a lesson that can just ‘be taught’ but instead an outlook which you can choose to adopt and build on.
Much like I already thought, this blog post confirms that there are different degrees of international mindedness, and that when you’re thirty-years-old, you’ll most likely look at it very differently from when you were six. At such a young age, it can be tricky to comprehend why countries work together for a mutual benefit, or to appreciate a foreign film or TV show. It is therefore important that us as teachers give them the opportunity to adopt this mindset in a different way. This could be through a class discussion about their home countries or even through looking at the nationalities of famous people, for example. It is then important that they use this information to build on each other and create a sense of togetherness.
Once children get a bit older, teachers can begin to explore more complex ideas such as trade, similarities and differences between countries, and of course modern languages. This is an easy concept to embed in lessons, or even explore through the viewing of newsround in the morning. Watching something similar to this will more-often-than-not spark conversation which encourages inquiry-based learning whilst simultaneously delving into the idea of being internationally minded.
The local as well as the global. Whilst exploring content about other areas of the world, it is vital that teachers don’t forget what is right there on their doorstop. To develop international thinking, it is helpful to begin with information about the host country and their culture. We need to give our children the opportunity to immerse themselves into their own culture, and develop their knowledge and awareness of the things directly around them.
In my opinion, being internationally minded comes with many benefits. Children (and adults alike) will have ease finding friends from different backgrounds, they’ll be able to see themselves as responsible and global citizens and above all will increase their self-awareness and empathy. Language skills are becoming ever more important in the world, and many employers seek those with an additional language. I really can’t find any disadvantages and I am fully confident that by encouraging our children to adopt this mindset, we are contributing to creating an interconnected world.
It’s about doing everything on their level. By doing this we should successfully achieve an international education which gives our pupils the best chance in the interconnected and globalised world in which we live.