“He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” ~ Richard Henry Dann
After a seemingly endless summer, it’s almost time for me to get stuck into second year!
With that in mind, I thought that this is a good time for me to reflect on the last year, and think about what I want to achieve and get from MA2.
Thinking back (MA1)
My first year at university was an absolutely fantastic experience. I met lots of new people and started to find my feet in the new academic setting. I worked hard to complete essays and assignments, read about all sorts of theories and strategies, attended lectures and shared via social media. Despite all of that, I think that the most challenging and rewarding experience of the whole year was my first teaching placement.
It’s impossible to know what to expect when you go into a school as a student teacher. What will the school be like? What kind of resources will they have? Will my teacher be supportive? Will I get on with the class? Am I ready for this?? I was additionally nervous because I was going into a P5 class – a big step from my comfort zone in the Early Years. Luckily, during my observation weeks I quickly found that my class teacher was incredibly patient and supportive, and the class (though a bit hyper and excitable) were a fantastic bunch of children.
So… What went well?
Aspects of this first placement that I felt were successful include:
Building relationships with the pupils:
My placement school placed high importance on supporting the whole child while considering their individual situations and needs. During placement, I really enjoyed spending time with each child finding out about what they enjoy and their current abilities. I attempted to use the little details that I found out in conversations and lessons; ensuring that the children knew that I had listened to them (for example, asking a child how they got on at their first Karate lesson the night before).
As I got to know the children, I also began to think about ways in which I could support them during teaching and learning. As well as more formal differentiation and support strategies, I also thought about the children who were perhaps a little shy to contribute their ideas, and so planned more opportunities for partner talk or thinking time to support them.
Working with others:
During my placement, I had the opportunity to work with many talented and passionate individuals. I worked closely with my class teacher, discussing all aspects of my practice as well as the children’s needs and development. I also worked with other teachers in the school and witnessed how the team works together to support each other. An example of this were the staff in the nurture room, who worked closely with some children in the school. I observed my class teacher speaking and sharing with these staff regularly in order to support the pupils in the best way possible. I witnessed staff sharing teaching ideas and providing guidance to each other, and I became part of this – sharing the resources which I had put together for a lesson with another class.
I was inspired by the commitment of all staff within the school. Almost every teacher was involved in some sort of extra curricular club – either at lunch time or after school. I tried to become a part of this by helping at art club on a Wednesday at lunch time, attempting to plan a few simple activities. If the placement had been longer then I would have liked to become more involved in this, planning more interesting and exciting activities which could be completed over a few weeks.
Planning engaging and interesting lessons:
This was perhaps my favourite part of the whole experience. I thoroughly enjoyed planning for lessons which would grab the children’s interests and engage them with various learning activities. I worked hard to prepare resources and experiences which involved practical, active learning, discussion, investigation and times for group/pair/individual work.
My favourite lesson was entitled ‘Character Detectives’ and was developed from an idea which I’d come across online. This lesson involved the children working in their tables groups to decipher clues to provide them with information about a character. Each table had a box with items inside such as fake text messages, family photographs, plane tickets, junk food wrappers… Once the children had looked at all of their clues and discussed together the meaning behind each one, they were then required to write a paragraph about that character. I felt that this lesson was very successful as the children were engaged and had lots of imaginative and creative ideas. I had made sure to place the focus of the lesson onto the discussion parts, as I have read that the best creative writing happens when children have had the time to talk through their ideas.
Delivering this lesson has given me some insight into the type of classroom that I hope to have in the future. I want to encourage the type of environment where children can share and explore ideas together, being creative and supportive of each other.
Areas for development
There were many challenges for me during this first placement. I felt that there was a lot to learn and at times it felt a little overwhelming. I quickly learned to start using my time wisely and making the most of any free moment at school.
Timing and Pacing:
I knew that this would be a challenge when I began this placement, as I am used to working in
nursery settings where children have the whole day to work on activities and skills. In a primary school however, this is not the case – and lessons occur in very short blocks! I found that I regularly had to change my plans, particularly my plenaries due to a lack of time at the end of the lesson. This also affected my pacing in terms of the ‘teaching’ sections of my lessons, and I found that an over-awareness of time caused me to rush.
I tried a few different methods to address this issue such as writing key times onto my plan and online timers, however this continues to be an area that I will work in in future placements. I hope that through experience, I will be able to better judge how long each part of the lesson will take.
Classroom and behaviour management:
Every class in every school has different behaviour challenges to deal with and my placement class was no different. There were a few challenging characters, but mostly the class were just a little excitable and hyper.
I worked hard throughout my time in the class to develop my ability to manage behaviour, using the strategies in place at the school. Some of the methods which I found effective were non-verbal gestures and cues, warnings and positive praise. My class teacher advised me to develop my use of tone of voice to make it very clear when I am being serious/ stern.
Throughout my placement, I was supported, advised and encouraged by my class teacher and my university tutor. I feel that I learned so much which I can take away and use to positively influence my next teaching placement.
Looking forward (MA2)
I have set the following goals for MA2:
Continue to get involved in extra activities and opportunities (beginning with being a ‘buddy’ for the new MA1’s.)