Soon, trainees everywhere will be making their steps into new schools for new placements. It can be daunting, scary and thrilling all at the same time. All of mine were so different in terms of scope, demographic and age group and they were all excellent learning experiences. These are my top tips for making the most of them:
1. Get your key information
I was told by my uni to the there at 7:15 on the first day. Not a soul in sight. The head arrived about 20minutes later asking what on earth I was doing there! Instead of making a good impression I felt like a wally. Make contact first if possible and set up that relationship with the school straight away. When I’ve had students in I’ve always been more impressed by the ones that ask questions before rather than turning up on the morning with no idea what’s coming up.
2. Watch, watch and then watch some more.
The first few weeks are observation based. Watch the teacher like a hawk. You’ll need to adopt and use the strategies they have in place as far as possible. What cues do they use? What routines do they have? How do they move children from place to place? How do they set up the room ready to go? Most of those things, teachers do without thinking and may not explain them to you so get a sense of it yourself and talk it through with the teacher. They may not have even realised you’re doing it.
3. Ask questions
The teacher you’re working with will be expecting questions. Don’t be scared of asking them, even if they seem silly to you. This is learning experience, and you need to treat it as such. Of course you are anxious to impress and show you can teach, but asking questions will make it all the easier to do that. Your tutor and mentor is there to go through things with you – they are there to help you. Don’t worry about taking up their time, they signed up to work with you so use their experience as much as you can. Go through your plans, sound people out with your ideas, get their opinion over whether they think it will work or not. How might they tweak it?
4. You won’t get it right all the time
Some lessons will be great, some will be terrible. That’s why you’re there. It happens to experienced teacher so it’s bound to happen to you as well. Don’t feel down, you won’t have ruined a child’s education with that one lesson, almost everything is fixable. The whole point of this is that it is a learning experience so use it like that. Talk it though, get opinion on what went wrong and what went right. Take the successes and bank them, but remember the same thing doesn’t work every time. This time is the time to find out what kind of teacher you are so use it for that. No one will be expecting you to be a fully functional class teacher – everyone is there to help you not hinder you.
5. Enjoy it
It’s a brilliant time when out on practice. I still remember the schools and kids from when I went out and they impact they had on me. The development you make as a teacher in the space of 4-8 weeks is huge. You’ll almost certainly be doing a better job then you give yourself credit for, so enjoy being with the kids, enjoy making staff relationships and enjoy learning.