So, my first placement as a trainee teacher begins! Let me start by saying that I’ve actually had two naps since I’ve got back from the primary school, so exhausted as I was!
As it would not be professional to comment on the school, pupils or teachers I am working with, no real names will be used, however, if you know who I am, and which school I am in, it will be fairly easy to guess who is who. But I trust that you will be professional and not disclose any such information.
Anywho. I shall start by giving some information. It is a veryvery new school, having only started this September, and is very focused on the arts and does not follow the National Curriculum, so from that point of view this placement will be interesting, as we, as trainee teachers, will see what lessons work, and which ones do not. In terms of our assignment however, this placement is decidedly unhelpful, as a significant emphasis on the NC is needed…. However, I am sure the six of us will draw very interesting and useful ideas from our two weeks in this school, and will benefit enormously. I have been placed in the year 2 class, which is an age group I have not yet worked with.
So. At 7:20 this morning, I met up with another girl in my uni building and walked with her to the designated meeting place for another three students, and then continued on our way through the town centre to the school, which is currently a building site. The playground is across the road, and the staff room up the street. The school currently consists of two studio rooms; one for Reception, and the other for year 1 and 2, however I am not certain how long this arrangement will last, as across the road, some more buildings are being built. I can only assume that as soon as they have finished, the children and staff will transfer into them, making the learning environment much improved.
After signing in at 8, (we are 15 minutes early as a result of our eagerness to make a good impression) we are met by the Headteacher who gives us a short introduction to the school and expresses how delighted they are to have us. This is a very welcome statement, as one of my key worries was that I would get in the way, and be an obstacle to the running of the day. The headteacher (who looks remarkably like Johnny Depp) also mentions that we are essential as we can pick up on things that are both good about the classes, and bad, as as they are just starting up, there may be things which have been overlooked. Extra pairs of eyes are useful at this stage of development into a fully functional school.
There are several remarkable things about this particular institution, and one is the use of technology. There are ipads everywhere, which the children are using with great ease, skill and dexterity (one boy was keen to show me a video of himself he had just created) to play educational games – mostly a music game. The other is that parents are welcomed into the classroom at the beginning of the day, to settle their children into the class and hang up bags and coats. This is a good way of involving them into the school, and not alienating essential support. The school also have some parent volunteers who come in during the day to help out, as an extra pair of hands; essential especially at this time when routines have not yet been implemented properly.
Once all the children have been registered, Johnny Depp led an assembly in the classroom about changes in the school, changes in the children, and just general changes in the world around them, which was a lovely way of including children from different countries and cultures (one child is from Brazil, and another can speak Polish. This is one area of interest for me so I intend on learning more about the language backgrounds of these children).
The first activity of the day was handwriting. Year 2 and year 1 were split up and did age appropriate letters. One thing I will say about the set up of the room is that I do not believe that it is very conductive to learning, as both groups were distracted by each other, as there is no wall separating the year groups. Having the two years together is a lovely way of getting children to mix, however in terms of concentration and learning, not so much. I noticed that many children were misbehaved and very fidgety, perhaps because they could not hear their teacher over the noise of the other children. Another thing I noticed was that the teachers had a hard time keeping the children focused, or even getting them to do what they were asked to. I wonder whether the use of first names for the teachers has an effect on respect. Perhaps it makes me old fashioned and behind times, however I would feel more in control, and in charge if my class called me Miss P, instead of my first name. My first name will be, I hope, kept separate from my working life when I (fingers crossed) graduate in three years. I feel that that will help me ‘play the part’ of being a teacher better. There are some who will say (a certain lecturer for example) that being called ‘mrs’ or ‘miss’ or ‘mr’ harks back to the Victorian age, and that if you rely on that for gaining the respect of your class, then you are doing it wrong. I see absolutely no problem with that being a key part of your classroom management, as long as you are acting in a way that deserves respect. (woops went off on a bit of a tangent there!!!)
Anyway, back to handwriting. The year 2s were doing lines of ‘ed’ and ‘eg’, in joined up writing. I went around to one table and stopped there as several children were having major trouble with doing them. I think I need more practise with the special lined paper as I had trouble helping them do the letters correctly, however I felt a lot of pride as Sarah (as above) finally did an ‘ed’ on her own, without me even having to say ‘across, up and round and down and over and back the other way and up up up and down down down’ (you try explaining how to correctly write an ‘e’ and a ‘d’!!!)
The second part of the day was a phonics lesson. The year 2s were doing the ‘ee’ sound like in ‘cheese’, and were sat on the carpet in front of the tv screen, where a programme called ‘Phonicsbug’ was playing. This included a video of different things with the ‘ee’ sound and spelling in, for example ‘eel’, ‘sheep’, ‘tree’, and then the spellings of them and the segmenting and blending of them, for example ‘ee-l’, ‘eel’; ‘t-r-ee’, ‘tree’. I think that the teacher rushed through the programme a little too quickly, I would have got children to stand up and segment and blend the words individually before and after the video did. Not many children were joining in either. The year ones were doing split vowel digraphs ( I think that is correct!!) so the ‘ee’ sound in ‘Swede’, and sound buttons with robot arms (not sure how that worked as I was trying to observe both lessons at the same time, but they seemed more engaged than the year 2s)
After a quick break time, there was story time! And it was ‘The Ginger Bread Man’. The class were very fidgety once more, which was a shame (however I think this may just have been a particularly bad Monday, the teachers seemed rather unused to such activity from their children!). The activity that followed was stressful to say the least. I have never taken a group of children on my own, in an educational school setting. I have done it in a dance lesson completely successfully. I have never had to fight for anyone’s attention, as it is already focused on me. However. This time, I was give at least 10 children to think up actions for three pages of ‘The Gingerbread Man’, draw out an action map of them and then memorise them. I’m not even sure that this activity makes sense, but that is as well as I am going to describe it. To make matters worse, I was given a rather rowdy group, and to top it off, I was on the stage, with no tables to lean on! My partner was with me to help me, and she spent time with the ones who were slightly behind, while I took the group as a whole. When discussing it later with her, she seemed surprised that this was my first time taking a group of children, so I will take this as a good thing! While I was reading out the pages of the story, the children were creeping closer and closer to me, fiddling with my hair and my knees, very sweet, but slightly claustrophobic at the same time!
After this activity (we have to do the same thing tomorrow, wish me luck!!) there was another story (this time Dr Seuss) and then lunchtime. This i greeted with much enthusiasm. I was so shattered by this point that by the time we got into the staff room, I was all but ready for a nap! Unfortunately, we were on playground duty, so we made our way over to the play area, and stood in the rain, sorting out various incidents. I was patted on the bottom by two boys who wanted my attention (a rather original way I must say!) as they had been pushed over, but I think we did really well and managed to avoid any major incidents. Something I need to mention is the lack of uniform. There is a sort of red over shirt with the school logo on, but it does not seem to be compulsory, so the children wear whatever they feel like wearing. I was talking to one of the mothers and she said that as they generally come home covered in paint and glue and things, she dresses her daughter in older clothes, or clothes which can be spared. This is cheaper than having to buy a new skirt or jumper every time the child comes home with acrylic paint on them!
After lunchtime (ooh I forgot, the school have a chef who makes the food in the classroom, and serves it at the tables for the school dinners! and he made bread and gave it out at the end of the day to the children going home), there was a singing session, of ‘let it be’, led by one of the teaching assistants (who’s specialism is music and singing. Most of the staff have amazing creative skills; one is a photographer, and one has a background in ceramics!) and I was asked to guillotine paper, which was a mistake; not one was the same size!!! horrific. I definitely need to master this skill!
Afterwards, however, I helped at the painting table, which was very fun! They had previously painted a piece of cardboard white, and now were drawing lines and paths on them to make maps. So we had three children at a time doing painting, making sure none got on their clothes, and making sure they were sticking to their tasks. I’m not 100% sure what the others in the class were doing as making sure a child doesnt stab your new shirt with acrylic paint is a pretty time consuming task!
After another Dr Seuss book, it was hometime! I held the door open for the lines of children, and one girl on her way out said to me ‘thanks for coming in today!’ which I thought was sweet! I have also come back to my flat with a present from another little girl; a sheet of paper with various super heroes on (incredible hulk, spiderman, batman…) with the instructions to give it to my mum for christmas (sorry mum if you’re reading, just ruined your surprise now! )
The school day here doesnt finish till quarter to four, and as our teachers had to dash off, we were able to leave for 4, however for the next weeks, I imagine we will have to stay a lot later, especially if we are going to have a debriefing meeting at some point and I am also planning to stay behind for after school clubs. I also have numerous post it notes with questions to ask, so I am definitely going to make the most of this placement, even though when I came back from it this afternoon, all I could do was lie in bed eating coconut macaroons. I feel like being a teacher is not going to be good for my waistline!!