Towards the end of last year, once I had returned from a European adventure, I decided that I really wanted to do secondary school teaching. I had been previously working at Papanui High School as the sport coordinator and it had always been in the back of my mind to take the next step. It felt like a big decision in the scope of my life so I turned down an opportunity to interview for a job at Sport Otago and committed to teaching, after my first section I am happy to say I am glad that I did. I was placed at Catholic Cathedral College which is a co-ed school in the middle of Christchurch and I was given the opportunity to teach Physical Education, Health and a class called Community Service. The placement lasted for seven weeks and it was a blast, although seven weeks goes by a lot quicker than one would think. In that respect I admire the way teachers go about their business and are willing (mostly) to help the students in any way possible. I was helped immensely by my associates and the PE department at the school, they were always willing to offer advice or answer any prickly questions I had.
v What I learnt about myself as a teacher?
I learnt that no matter how well a lesson is planned it never goes exactly to that plan, the weather might cause interference, the students might behave in different ways and the class may not be able to grasp the concept of what you want them to learn, therefore being able to think on your feet and make quick decisions is really important. I also learnt that no matter how hard it is sometimes, coming in each day and giving students a fresh slate is vital, there is no point holding grudges and letting that affect the learning environment of the classroom. I also found out through feedback that the kids really enjoyed my positive demeanour, they liked the fact that I smiled and laughed with them, I think that I am a pretty positive person anyway so it is really nice to hear that it had a positive impact on my students.
v What did I work on?
During the placement I made sure that I was well planned and knew what I was going to be teaching at least a week in advance. The holidays proved to be a useful time because I was given units to plan for the three weeks after. The holidays meant I could prepare detailed lesson plans for each period and go in on the first day back knowing that I had done the required preparation.
Before going on placement I knew that building positive relationships with my students was going to be a key area so in my first week at the school I made a concerted effort to get to know the kids and some interesting things about them.
I worked hard on improving my wait time, at the start of the placement I was a little too eager to get instructions out so we could move on to the next thing but to do this effectively I needed to wait for the class to be quiet and not talk over people. By the end of my placement I think I had improved a lot in this area.
Questioning my students was an area I wanted to improve on. My visiting lecturer and I discussed using deeper questioning with the students to encourage thinking, I was using questioning already but at a lower level and it is something that I will continue to work on!
I experimented with voice variation as well, especially when using the circle in the gym, I would bring my voice to a lower level in an almost calm fashion. On the other side of that I used a stern voice at times as well and found that to be very useful.
v What ways was I challenged during the placement?
Delivery – I found the students to be very active which I loved but when it came to learning theory they sometimes didn’t want to put in much effort.
Content – At times I struggled to match the content I was teaching with the level of the students. The more teaching I do the better I will become.
Motivation – At times I was challenged by students who seemed to never wanted to participate in class whether it was PE or Health. In PE it was harder to split them up but in health I could. I also discussed strategies with my associates to help manage these students so they would not be disrupting the rest of the class at the very least. I felt in a bit of a tricky situation because if I was a fulltime teacher at the school there are avenues I could follow to make a bigger commitment in the learning process for these students but at the very least I got to try out a few different management strategies to see what worked and what didn’t.
v What specific pedagogies did I experiment with?
Supportive learning environment – I tried to create an environment where opinions are valued and the students felt included.
Connections to prior learning
Advice for student teachers
Ø Spend the first week on placement learning the names of the students in your classroom and learning the units that the school is teaching at the time.
Ø Make a time to see your associate/s each week.
Ø It goes without saying but being open to feedback is really important.
Ø Help out with extracurricular activities which helps you get to know the students outside of the classroom.
Ø Seven weeks goes by really quickly so make sure you take in all that you can.
Ø Don’t be afraid to ask for resources to help plan. The schools should have the resources you need to plan lessons.
v Reflection on goals
At the start of the placement I wanted to build positive relationships with my students. I think that over the seven weeks I did do that successfully. This helped in the classroom because it felt as though I had the respect of the students; I found that by showing an interest in them they opened up to me, also helping out with sport allowed me to get to know the students at a different level.
Another goal of mine was to help out with sport which I have already mentioned. I also wanted to heed the advice of my associates and my visiting lecturer to improve my teaching; I feel as though I did take their advice on board and made adjustments to my style of teaching.
I had a great seven weeks on placement and I was lucky enough to have two very supportive associates who put their trust in me from the very start and were always willing to answer my questions. Getting the thank you cards from some of my classes on the last day was a highlight as were many of the fun lessons I shared with my classes. I can’t wait for the next placement but before that happens I will endeavour to make the most of my time at teachers college.