Final Reflection

For six weeks I worked in Room 7 (year 2/3) in St Josephs RC Primary School, Whakatane, New Zealand. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! I spent the whole time in one class and consequently got to know the children and the class teacher very well. In many ways my role was basically that of a classroom assistant. I listened to, assessed and lead reading groups, I took the class for games, I took writing and spelling groups and I generally got involved with the school as much as I could. Overall, I feel the placement went very well. I am really pleased that I got to know the  different staff members, how comfortable I felt in the school and how I developed relationships with the children of Room 7. Before starting at St Josephs, I knew very little of the school and found it difficult to research before arriving. When I tried to access their website when in Scotland, a series of blocks made it impossible to see anything other than their front cover page. Consequently, all I know about St Josephs has been learned during the last six weeks through asking questions, constantly observing, listening and through online research.

When I reflect on what I expected before starting my placement I realise that in reality, I had to clue! I wasn’t sure how to anticipate what it would feel like to live in New Zealand for three months, I couldn’t imagine what the school would like and I had no idea what my role would be! In hindsight, having so few boundaries and guidelines of what was expected during the Learning from Life placement made it difficult to prepare. However by making the decision to work in a school I was, at the very least, sure that I was going to develop my professional practice in some way or another. I knew that even if I didn’t necessarily agree or like the way the classroom I ended up was ran, I could learn from watching a professional in action and so I was confident the placement was going to be of practical use. Now that it’s complete, I am sure that it’s impossible to pinpoint absolutely everything I have learned throughout my time at St Josephs but I feel that I have definitely developed my professional practice greatly in different ways. Through having an open and willing attitude to learn, exposure to a new environment and being lucky enough to land in a great school, I have learned a lot about my own practice too. An example of one thing in particular that  will take away, is the knowledge that having a well organised and well behaved classroom is very important to me. I find it much easier to interact with the children the way I want to when I have them completely in my control- I love encouraging children to behave well and I love seeing how proud they are of themselves when they get it right!

When I reflect on the experience as a whole, I feel that I have achieved my core aims which were as follows: to integrate into a new school community, to make friends, to visit a new country, to learn about a culture previously unknown to me and to develop my professional practice. This can be shown by the friendships I have made, the knowledge I’ve gained about New Zealand and Maori culture and by the reflecting on the professional tips and guidance I’ve received over the last six weeks.

Although I’ve valued this experience being more relaxed and ‘easy going’, I think I could’ve pushed myself to take more full class lessons. I enjoyed the opportunities I was given to take the class completely by myself but I think if I voiced my desire to have more responsibility, this would’ve been respected and put into action. However, I really did value the chance to experience the work of a classroom assistant. I think this has helped me to appreciate their work and has provided insight on how to utilize the extra help appropriately if I were to be given the opportunity as a qualified classroom teacher. Additionally, one of my original aims for the LfL placement was to learn about a new education system however this has been surprisingly difficult. Although I’ve seen a lot classroom teaching and experienced different staff meetings that provided an insight into how the curriculum is run, I haven’t had the opportunity to look at as much paperwork and professional documentation as I would’ve liked. In hindsight this was probably down to how busy staff members are at St Josephs- they are all constantly running around attending to different jobs and I didn’t want to burden people. However, I have been able to do my own research online (see other posts) and ask questions of local people which has proved a valuable experience in itself!

Since I was 18 years old and taught in Ghana, it has been an aspiration of mine to once again teach abroad but this time, as a professional. This experience has taught me that I should continue to aim for this goal. I love having the opportunity to learn about new cultures, experience new countries, meet new people and teaching in a local school is a wonderful way of doing this. I will use this experience to fuel my motivation and to help remind me of one of the reasons why I went into teaching.

Week 5 (10th-14th of April)

Overview: As is the way with any last week of term, the children were almost constantly preoccupied with thoughts of the holidays and no more school for a whole fortnight, and so the running of the classroom was slightly more relaxed this week than normal. However, with Friday being the beginning of Easter weekend, this week was shortened to only four days long (a decision that was widely welcomed in the staff room) which meant all normal weekly activities had to be crammed into a shorter period of time. Well in Room 7, it was even shorter than four days because Wednesday marked our last day of proper school for term 1! Wednesday night was year 2/3’s first ever experience of ‘camp’- well, an age appropriate version of the four day activity camp I attended at the start of placement. Mrs Jackson explained that she normally takes the year 3’s away to camp in tents for a night but because this year the class is split almost down the middle of year 2’s and 3’s, she decided that in order to include everyone she would make it a sleepover in the school hall with lots of fun activities before and after. So on Wednesday, the plan was for the kids to nip home for a quick rest and to grab their stuff before heading back to school and setting up their ‘camp’ in the hall. I was going to take the kids for a mini-Olympic style extravaganza as Mrs Jackson spent time explaining to the parents (all 17 of them) what she wanted them to do. Then, a delicious barbie was to be cooked outside before swimming at the local pool and then heading back to school for a story and bed time. On Thursday after the big event, the plan was to join the rest of the school for an assembly to celebrate the outstanding achievements of particular pupils before taking room 7 to see ‘Smurfs’ at the cinema (a G rated film that I perhaps looked forward to seeing a little too much considering the target age of the film). Then, back to school in time for lunch and then join in with everyone for golden time- not a bad way to end the term I must admit! Well anyway that was the plan…but as you can maybe tell it didn’t quite work out the way we had intended. A second cyclone was forecast to hit the Bay of Plenty (the wider area of Whakatane) by Wednesday afternoon and the rain wasn’t due to stop until Friday morning. After the disastrous results of the heavy rainfall last week, the Ministry of Education took extra precautions this time and closed all the schools in the area for both Wednesday and Thursday. Although I’m sure the kids would normally delight in an extra few days off school, I can’t help but feel sorry for the children of Room 7. They had been beside themselves with excitement in the lead up to camp and I’m sure there were a lot of disappointed wee ones when they found out it would have to be postponed to term two. In fact I was pretty gutted too, I was looking forward to getting to know more of the parents and hanging out with the kids in a more relaxed environment. For me, the feeling of disappointed really highlighted how much I’ve enjoyed working at St Josephs. In fact, on Tuesday it was school photos and when it was time to take the staff photo, everyone included me without question. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be invited into a staff and really welcomed. I can’t help but see it’s value- I feel that I’ve been able to give so much more of myself and get involved in a much more practical way than I could during my MA1 placement. So, thank you to the staff of St Josephs!

Highlights and Challenges: My highlight of this week was being invited to attend a CoL (community of learning) meeting after school on Tuesday. All the schools of the area (in the CoL) have recently decided to participate in a new programme designed to help teachers accurately assess the children’s learning of maths and to assure that they are hitting the correct curricular benchmarks at the right time. This meeting was a follow up training session designed to allow teachers from different schools to discuss their views, thoughts and experiences of the programme so far and to ask any questions that they might have. Being invited to this meeting and having the opportunity to hear from local professionals outwith St Josephs was a valuable insight to the community of schools around. Although I haven’t had direct experience working with the programme myself, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the views and experiences of those who have. It was great to hear their examples of putting the programme into action, briefly study the documentation supporting the programme and to have the opportunity to ask questions relating to the topic of discussion. I asked the group of ladies I was sitting with, who were mostly new entry teachers, what their view was on the importance of what mathematical vocabulary is used in the classroom- e.g. is accuracy the most important consideration to make? Or consistency? Or should one use varied vocab to demonstrate that some words mean the same thing? As an experienced group, they agreed that consistency was probably the most important consideration when teaching new entry pupils. They also agreed that it’s important that the children can see and therefore apply the information that you give them. For example ‘equals’ doesn’t mean anything to them, but ‘the same as’ has more context. This was a really useful experience and one that I appreciated greatly.

Audit of Professional and Personal Skills:  This week I feel that I have developed and displayed an ability to create and manage effective relationships with others. I like to consider the invitation to be part of the staff photo as a positive reflection of my efforts to integrate with everyone involved at St Josephs and although I would love to have opportunities to get to know people more, time is of course rather limited. However I really appreciated the opportunity at the CoL meeting to chat to staff members that I haven’t crossed paths with so much throughout the rest of my placement and I felt this was a good chance to learn from them. I asked regular questions throughout the meeting, studied the paperwork relating to the purpose and structure of the programme, took useful notes and listened carefully to what the staff members from other school had to say: all of which displayed an ability to communicate and report effectively, both orally in writing. I have always considered my ability to communicate effectively as a strength but one that could be developed, and I feel that working abroad always helps to increase one’s ability and confidence in this area. Understanding the differences in culture and how to manage them, never mind how small, requires an ability to gauge different people and how they ‘work’ so to speak, an ability I view as priceless both in life and as a professional. The more time I spend on professional placements, the more I realise the importance of collaborative practice in order to develop one’s professional ability and more importantly, the importance of good relationships in order for this to collaborative practice to take place. I think that good communication skills that can be put into action with pupils, parents and other staff members is an essential skill for an effective practitioner to acquire. This placement has provided ample opportunity to both develop and reflect on these skills and I look forward to continuing to work on my communication skills as I further my study.

‘The Golden Way’

The behaviour management system at St Josephs aims to constantly praise children’s good behaviour and their achievements in order to encourage and motivate more of the same. This theory can be seen in action throughout the school day in a variety of different ways: teachers speak to pupils gently and kindly letting them know that they are in a save and loving environment, they are awarded ‘dojo points’ for good behaviour and at the end of each week, there is an assembly to celebrate particular children’s achievements and display any ‘golden work’. However, each teacher follows the ‘three minors become a major’ strategy and so when it is required, children are reprimanded appropriately with a series of consequences (see below for more details). Something that is different to anything I’ve seen before is the strategy of awarding Golden Time. Instead of children automatically receiving the right to Golden Time with the threat of loosing five minutes for poor behaviour (which is what I experienced as a primary school pupil and during my MA1 placement), children start the week ready to earn their golden time. From Monday morning, teachers award dojo points for behaviour that follows the Golden Rules for example, by being kind and respectful, listening well, working hard etc. In order to achieve golden time, each pupil in the class must have earned 20 dojo points each by Friday afternoon. This is recorded via an online platform where each pupil has their own avatar that displays how many dojo points they’ve earned so far. They absolutely love looking at their ‘little monster’ and hearing the wee ding! that represents the giving of dojo points and it’s quite incredibly how effective it is. The system works incredibly well in the early years and I’ve not only seen it in action, but put it into action myself. Any time I’ve had responsibility for the children, it is always the offer of dojo points and bringing attention to those ‘sitting nicely’ or using ‘full body listening’ that motivates the class to behave the way I want them to. Out of all the practical tips and lessons I’ve learned so far throughout the placement, this is perhaps my favourite- effective behaviour management systems is a particular interest of mine as an enquiring practitioner and I would love to use dojo points in my classroom in the future. However, although this system is in place throughout the whole school, I can’t imagine it being quite as effective with the senior children. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with senior staff members and ask how regularly they use this technique, but I would like to do this at some point during this week.

An example of a class of avatars

examples of reasons why children would receive dojo points

The following information was taken from the Catholic Review of 2015 document, available at https://sjswhakatane.wordpress.com/catholic-review-2011/

Behaviour Management

Expectations of good behaviour are well defined and encapsulated in the school “Golden Rules” behaviour management programme. These, together with the strong emphasis on lived Gospel Values and positive affirmation, result in clear expectations for all students

  • The behaviour management programme at St Joseph’s Catholic School is standardised and consistent in its use throughout the school
  • Golden points acknowledge servant leadership and Gospel Values in student conduct and behaviour. The weekly Gospel Values focus strives to enhance and nurture these values in the students’ behaviour and conduct.
  • The school’s behaviour management system known as “The Golden Rules” positively affirms Gospel values and reinforces the school’s Mission statement
  • Excellence in learning is acknowledged and celebrated through the student of the week and Principal’s award system
  • The school follows the behaviour vision and philosophy when dealing with conflict. This emphasises that each individual’s uniqueness will be acknowledged in a positive, Christian way and that the school will model fairness and justice.
  • It as a requirement of the school that students and colleagues are treated with respect and dignity.

This is an example of a senior Think Sheet. It’s designed to make children question their behaviour and consider how they could’ve acted differently in a given situation. Think Sheets are filled out and then sent home to be signed by a parent/guardian

Staff at St Josephs award their pupils regularly for good behaviour. There is a far greater emphasis on reward rather than negative consequences and children are regularly acknowledged for working hard or behaving well

The Golden Rules are always referred to when children are doing wrong- ‘what Golden Rule are you breaking when you act this way?’. They are also a point of reference for exceptional behaviour- ‘what Golden Rule are you honouring when you do this?’

Children start with one warning, a second warning which results in their name being written on the board and then finally they are given a Think Sheet if behaviour does not improve

The Golden Rules all work together to achieve the ‘Golden Way’. Each Monday there is a Gospel Value Assembly that draws attention to one particular Golden Rule, for example, being respectful of property which children get extra recognition for throughout that week if seen to be putting the value into practice

Through the use of Think Sheets and recording incidents, staff members were able to gather information on specific aspects of behaviour management that needed developing.

This document specifically outlines the expectations of the Golden Rules to ensure that the policy is consistent throughout the whole school.

Week 4 (3rd- 7th April)

Highlights and challenges: This week I feel the need to start off by recording the quite incredible natural events and their repercussions (both to the school and the community in general) because it was rather out of the ordinary. In fact, this weeks particular point of interest was a bit of a dramatic turn of events and apparently, a 1 in 500 year event- a flash flood no less!! I came to NZ expecting to escape the rain but unfortunately, no such luck. It started pouring down on Tuesday morning (at around 7.35am…how do I know the exact time you ask? Well because at 7.34am I was on my bike enjoying a peaceful ride to school but by 7.36am, I was no longer enjoying it nor particularly peaceful) and the rain didn’t stop until around 1.30 early Thursday morning. Two consecutive wet weather days resulted in a definite negative shift of behavior in the classroom- children were struggling to concentrate and a number of uncharacteristic niggles and fights broke out as all of the 27 pupils and the 2 teachers of room 7 went a bit stir crazy. So when I woke up on Thursday morning to clear blue skies, I couldn’t help but think we were at the end of the tunnel and finally back to normal. But alas, no. Whakatane has a great river flowing through the town and out to the sea. Our house is situated right on the banks of this river and it wasn’t until I was taken outside to see the new view that I realised quite how damaging that amount of rain fall can be. Where I normally look out onto a calm river with beautiful fields and houses beyond it, this morning all we could see was a sea of dirty, muddy water with great big trees and other giant bits of debris coursing down towards the bridge- currently the only thing connecting rural houses/businesses to Whakatane town center as the other bridge is closed for rebuilding. Despite this great devastation, we were beyond grateful to discover that the the water still had around a meter before it breached our side and started overflowing onto our property. At this point, the initial concern was that the rising water levels and increasing debris would result in the closure of the bridge, consequently stranding people on the wrong side. However, as the day went on, we got the news that more areas of the river had burst its banks and water was gushing into peoples homes. In fact, the whole town of Edgecumbe, a small town around 20km outside Whakatane, had been evacuated leaving people to grab a few bags and flee their homes, unsure of the damage they were leaving behind. At this news, the school was promptly closed and parents quickly came to collect their children. I too was sent home early to make sure I got over the bridge before the high tide (another cause for concern as the river normally increases by a few meters at this time of day) and told to pack an evacuation bag and to wait for further instructions on whether it was safe to stay in the house overnight. It was all a bit manic and crazy but amazingly, the water started to go down by around 4pm and we were able to stay safe and dry in our house. Of course, the 2000 people of Edgecumbe weren’t as fortunate and we’re still waiting to hear from an update as to how friends and family are doing.

See local news report for more stories/pictures: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/91262924/bay-of-plenty-township-of-edgecumbe-evacuated-forcing-600-residents-to-leave

 

Overview: By the time Friday came, life began to go on as normal as the excitement of all the rain and getting off school early began to die down. Amazingly, only a few children in the class were badly affected by the floods and they and their families are receiving help and support from the school by any means possible. However in unrelated news, because my class teacher was attending a funeral on Friday afternoon, I was required to take the class by myself from after lunch. I was actually really excited about this opportunity and looked forward to seeing how the children would respond to me being their ‘proper teacher’ for a little while. They behaved beautifully and we had a wonderful time making fairy bread and playing on the seniors outdoor play park for golden time. Fairy bread was a new thing for me but by the look of horror on the kids faces when I had to ask what it actually is, I imagine it’s a relatively common snack around these parts (it’s basically when you butter a piece of bread and COVER it in hundreds of thousands and all sorts of other sprinkles…I must admit I opted out of this particular cultural experience). I was really grateful for the opportunity to have full responsibility, even if it was only for a little while and it has encouraged me to ask to for similar opportunities over my final two weeks at the school. Having the children on my own reminded me of why I want to be a teacher- I love being responsible for so many children, I love having the freedom to decide how we spend our time and I love how much fun kids are! Of course it was a bit of a challenge too- even in the few hours I had them by myself we had a few bumps, tears and upsets over tiny and avoidable things. However when I compare the experience to my first time having full responsibility during my first placement, I can’t help but reflect on how much more relaxed it was this time around. I wasn’t at all worried that I couldn’t handle it, I wasn’t concerned about behaviour management and I wasn’t worried I was going to make a big mistake. This must partly be down to the relaxed and supportive environment of the school but I also like to think that it shows real development of my practice. The more time I spend furthering my practical skills and ability, the more confident and excited I become to completing my study and becoming a fully qualified practitioner. I am of course acutely aware of the development and growing that still has to come before this stage but I can confidently say, I look forward to these challenges and to the improvements they will bring!

Audit of professional skills and ability:

This week has clearly required me to develop my capacity to work with and manage change. It was incredibly important that the children felt safe and calm throughout the whole experience and that despite the decision to close the school early, they were to behave as normal and wait patiently for their parents to arrive. Because Mrs Jackson was out of the classroom making arrangements for her own children who’s school was also closing, I sat the children down on the mat and read a story as adults drifted in and out swooping up their children as they went. I had to ensure that I kept a detailed copy of who was picked up, by whom and at what time using the online class registration form, a new type of technology for me. I felt I showed effectiveness in administration and management and ability to use new technologies with confidence and ease throughout this entirely new experience for me. Of course, all these skills are totally transferable- having an ability to manage change is an inevitable element of the teaching profession and I was both proud and relieved to find I felt confident and relaxed throughout the whole experience.

What is the New Entry system?

In New Zealand, parents are free to send their children to school between the age of five and six at any point throughout the school year (which follows the calendar year). However by the time a child reaches six years old, parents are legally obligated to enroll their child into a school. However, the choice is theirs regarding what term, what week and even what day they want their child to start before the age of six. This means that New Entry teachers (similar to P1 and the other early year teachers) don’t start their year with their full class like in many other countries. Instead, children join them as the terms go on.

Like Scotland, children’s schooling officially begins at primary school. If it’s a ‘full’ primary school (like St Josephs), children stay there from five to 12 years old. If it’s a ‘contributing’ primary school they will move onto to an ‘intermediate’ school for their last two primary school years, from 11-12 years old. Intermediate schools, where they’re available, provide a bridge to the next step of secondary school (which is also sometimes called college, high school or grammar school).

The school years are numbered 1 to 13. Years 0 to 8 are the primary years and years 9 to 13 are the secondary years. Children in primary schools are generally aged 5 to 12 years. In some areas children go to an intermediate school for years 7 and 8. It can become more complicated if a child of 5 years starts school in the second half of the year. Schools sometimes refer to them as year 0 for the second half of the year. If they start school in the first half of the year they will be referred to as year 1.

This system obviously varies quite dramatically to that of Scotland’s and it’s taken me a few weeks to completely get my head around (in fact, I’m not 100% sure I’m quite there yet!). The topic of conversation of comparing new entry in NZ to Scotland came up in the staff room and to be honest, it seemed to cause rather a lot of confusion! As I briefly explained that all children at home start school together at the beginning of the academic year, which starts in August (this alone caused enough confusion as in NZ, the academic year follows the calendar year due to the seasons being the opposite to how they are at home!), and that depending on when a child’s birthday falls in the year they could either be four or five years old, it suddenly dawned on me why this could be so daunting to someone who hasn’t grown up in the country! It certainly was an interesting conversation, that’s for sure. However despite all the little differences in how and when children start school in either country, both are edging towards making children start school at a younger age. This appears to go directly against the philosophy behind the success of the education system in a country such as Finland, which is currently ranking number 1 in many different PISA results. I recently came across an article explaining why children in New Zealand might be starting school as young as four years old and what this means for schools, pre-school education and teachers…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/88750698/new-zealand-children-could-start-school-at-age-four-under-cohort-entry-proposal

For more information, here is the government’s help and advice page designed to help parents enroll their children to a school: https://parents.education.govt.nz/primary-school/your-child-at-school/enrolling-and-starting-your-child-at-school/

Three weeks down, three weeks to go(!!!)

Reflection: Even before I started the MA Education course at Dundee, I was excited about the Learning from Life placement and the freedom and opportunities it offered. I was sure I wanted to use the chance to go abroad and to experience a new country, the only problem was deciding where to go! I started considering my different options before I reached second year (failing to plan is planning to fail and all that…) but the obvious restriction was cost. So when I was offered free accommodation in New Zealand, I was beyond sold on the idea of spending three months working and living on the other side of the world. The next task was deciding how I wanted to spend my time and considering what I actually wanted to gain from the experience. I briefly contemplated using the opportunity to further my experience in working on adventure activity courses as this is something I particularly enjoy. But after thinking about it, I decided I wanted to experience working in a school that was completely separate from the Scottish curriculum and to immerse myself in a new learning environment. I have previously spent a year working in a remote jungle village school in West Africa and absolutely loved it- it was originally what inspired the decision to study Education and I am 100% certain that it developed me as a person and also my professional ability. I wanted to recreate this experience, but this time without all the bugs, scary snakes and preferably with access to running water. And so I used my contacts in NZ to get in touch with Mrs Fretwell, the deputy head of St Josephs, to ask whether I could be of any use for six weeks…and that’s how I ended up in Whakatane!

As I reflect over the first three weeks, I am beyond happy with my choice to work in a school. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time in a class but without the pressure and responsibility of a normal professional practice. It’s allowed me to focus on elements of the school that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the time for as well as getting to know the children and staff members on a personal level. I’ve also picked up valuable tips and quirks from watching Mrs Jackson so closely. For example, she regularly praises the children behaving well in order to encourage the misbehaving children instead of reprimanding them, with her guidance I’ve practiced teaching children of different ability to develop their reading skills and she’s taken the time and effort to walk me through ‘reading records’ so I can understand how the children’s reading ability is constantly assessed.

It’s quite incredible to think that I’m already halfway through this placement, it feels that time is passing too quickly! I’m thoroughly enjoying working at the school and I feel as though I’m learning and developing skills everyday. I’m loving getting to know a new curriculum and comparing it to my knowledge of the curriculum for excellence. I’ve also really appreciated the opportunity to work with younger children as this was an area I felt relatively uncomfortable with as I have little to no experience working in the early years (and it comes at a particularity useful time, just before the MA3 placement). And as an extra bonus, I’m falling in love with New Zealand more and more everyday and could definitely envisage moving here after my probationary year (much to my mum’s horror). It’s a beautiful country with so much to offer- gorgeous scenery, lovely people, natural phenomenons and considerably better weather than Scotland (although that’s not too hard).

For the remainder of the placement, I aim to:

  1. Perform and plan more full class lessons
  2. Compare more NZ national curriculum documents to that of Scotland’s
  3. Perform more duties (for example, roadside duty, bus duty, morning-tea duty etc)
  4. Continue to assess and develop the reading skills of the ability group under my responsibility
  5. Attend at least one extra curricular activity session

Week Three (27th March-31st March)

Overview: This week has been an important eye opener in terms of the commitment and effort put into the continual assessment of children’s literacy and numeracy skills. Each child in the class has a ‘home link book’ which allows for constant teacher-to-parent communication regarding reading homework, spelling words and any additional notes or comments that need to be passed along. As an extension of this, children take home an extra home link book at the end of each term full of examples of their work across the curriculum. This provides parents with a visual representation of their child’s learning and progress throughout the academic year. Keeping these up to date and accurate obviously takes a lot of work and this week I’ve had the pleasure of taking part. In particular, I’ve been helping Mrs Jackson with assessing children’s reading ability and ensuring that they’re currently working at an instructional level. This is done by completing a reading record evaluation for each child, an example of which can be seen below.

Example a completed reading record for a higher ability pupil

            

Reading Record: Basically, the child is asked to read the teacher a story or a particular section of a story. As they’re reading, the teacher follows on the reading record sheet and ticks above each word that the child reads perfectly or writes either sc (standing for self correction, meaning that the child originally made a mistake but noticed it for themselves and corrected that mistake), tc (standing for teacher correction, meaning that the child was unable to read a certain word and the teacher had to intervene), R (standing for repeated) or if a child read a word wrong and didn’t realise/didn’t make an effort to correct themselves, the teacher simply draws a line above this word and writes down the mistake that the child made. This process is repeated for around 120-220 words, depending on a child’s ability. After the child has finished, the teacher asks basic recall and comprehension questions to check for understanding and knowledge of the text they’ve just read. At this point, the child has finished their work and it is up to the teacher to make notes and assess the child’s reading behaviors that have just been observed. This is broken into three main parts: knowledge and understanding of the text, strategies that the child used to read and the fluency of which he/she read the text. Then, once the appropriate boxes and details have been filled out, the teacher looks back over the errors and self corrections made throughout the text and analyses whether the child understood the meaning of the misread word, can recognise the structure or used visual skills to identify the word. This is done by looking at the mistake they made and the word that was actually written and using professional judgement.

Once all these sections have been completed, the teacher counts up the number of errors made and the numbers of s.c’s. These numbers, along with the total number of words read, are put into an online reading record calculator to calculate the child’s accuracy, self-correction rate and whether the level that they’ve just read is independent, instructional or difficult. Of course, the aim of the teacher is to have all children working at the instructional level (90%-95% accuracy rate) so that the reading is challenging, but not too hard. This takes time and effort and is normally completed during the teachers release time. At the beginning, I found it challenging to remember all the different codes I was meant to use, record everything that I needed to, judge whether the error was made due to a misunderstanding of meaning, structure or lack of attention paid to the visual of the word whilst also carefully listening to the child’s reading all at the same time! I was grateful for Mrs Jackson taking the time to explain everything in detail and allowing me to take the time to feel confident in what I’m doing before completing my own reading records. I feel it is a valuable experience and insight into the work of a teacher beyond just classroom teaching.

Highlights and Challenges: A real highlight of this week has been witnessing the children vote for Golden Time. In other schools I’ve been in, it is often the teacher that decides what the class will do for their half hour of free time at the end of the week. However in Mrs Jackson’s class, there is a ten minute slot on a Monday morning dedicated to democratically deciding what the class will get up to. Children are able to suggest different ideas (here are some of my favourite examples of such suggestions: making s’mores using candles, lollie (sweetie) scramble and nurf gun wars with hand made targets…this was possibly my favourite one to take part in). Then once all the suggestions have been made, each child gets a vote as to what they want to do. Everyone doesn’t have to join in with the same thing at the same time, for example some kids really enjoy playing on their iPads during their free time, but generally speaking there’s always something pretty exciting going on that appeals to all the ages in Room 7. I was genuinely really surprised at how seriously the teacher took some of the suggestions (the nurf gun war being a prime example) and wasn’t quite able to picture how it would all work out. But I’m getting more and more used to the relaxed attitude of everyone in the school, and falling more and more in love with it. The children loved making the s’mores, they shared all the lollies equally after the scramble (admittedly, that did take some prompting) and the pyjama party was a big success. They’re allowed so much more free reign and as a result, are already showing real skills in self management at the young ages of 6 years through to 8. Of course allowing the children to have more freedom requires more work from the teacher but I really do think it’s worth it. I love the idea of allowing the children to be limited by nothing other than their imagination (of course there are some restrictions…although bringing in pet iguanas isn’t one of them…) and it’s something I would really like to take on and use in my practice. Spending so much time with one particular class has allowed me to pick up on the little details that make up the classroom as a whole. This has provided ample opportunity to observe and pick up little tips and techniques that I aim to use to further my future practice.

A challenge of this week has been getting used to all the different systems in place throughout the school. Getting involved with the different duty roles, understanding how assemblies are run and learning more about the behaviour management system works are all examples of the above. In particular, I’ve spent time familiarising myself with the organisation of the reading books (which ties in nicely with reading recovery) and this has helped me to understand the vast amount of organisation that goes into the overall job of teaching children to read. Assessing a child’s ability, matching this up to the correct level of difficulty of reading book (which requires an in-depth knowledge of the different levels available at the school, of which there are many), hearing the children read, correcting/encouraging them appropriately, ensuring that their ability progresses at an appropriate rate whilst simultaneously recording all this information are all important elements of teaching a child to read. And there’s not just one child in the class, there’s 27 of them! Although it has been a challenge to grasp all this new information, it’s also been a real highlight for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about this aspect of a teacher’s role and I know that it will undoubtedly further my future practice. And that’s really what I’m aiming for in this placement, so I can’t really complain!

Audit of personal and professional skills:
This week has helped me to develop skills in research, evidence gathering and to adopt a rational and critical approach to choice and decision-making. Assessing the children’s reading required quick decisions in terms of the ‘type’ of mistake the child was making and what should be done in order to help them improve their reading skills. It took a few tries to gain confidence in my own assessment ability but through comparing the results of my running records to that of Mrs Jackson’s, I feel I got considerably better at accurate assessment the more I practiced. These are of course directly transferrable skills and although I may not use this exact technique in the future, the experience, practice and knowledge will undoubtedly strengthen my understanding when it comes to performing such tasks regularly and professionally.

The Story of Rangi and Papa

Since coming to New Zealand, a real highlight has been learning about Maori people and their ancient traditions. Everyday children sing songs, recite the Lords Prayer and listen to simple commands in Maori and I absolutely love it! Any time we drive past a sign with an interesting name I (attempt) to pronounce it and I must admit, I’m proud to say that I’m slowly getting better. But what’s even more exciting is the story I learned today in school. This term the children have been learning all about the biblical story of Creation and this has generally been incorporated into at least one lesson a week. However today, Mrs Jackson told us a version of the ancient Maori story of how the earth came to be as it is now. Due to the fact that these tales have been spoken and repeated through hundreds of generations, each Maori tribe tells the story of creation slightly differently. Despite this, apparently most stories describe the movement from Te Kore (nothingness) to something, and from Te Pō (darkness) to Te Ao (light). The separation of the earth and sky is always a key feature in the different tribes stories, as is the talk of how the gods were responsible for making the natural world.

The Maori tradition of creation as taught in Room 7 (and retold by Eilidh Lamont…)

In the beginning Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the mother earth) were joined together in an eternal hug, and their children were born between them in darkness. The children wanted light and warmth and beauty to grow on Earth and so decided to separate their parents, to allow light to come into the world. Each child, a demi-god of the natural world, attempted to separate their parents but not one of them could manage. Well, not until Tāne, the god of forests and all that live inside them, used his mighty strength to push his father up and to hold his mother down. However despite his success in fulfilling the children’s plan, he didn’t want his mother and father to be sad or lonely without each other. So to keep them company, he planted beautiful trees, flowers and bushes for his mother (Papatūānuku) to enjoy. Then he gave his father (Ranginui) the moon and the stars to keep him company.

Excerpt from the version of the story told by Mrs Jackson

 

 

After looking into this in further detail, I found lots of really helpful websites that deepened my understanding, and my interest! For example, here’s an excerpt written by Mr John Waititi, who is well known for his work with Maori people in Auckland. He is at present Maori language officer to the Education Department.

“Then Tawhiri, the god and father of hurricanes and storms, was angry with his brothers, because against his wishes they had torn apart Rangi and Papa, and he was afraid that the world would now be too pleasant and beautiful. Because of this he followed his father Rangi to the sky above; and from there he sends the earth mighty winds, dense clouds, dark thick clouds, fiery red clouds, clouds of thunder storms, and clouds swiftly flying. In the midst of these Tawhiri himself sweeps wildly on, and makes war against the creatures that live on the earth.

But in spite of the evil rage of Tawhiri, the human beings who had been hidden between Rangi and Papa increased in number now, and flourished upon the earth; and it is from these first men that we are all descended.

And through all this time the vast sky has not ceased to mourn the loss of his wife the earth. Often in the long nights he weeps, and drops upon her breast those tears which men call dew. And often the loving sighs of Papa go up towards the sky; and when men see these, they call them mists.” (…for more, see http://teaohou.natlib.govt.nz/journals/teaohou/issue/Mao45TeA/c11.html)

And for even more information, see: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/maori-creation-traditions

Week Two (20th-24th March)

Overview: This week marked my first full week in the classroom and provided an excellent opportunity to spend time observing and comparing the experience of a pupil in St Josephs, Whakatane to that of a pupil in Scottish primary schools. Despite the obvious differences related to the terminology used here- morning tea instead of break, referring to classes by their rooms rather than their year etc- probably the most obvious difference between the two is the overall attitude of the school. There’s something about St Josephs that just feels…more relaxed to many primary schools I’ve visited before. Children spend the day bare foot and are only required to wear shoes when visiting the church (as a mark of respect), they’re allowed to play in the classroom when teachers aren’t present (although this is reserved for before the morning bell, children must be outside during lunch and morning tea), parents often spend time after the morning bell in the classroom waiting with their children for the day to begin and there’s regularly parents that filter in and out during the two weekly assemblies to have a look see what’s going on. The playground is bright and beautiful with large grass playing fields, two incredible outdoor playing facilities (one for the juniors and one for the seniors) and a large tarmac area suitable for riding scooters and skateboards with a variety of jumps and ramps that the children can use during their free time. In order for this to work, there seems to be more responsibility given to children to ‘self manage’ and this can be seen in greater abundance as the children progress through their school years. Seniors are regularly given tasks that require maturity and responsibility to complete- helping to run the schools sports day and organizing Friday ‘Golden Assemblies’ where the whole school gather to display ‘golden work’ completed throughout the week and to share any relevant achievements by pupils are but a few examples. This extra responsibility is designed to bridge the gap between primary school and high school and help pupils deal with the transition with more ease.

A small section of the large grass playing fields

the senior playground (juniors are allowed on here but only when supervised by an adult)

A difference that strikes me as interesting is lack of school meals provided at St Josephs. According to teachers in the school, only private schools provide the option of buying school dinners in New Zealand. Generally speaking, all children bring a packed lunch and teachers monitor how much children eat to ensure each pupil is eating appropriately throughout the school day. This requires constant attention and consequently, all teachers/teacher aids are expected to perform weekly duties. Duties include monitoring school lunches, road safety, bus monitoring and general playground supervision throughout morning tea and lunch time. To ensure the responsibility of monitoring children’s eating was completed successfully, St Josephs recently changed their policy so that children eat their morning tea in the classroom before being allowed to go outside and play. At lunch time, the children sit outside under the shade and are only allowed to leave to play when they have asked the teacher on duty if they have eaten enough. Although this works so well at St Josephs, I struggle to imagine a similar initiative working in Scotland. The first issue lies primarily with the weather: despite how much I love Scotland, I have to admit that even our summers aren’t predictable enough to allow schools to be dependent on using outdoor facilities for something as simple as the children eating. Secondly, when I asked what happens if a pupil doesn’t bring school lunches, a teacher told me there’s some food in the staff room that the children can have instead. Obviously, this isn’t a recurring issue as there’s not a particularly sustainable solution in place. Despite witnessing the success of St Josephs alternative solution to ensuring children eat well throughout the school day, it’s when I consider my first year placement and the number of children in the class who ‘forgot’ to bring money for food on a daily basis that I understand a similar strategy probably wouldn’t work in many primary schools in Scotland. I feel that my, albeit limited, experience working in Scottish primary schools is enough for me to understand the need for the Scottish Government’s recent initiative to provide free school dinners for all P1s- P2’s and to appreciate its intentions.

Highlights and Challenges: So far my duties have mostly consisted of helping and assisting the classroom teacher in any way I can. This has included listening to reading groups and individual children, leading math groups, assisting children with their writing and spelling among many other duties throughout the school day. This has been a precious experience in terms of getting to know the children, understanding more about the daily running of the classroom and providing a unique insight into the invaluable work of a classroom assistant. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to watch how Mrs Jackson interacts with her class, deals with the more challenging behavior and how she is committed to providing regular and consistent positive feedback to all the children in her class.

However on Friday, I taught my first full class lesson. The children have been learning about Creation and I was asked to incorporate this topic into an art lesson. Last week the children had learned to paint Chinese blossom trees by using a straw to blow paint around the paper. I decided to continue with this flower/nature theme and found a basic Hyacinth design that the children and I could replicate. I was amazed by the facilities on offer in the school and easily found the different materials I needed: paint, coloured card, white paper, scissors and glue. The lesson was simple and consisted of the children cutting out blades of grass and stalks, gluing them down onto their pieces of card, finger painting the purple Hyacinth flowers and then drawing any background detail that they wanted.

Inspiration for lesson plan

Overall, I was really pleased with how the lesson panned out. The children created incredible pieces of art and I was really impressed by their listening and sharing skills. In an attempt to save resources, each table had to share access to the paint which was something I steeled myself for being a problem and so addressed the issue when giving my instructions. But to my surprise, my efforts were unnecessary as they behaved maturely and patiently waited for their turn to use the paint (I was very impressed!). I used formative assessment throughout the lesson and constantly observed the class as a whole- watching for and then awarding the children who listened particularly well, approaching the children who didn’t, walking round and observing each individual child’s at different points throughout the lesson and using children’s work at various stages to demonstrate and bring attention to their great work. If I were to do the lesson again, I would ensure I spent more time discussing the finer details of my instructions. For example, how to cut the stalks and blades of grass before sending the children to do it on their own. Despite having a picture of the piece we were trying to recreate up on the interactive board at all times throughout the lesson, the children struggled to draw and cut out blades of an appropriate size. In hindsight, I don’t think I understood how difficult receiving basic instructions can be for children of such a young age and I will take this forward as I plan lessons both for this placement, and in the future.

Audit of Professional and Personal Skills and Understanding:  When I refer to the SPR values and professional commitment guidelines, I feel that throughout this week I have demonstrated an ability to ‘adopt an enquiring approach to my professional practice’. I feel that this can be proved through my willingness and eagerness to ask questions relating to all sorts of topics, observe both staff members and children, analyse what I see and reflect on what I’ve learned. These transferable skills will without doubt broaden and deepen my professional ability in becoming an effective practitioner.

Values, Culture and Ethos of St Joseph’s

Values, Culture and Ethos of St Joseph’s: Spirituality- St Joseph’s Catholic School offers all members of the school community regular opportunities to develop an awareness of their relationship with God. Through a Catholic culture of prayer, worship, tradition and celebration, and the quality delivery of the religious education curriculum, teachers and trustees promote and nurture individual and communal spirituality throughout the school, encouraging  staff, students and parents to think deeply about how this can be applied in everyday life.

  • Staff comes together at the beginning of each day for prayers, songs of praise and reflection. Meetings begin with an appropriate prayer. Staff spontaneously pray for others in times of need during morning prayers.
  • Daily prayers in classrooms include morning prayers and grace before meals, and again at home time.
  • Students assist in organising classroom prayer time and explore a range of prayer styles during their time at St Joseph’s. They write and share their own prayers and assist in the organisation of class and school Masses.
  • Altars/Prayer tables are a place of respect in all classrooms.
  • Evening prayer time is part of all school camps. Classes going on day trips gather for roll call and prayers before leaving school.
  • There is a Gospel Values assembly each Monday after lunch. All classes take a turn leading this. Scripture is used to reinforce messages and is linked to their everyday lives and the school’s “Golden Way” initiative.

Values

  • Gospel Values and virtues come from the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The particular virtue or Gospel value chosen comes from what the staff identify as a need in the school, or was identified as a high priority in the parent survey.
  • Significant school documents reflect the school’s Catholic Character. Catholic values are treated with utmost importance when school documents are being reviewed.
  • Children are encouraged to follow Catholic teaching and values when making decisions.
  • Teaching and learning programmes integrate Catholic values where possible.
  • The values programme enhances the school’s Catholic Character and recognises Gospel values in action.

School Culture

    • New families are welcomed at Mass with a special candle ceremony, followed by a shared morning tea in the staff room.
    • Students’ knowledge of the traditions and founding charism of the school is being developed through the RE programme.
    • All staff are professional in their dealings with parents and the school community, realising that they are role models and representative of the school’s Catholic Character.
    • The staff regularly ask “What would Jesus do?” in difficult situations, and pray for guidance and positivity in decision making.
    • The Principal, DP, teachers and support staff are to be highly commended for the high level of pastoral care afforded to the several special needs children enrolled at St Joseph’s. The way these pupils are cared for is noteworthy. A parent of a special needs child spoke of how the school goes “way over and above to support special needs children.”
    • Students at St Joseph’s are friendly and willing to talk to visitors. The interaction between juniors and seniors is excellent. The playground exhibits a calm and busy atmosphere and children spoken to love their school.

Service/Social Justice

A broad range of activities and initiatives are provided for children to grow in their appreciation of reaching out to those less fortunate than themselves

  • Young Vinnies meet regularly and are involved in many productive fundraising or assistance activities as a way of fostering good works. Charities include Caritas ,World Vision sponsored child, Cancer Society, Chase Foundation, Loud Shirt Day, Blood and Leukaemia Foundation.
  • Young Vinnies make school lunches for children at the local High Schools every week.
  • Non-perishable food items are collected for the St Vincent de Paul foodbank and also pet food is collected, or money raised, for the SPCA.
  • Children are taught about doing their part to help mankind -Mission focus, Caritas, MissionZ, World Vision, Red Cross etc.
  • Caritas Lent and Social Justice units are explored during an RE staff meeting, with teachers using the resources in groups and then sharing their ideas about how they could use them in classes. This helps teachers to see the continuity of the programme as a whole and also to decide upon the action that will come out of this learning either at class or school wide level.
  • Mission money is counted each week and class contributions recognised at school assembly.
  • Senior students show servant leadership in providing lunchtime programmes and care for younger children during break times -playground angels.
  • Class visits to rest homes to entertain the elderly, especially at Christmas time, are encouraged,
  • The school participates in the annual senior citizens’ Christmas luncheon, providing entertainment for senior parishioners.
  • The school assists families in need – e.g. families with parents made redundant, unemployed, terminal illness, disability, CYFS or mental health issues. Help is provided with attendance dues, food bank, lunches for students when needed, help with school fees, school uniforms, meals, sports gear and fees, camp fees.
  • The school takes responsibility for keeping the road frontage of the church and school free from litter.
  • Through the leadership of the Principal, St Joseph’s Catholic School Whakatane always endeavours to support and include St Joseph’s Matata (a small, rural school not far away from Whakatane) and share resources and ideas across the Catholic School network. This is particularly seen in the Bay of Plenty-Poverty Bay Catholic Schools cluster group.

Bi Cultural Awareness

New Zealand’s bicultural heritage is recognised, respected and valued at St Joseph’s Catholic School. There is excellent inclusion of the Maori dimension and this manifests itself in classrooms and RE delivery, language, the arts and in liturgical events and spirituality.

  • Maori parents are invited to the school for a hui and elders are invited to school productions.
  • A whanau support group has been established-” Te Whanau O Hato Hohepa.”
  • The school participates in a Sunday Maori Mass and collaborates with the Maori group for Palm Sunday Mass.
  • Maori himine and prayers are part of school/class Masses.
  • All classes participate in Te Reo Maori and Kapa Haka.

Information taken from conversations with staff members, observations over the six weeks and from https://sjswhakatane.wordpress.com/catholic-review-2011/

Week One (13th-17th March)

Overview: When I reflect on my first week at St Josephs, the first thing that comes to mind is the incredible welcome I received. The staff, children and families made me feel comfortable and at home within the first hour. After being personally introduced to each staff member, the whole school, and many different parents of children in my class, I immediately knew that St Josephs is a special place! I met my class teacher, Mrs Jackson- a kind teacher that runs her classroom on mutual respect which is a fact that is made obvious through the children’s manor and relationships. However, despite being involved with St Josephs for a full week, I haven’t spent much time in the classroom as of yet. After finding out about my love for the outdoors, Mrs Fretwell (the deputy head) invited me to join the year 4/5’s on their annual school camp in Waitomo, the west coast of New Zealand. Every second year every class at St Joseph’s is given the opportunity to go to camp and experience a few nights away from home, stay in a Marea, challenge themselves and have a break from normal school life! After frantically packing with the help of my host family, early the next morning I found myself arriving at the Tokikapu Marae (Māori meeting grounds (see website at bottom of post with more information and details on marae’s) where we would be staying for the next four days. The camp was an incredible opportunity to learn more about New Zealand culture, the natural phenomenons that the country has to offer, make genuine friends, develop relationships with children outside of the class I’ll be working in and observe an incredibly experienced and capable teacher (Mr Liley) in a more relaxed and informal environment compared to that of a classroom. We went caving, abseiling, walking in the bush, adventuring, learned about glow worms (which are unique to Australasia) and searched for fossils on black iron sand beaches all within an action packed four days.  And that’s just the learning we did as a whole class! On a personal level, I learned an indescribable amount about the Māori people and their culture, New Zealand’s natural landscape, the organisation and work put in by both teachers and parents to make such a camp possible, as well as invaluable teaching tips and quirks.

Highlights and Challenges: In reality, the whole experience was a highlight for me. I loved getting the chance to see an area of the country I otherwise wouldn’t have and it was great fun spending so much time with the kids in such a relaxed environment. When I compare the camp to my own experience of school trips (my P7 class spent 5 days at Nethy Bridge Activity Center in 2006), my general consensus would be that school is much more relaxed than that of many Scottish primary schools. Health and safety takes a real backseat and kids are allowed to roam free and explore. Generally speaking, this seems to work excellently and children appear far more confident and sure of themselves as a result. However, we did have one wee girl get her finger stuck on barbed wire and another chipped her tooth after falling out of a tree (both of which probably wouldn’t have happened if greater attention was paid to keeping a close eye on the children at all times, but I guess that’s just pro’s and con’s!). I spent the first day considering what a unique opportunity going on camp was in terms of seeing more of New Zealand, but as time went on I realised how valuable the experience was in terms of furthering my practice. Mr Liley (the teacher in charge) displayed warmth, patience and kindness whilst also ensuring the children knew exactly where the boundaries lay. He told me in depth about the organisation and hard work he put into ensuring the camp ran as smoothly and effortlessly as it did and his hard work certainly paid off.

However, I did initially find it difficult being completely by myself on the trip. I had to really focus and work hard to make friends and ensure I was an asset to the group of adults. Additionally, going on camp so soon after arriving in NZ meant that tiredness was a real challenge too- I still wasn’t 100% over my jet lag and being thrown into such a high pace and full on experience so soon meant I had to really work hard to stay awake throughout the day! It was a good way to force myself to get over my jet lag though, having so many fun and exciting activities to do throughout the day and then plenty of dishes, setting of tables and other general chores to do throughout the evening meant I had plenty to keep myself occupied.

Audit of Professional and Personal Skills and Understanding: When I critically reflect over my first week, I suggest that the key skills I have used and developed so far are as follows:

Personal and Social Skills- Due to the fact that the decision to go on camp was so last minute, it meant I didn’t know anyone and people didn’t know me, I had very little time to be told what to expect and I was considerably younger than the other adults involved in running the camp. Before learning Whakatane on Tuesday morning, I made the decision to go into the experience ready and prepared to make new friends, do anything and everything asked of me, push myself physically (I was still getting over jet-lag, no mean task!) and to learn as much as I possibly could regarding both my practice and as an individual. In terms of the SPR professional values and personal commitment this required integrity, skills in adaptability, flexibility, openness, courage and friendliness. As a perspective primary teacher who knows and understands the importance of collaborative practice and generally getting along with people, I think this was a justifiably valuable experience in many different ways.

A practical example of how the first week of placement has positively impacted my personal and professional attitude would be when I consider how much I appreciate having friends in the staff room. During my MA1 placement, I found it took time and considerable effort on my part to make any sort of connection with the people in the school. However I realise now value and importance of continuing to put in such effort, in whatever staff room I find myself in in the future. The benefits of having good relationships in the workplace goes beyond the simple bonus of making break times more enjoyable, but increases successful collaborative practice, the sharing of ideas and the general improvement of individual practitioners. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of getting to know those at St Josoph’s, I feel excited about the prospect and look forward to becoming more involved and deepening my understanding of what goes on at the school.

Information on Marea’s: http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/marae-maori-meeting-grounds/

 

Te Anga falls

Ruakuri Cave, 700 meters under ground

Placement Details

School Name: St Joseph’s RC Primary School.

Mission Statement: ”Faith, Excellence, Success, Laying the Foundations for Life” is an integral part of life at St Joseph’s. This is not only academic excellence but also striving for excellence in Catholic values.

Website: https://sjswhakatane.wordpress.com/

Justification for choosing this placement: For my Learning from Life placement I will be based in a small Roman Catholic School in Whakatane, New Zealand. St Joseph’s is a small school of around 280 pupils made up of years 1 through to 8. I’ll be working primarily in Room 7 (year 2/3) with Mrs Jackson. I was very keen to go abroad for my LfL placement for two key reasons- I love traveling and I hope to teach abroad after completing my probationary year and so I wanted to experience school life in another country. I am particularly keen to work in a school for this placement because I am dedicated to furthering my skills for future practice and keenly interested in how different education systems work. I find New Zealand extremely attractive- both the country and their curriculum and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out a little more about a local school!

At this point, it’s not 100% clear as to what my daily roles and responsibilities shall be. However what I do know is, I am fully committed to starting this placement with a completely open mind and a willingness to learn, a desire to be helpful and great enthusiasm to do well!

Learning from Life Placement Proposal Form

For the Learning from Life module, I have secured a placement in a primary school in Whakatane, New Zealand. Over the six weeks I will be working in a range of different classrooms to gain a broad overview and understanding of how life at St Josephs Primary School works. There will be the opportunity to observe a wide range of age groups, classes and teachers in action. As well as spending my initial time observing around the school, I will also be active in seeking opportunities to help and participate in classroom life- taking reading groups, performing lessons, helping with planning etc. Due to the time of year of the placement, there will also be an opportunity to attend a week-long activity camp. I think this will be a really interesting and valuable experience in terms of grasping important cultural elements of New Zealand’s education system.

I’ve chosen this setting because I find the learning ethos in New Zealand very attractive and I would love to experience it first hand. I am particularly interested in learning more about the importance of outdoor-learning and teacher autonomy in their education system. I love sport and I’m a big advocate of spending as much time outside as possible, something that I understand is emphasised in New Zealand and I would love to find out more about what this looks like in terms of a normal school day. As well as this, after graduating I would love to spend time working in New Zealand for a number of different reasons and I feel that this placement is a perfect opportunity to gain experience of what life as a teacher in New Zealand is like.

I feel the benefits of performing this placement abroad are many- learning more about a different culture, creating contacts in the teaching profession around the world, experiencing a completely different education system and travelling to an area of the world I’ve never been to before. In terms of what I can bring to the placement, I like to think that first and foremost my enthusiasm and commitment to learn and improve will be of benefit. After completing my first year professional placement, I feel I have a good understanding of what is required of me as a student teacher in terms of professionalism and dedication. I think my prior experience working with children from different cultures, for example when I taught for a year in Ghana and when I worked as a general councillor in America, will help me to feel comfortable and confident in a new and unknown setting.