Over the past two weeks, I have been volunteering at a local secondary school to gain experience as an English Teaching Assistant. I have wanted to step into the classroom for along time, to see whether I would enjoy being in an educational environment and consider it as a career option. I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and, if it continues to prove difficult to break into the arts, I will definitely consider going to get my PGCE.
Here’s a letter that I wrote to the Head of English on the day I finished my placement. He wanted to hear about my experience and I wanted to give him my thanks:
Firstly, thanks for having me. All of you were so friendly and accommodating; I got to see a wide range of classes, from lower ability year 7s to high ability year 11s, and all of you were happy to talk to me (in detail) about the positive and challenging aspects of teaching each group. Even though I only spent 6 days with you, I feel that I have gained a significant amount of classroom experience, as well as a lot of honest and valuable advice about entering the teaching profession.
I have mentioned to most of you that, while I have always wanted to ‘try my hand’ at teaching, I have also been quite apprehensive about working in a classroom environment. I thought that being an English teacher would involve a lot of behaviour management and not a lot of class discussion, but I found that it’s the opposite. For every child who wants to misbehave, there are many more who want to learn, and you have all made me realise that bad behaviour can be counteracted by making the classroom a more engaging place to be.
I was inspired by your teaching styles, which, although very different, are all equally dynamic. I got a real sense that you’re not only all excellent teachers, but you’re also extremely dedicated and passionate about the children’s futures. As a department, this makes you incredibly strong. If I ever do become a teacher, I would hope to be part of a team that shows your level of support and quality.
Here’s a few of my favourite things:
– The tasks that J sets for each lesson were imaginative and engaging, and her classroom is an encouraging environment where pupils constantly want to share their work (especially those lovely year 7s).
– D has a great relationship with the children, embodying the idea that ‘practice makes perfect’. She makes sure the students know it’s okay to make mistakes and then guides them to the correct answer/interpretation.
– K’s literature and life lessons were truly inspiring, sharing his passion for the written word, while also putting the texts into a contemporary context.
– B, B, and J, I’ve always valued you as teachers, but now I’ve seen behind the scenes (and just how much work you do), I have a new-found admiration for you!
I particularly enjoyed walking around the classroom when group/individual work was set and helping students who were either stuck or had fallen off task. I had a lot of insightful and interesting discussions with the children in these moments, and I really felt like I was playing a key part in their learning. On many occasions, I found that the children only needed a little push towards discovering a greater idea, and when they did realise it, it was very rewarding. Today, for example, a year 8 student was creating an alternative book cover for Anita and Me. He told me that he wanted to put a lock on the cover and when I asked why he said, ‘because it will look like a diary’. I asked him what else it might show about the book and he said, ‘how the lives that people live are hard to escape, or locked down’. Additionally, last week, in a creative writing task, I was trying to encourage one student to create a metaphor about the gong going off in The Hunger Games. I asked her what happened when the gong went off and she said, ‘it was loud and made you jump’. I asked her what else is loud and makes you jump, and she said, ‘an unexpected church bell chiming’.
I’m so pleased that I came to do work experience with you over the past two weeks, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have gained some valuable skills. You were all happy to involve me in your lessons, especially when you felt it played to my strengths (a special thanks to K, who let me teach She Walks in Beauty to the year 10s, which I absolutely loved doing). I hope that I was a welcome (and helpful) addition to the department during my time there, I have learnt so much from you all.
Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.
Rebecca (Miss Moore)