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.

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