Taylor Cornes, a first year teaching student at the University of Worcester talks about her first primary placement.
Just before Easter I finished my first four week block practice in a local Primary School. I had previously attended the same school in the same class before Christmas for my Autumn serial days but for some reason I was still extremely nervous prior to starting my block practice. I had a briefing with my School Experience Tutor which left me feeling overwhelmed because of the amount of work I had to do. We were all given a booklet which outlines what was expected of us each week and, being the absolute over-planner that I am, I flicked to the final week page and saw that I was expected to teach 2-3 whole class lessons a day! As I had only taught one half of a phonics lesson before to a group of 10, to say I was feeling scared, nervous and apprehensive would’ve been a huge oversight.
The first day of my block practice seemed to arrive much quicker than I’d hoped and I was still feeling somewhat underprepared but excited to see the lovely Year 1 class and their equally lovely teacher and teaching assistant again. My first week was mainly based around filling out forms and observing the teacher but I still had tremendous amounts of fun helping small groups and listening to readers. Looking back, my first week flew by and by the second week I was fully in the swing of how each day ran and the responsibilities and routines of the teachers. My second week was mainly about exploring ideas and topics that the teacher was comfortable with myself and my paired placement partner to teach. During these discussions we noted down the ideas we had and started to prepare lesson plans based on these that we could teach in the third and fourth weeks. My third week mainly consisted of co-planning and co-teaching which suited me well as the idea of teaching a whole lesson to a whole class completely individually still filled me with dread, but as each day went by I gained a lot more confidence.
A particular lesson that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching on my own was phonics to the high ability group, solely because of the enthusiasm and determination of all the children. I structured my lessons the same as the class teacher as I didn’t want a different layout of the lesson to distract from the learning. I’d always conclude my phonics lesson with a “Teacher Vs. Class” game which resulted in large amounts of competitiveness from the children. I’d write an alien word onto a small whiteboard and each child would have to correctly say it using their phonetic knowledge in order to get a point. My most fond memory of teaching phonics was when the children were being slightly chatty and making more noise than usual (probably due to their rumbling tummies in anticipation for lunchtime which always followed after phonics). I was thinking of ways to quieten the children down and one child said “Miss Cornes, I have a new rule you could use. Whenever you have to stop us for talking or making noise, you can get a point and we will lose one”. This was definitely one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments and a rule that I incorporated into the future phonics lessons I taught.
Almost in an instant the fourth and final week had arrived and I was definitely feeling emotional as I didn’t want to say goodbye just yet. My placement partner and I had previously planned the fourth week and called it ‘Space Week’. Through total coincidence or some greater force, a solar eclipse was due on the final Friday morning of placement so it made our final week lesson plans even more relevant. During the final week I taught an array of whole class lessons individually and I thoroughly enjoyed myself! A requirement of the block practice was to be formally observed by my School Experience Tutor, the idea of it made me shake with nerves. I barely slept a wink the night before my observation and my parents had to tread on eggshells around me as the stress made me snappy and irritable. Nevertheless, the lesson couldn’t have gone any better in my eyes and I knew that I’d put all of my efforts into teaching my half of the lesson and thankfully I passed!
I really did have the most exceptional time on placement and the party the teachers threw for myself, my partner and the children on the final Friday afternoon brought a tear to my eye. I had learnt so much from the teacher and the children and I have noted down some of the lessons the teacher taught so I can use them in the future. All members of staff at the school were so warm, welcoming and encouraging and it filled me with so much pride when the class teacher said she liked one of my lessons so much that she was going to teach it in the future. It’s sad that my chances of being back at the same school next year are slim, but in life we all need to move on at some point so I am fortunate so have had the best time with memories that I will treasure forever.
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.