BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS student, Ben, is half way through his second-year of course and recently began a block teaching placement. We caught up with him to get an insight into the life of a trainee teacher on placement.
“This year I’ve been placed at a village primary school in North Warwickshire. I’m working with a Year 2 class, which is part of Key Stage 1. Last year I was in a Year 3 class (part of Key Stage 2) in a larger inner-city school, so it’s provided me with a real contrast of experience as well as ensuring I get the experience needed of both Key Stages in order to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Preparation and planning for school experience
“Before we start teaching at our placement schools, we get time for ‘preparation and planning for school experience’ (PPSE). This is where we get to know the school and our class. This time can be used observing your class teacher and immersing yourself in all aspects of wider school life. Like starting anywhere new, you’re always quite nervous but the staff in my school were welcoming and very supportive. In fact, I was able to go into lots of other classes and watch other teachers teach as well! I’ve also been involved in staff training, moderation and helping run our class assembly. Most importantly, this time allowed me to build up a relationship with the children and get to know their abilities and interests. I felt very prepared starting this placement compared to my first year. My first year was my first real teaching practice, so I was very nervous and not as proactive as I have been this time but this is something you learn from experience!
“Towards the end of PPSE, you meet your University Tutor (a member of staff assigned to support you on placement). When meeting my tutor, we discussed my PPSE and my progress so far as well as the targets I wished to work towards. I reviewed these targets with my class teachers on a weekly basis and then my mentor reviewed them with me half way through the placement. Our targets align with the Teacher Standards, which is what we are judged against in order to gain QTS. My University Tutor, who was also my tutor last year so knows about my prior experiences, also visited me at school to observe a lesson with my mentor.
“On the first day in school after February half term I felt refreshed and raring to go! During the week I taught 40% of the timetable, which equated to two lessons a day. I focused on foundation curriculum subjects – Art, Music, RE, History and PSHE – as well as teaching Science. This was the first time I taught Music and I hadn’t seen it taught during my first year so I was very anxious about teaching something new. However, with the support of my class teachers, the lessons went well, and I really looked forward to teaching my next music lesson! I also met with my mentor and class teacher to discuss my progress so far and plan the week ahead. This was really useful providing me with the opportunity to reflect and gain feedback.
“During the second week I took on teaching phonics alongside the subjects I taught in week one, which brought me to teaching 50% of the timetable. Phonics is a key part of the curriculum in Key Stage 1 but, due to the great activities provided by the BCU Primary English team, I felt very prepared and confident in implementing what I had learnt. During this week it was World Book Day and the school decided to do something different. Rather than celebrating just on that one day, the English Leader arranged activities over the course of the week, including storytelling to another class, dance workshops retelling a story and a reading cafe. I had much fun browsing the books in the reading café building up ideas for future lessons and also adding some titles to my shopping list!
“We also started a new class topic about the African country, Malawi. My placement school is part of a local cluster of schools which has links with Malawian schools. I made a parcel full of photographs from the school in Malawi and hooked the children in by telling them this had been posted to us. The children enjoyed using maps, atlases and iPads to locate the country and find out more about it. We started to consider using the photographs to identify similarities and differences between Malawi and the UK, building upon their previous topic’s work.
“The third week of placement was the mid-point of my time here (excluding PPSE time) and I added teaching English to my timetable. Our class were focusing on Roald Dahl texts as part of their Literacy learning and looking at George’s Marvellous Medicine during this week. To look at writing instructions, I brought in some fairy cakes for pupils to decorate using basic instructions, then we thought about how we’d improve the instructions using adverbs of time and imperative verbs. To check the instructions worked, we acted out each step to help us make changes. In the second lesson we made our own Marvellous Medicine! Children worked in pairs and planned out their instructions using a planning sheet. Providing such active learning opportunities helps children produce a much better quality of writing that is relevant and realistic because they can relate to it. I was observed teaching this lesson which can be quite nerve-wracking, but the lesson went really well and my mentor was very complimentary! However, they are part of the learning experience as a trainee teacher. During my course so far, I’ve learnt that, if it goes completely wrong, that’s okay; what’s more important is to reflect and learn from feedback so you know what you’re going to do differently next time. It’s also a great for a really experienced, and often senior, teacher to observe you as you don’t get the opportunity as often once you’re qualified. All of my observations have been supportive, pleasant experiences.
Assessing my progress
“Halfway through the placement, my school completed a meeting where we reviewed my progress so far against the Teacher Standards. The University has implemented changes in order to support our workload in line with government policy. So, instead of collecting lots of paper-based evidence, the focus is now on professional discussions with our mentor. We talked about my progress to date and the feedback my class teacher had provided to my mentor, then looked at potential targets. It was an incredibly positive experience and I was really pleased with the feedback and grade I was given. Working in this new way was quite daunting at first but it has enabled me to concentrate on planning and delivering lessons rather than collecting lots of evidence. In addition, I’ve had great opportunities to engage with staff training and professional development during this placement so far. This has included topics such as behaviour management, computing, music and subject leadership, which will be particularly useful for my ‘subjects in action’ module when I return to university work in May.”
Want to find out more?
We spoke to Primary Education student, Bethany, to get the lowdown on what a typical day on placement is really like.