Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What do you need to be observing during your school experience?

The most important part of your application is the experience you need to gain.  You may be a teaching assistant, so have this in abundance, but if you aren't you will need to get some relevant experience in a primary school.  The minimum for most Universities is about 10 days (2 weeks), but some may ask for more.  Note that this is a minimum, they are often looking for a lot more than 2 weeks, they want to see your commitment and that you know for sure this is the right career for you!

I had 5 full weeks in primary schools, 4 weeks at a summer school, I'm a Girl Guide leader and have continued on at one of the schools for two days a week.  If you have a couple of weeks and have been given an interview I would recommend mentioning that you are making time for additional experience (this is good if you have a full time job and need to work it around that.  This will show you are actively wanting to gain more experience.

So what do you need to be doing during the experience?

You need to be watching the teacher, if you can try and get experience with a couple of different teachers, so you can compare their teaching styles and see what works well and what doesn't.  I remember hearing one lady who went for a PGCE the first time around and she spent an enjoyable two weeks with the children but didn't observe the teacher at all!

Watch how a teacher speaks to the children, how they start and end the day, how they calm the children down or how they get the class to quieten down.  See how they structure a lesson and observe different lesson styles where they are working independently, in groups or as a whole class.  Look at behaviour management techniques and how they may stop behaviour before it gets too far, this may include how they time manage so there's little time for children to get rowdy in-between lessons or tasks.

There's so much to observe and it's a good idea to watch how teaching assistants techniques differ to a teachers, how substitute teachers work, NQT's, student teachers, they will all work differently and you will begin to see what works well and what doesn't.  I took a notebook along and jotted down everything in my lunch break and at the end of they day, so you don't forget anything!

I also took a lot of time to get to know the teachers I worked with, I helped them after school if they needed anything doing, such as marking books or redoing a display.  This gave me a bit of time to ask them a few questions, they are busy people though so just ask them a few each night and you will soon have answers to all of your questions.  Don't bombard them!

If you have the chance to help at any after school clubs or at any events then I would highly recommend you do this, it will show you are happy to go the extra mile!  I helped out on several school trips as well as an after school Halloween disco where the teacher was on her own so she really appreciated the extra help.

Next up will be some questions you should definitely ask and some answers that I found to be helpful.

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