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.