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