A Student Teacher’s Toolbox: The Essentials

This is the second post by Taylor Cornes, a first year student training to be a Primary School Teacher at the University of Worcester. We look forward to hearing what you think.

As a student teacher there is no such thing as being over-prepared for a placement at a Primary School, especially in the weeks leading up to block practice.

Four weeks in a school seems like a monumental period of time – a whole month – but it isn’t until you sit back and reflect on how fast a semester has flown by that you realise four weeks isn’t so long at all.

There is a saying that perfectly depicts the true meaning of organisation and preparing yourself for placement: “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. It is important to remember that you are on placement to get a feel for what a day in the life of a teacher really consists of (planning, preparing for each lesson, and occasionally plucking a new lesson plan out of thin air if the lesson you are teaching starts to swirl down the drain), documentation aside – you are allowed to have a good time! Finding the even balance between preparing for placement and completing assessments and assignments as a student teacher is the key to not cracking under pressure. The skills of being able to successfully prioritise and be organised are priceless and putting them to good use, not only in the classroom, will benefit you greatly. These skills are useful to add to your “Teacher’s Toolbox” and learning how to use them now throughout your training will enhance you as an individual.

In the days building up to placement, it is completely normal to feel anxious and potentially a little bit scared. The question “How can I get the children to like me?” might run through your mind. Although in professional terms bribes are not recommended, it is very rare that you will come across a child who doesn’t like stickers or stamps on their work. Now, I’m not saying turn up to placement and give out countless stamps and stickers like they’re going out of fashion, but it is a nice idea to perhaps set certain children some goals i.e. being polite if they’re not usually courteous, or working extra hard at their handwriting if their work often needs decoding. Praising children who go the extra mile will show them that you do notice their efforts – no matter how small – and this could encourage them to further develop their skills you have identified. I would strongly advise getting some stickers and stamps and adding them to your “Teacher’s Toolbox” (personalised stickers are brilliant and you might find some children working extra hard in order to get one of “Miss Cornes’ special stickers”).

It has been said that Primary School Teachers have the best imaginations, so it is always best to keep your eyes peeled when out and about for various books and activities that you can add to your toolbox for future reference.

Generally speaking, children of a Primary School age love stories and I think that the majority of people who can remember ‘story time’ will agree that there is nothing worse than being read the same story over and over again. When shopping, I always look for appropriate but unusual books that could engage a class and that they are unlikely to have heard before – the element of the children not knowing what comes next in the story can also work to your advantage when planning future lessons with cross-curricular links!

My advice would be to firstly get a box in order to store the resources that you start to accumulate, and most importantly keep on the lookout wherever you go for items that could be of use to you if not now but in the future; after all, it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!
Taylor Cornes February 2015

Click here for details of our newly-updated book Your Primary School-based Experience: A Guide to Outstanding Placements by Catriona Robinson, Branwen Bingle and Colin Howard.

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