I have found the SAS experience very interesting and useful. Before SAS I had done one week work experience at my old school plus I worked at a school in Canada for a year before university. However this experience was very different because the school in Canada was a very small private school and Canada has a different education system. Therefore before the SAS my main experience of learning and teaching was from my old school – a medium sized all girls private school turned Academy. The SAS has taught me the importance of placements at different schools as every school has its own way of doing things and its own way of implementing the government specifications. I have learnt that there is a lot more to teaching than just knowing your subject and being able to control a classroom. I have also learnt a lot about different types of learners and the range of ability not just in a year group but in one class (even when the classes are streamed). At the beginning, when helping in classes, I found myself a) concentrating my attention on those who asked for help and b) giving students the vocabulary they wanted instead of encouraging them to look it up or think of another way to phrase it. As I gained more confident and as the students began to be more aware of my presence and therefore more receptive to me I found I was able to offer help to those who needed help (because I could spot them) and not just those who asked for help. I have learnt how to be creative in encouraging the students to work out the answers themselves by asking them prompt questions and reminding them of similar phrases which they can manipulate to say what they want to say.
I think that I will have the confidence to stand in front of 30 students and have good behaviour management when I become a teacher. I also hope that I will be able to form good relationships with my students.
I have learnt about myself that I am a fairly relaxed person who has the attitude “well, if you don’t want to do it, I can’t make you.” However there are certain things that have to be done and one of my hardest challenges during the SAS and will be during my teacher training is motivating students who refuse to do something. During the SAS experience I have found laziness more frustrating and challenging than weak ability.
In reference to my subject – French, the biggest challenge was adapting my vocabulary and my phrasing to fit what the students would understand and the way they had been taught. Through experience obviously I will learnt the set vocabulary lists of a particular textbook but during SAS I found it difficult knowing which words were likely to resonate with a student when they asked for a word for which there are many translations, for example ‘to shop’ you could translate as faire les cours/boutiques, faire du shopping, aller aux magasins etc. The teachers made the valid point that with weaker students it is better to give cognates (e.g. faire du shopping) as it will be easier for them to remember but for more able students you can give a wider range of vocabulary. I also found that when helping students to translate sentences I had to rewire my brain to think more simply and to think in set phrases and short sentences as opposed to when I speak French normally I tend to ramble connecting many sentences with complicated connectors such as ‘ce qui/que’ however this is a A2 level connector and therefore not appropriate in a year 10 class.
During my time at the school I was fortunate to be able to talk to a PGCE student and a Teach First student which meant I was able to ask them about the pros and cons of these 2 routes in to teaching. The PGCE student said that the pros of her course were that she has the time at university to read up on the latest research papers in education and to reflect on her observations from placements and write about them thus allowing her to reflect and improve. The only con to a PGCE course the student said was that you have to pay (but there is funding obviously). The Teach First student said that aside from the obvious such as being paid, the Master qualification and the business contacts the pros of her course were that you get to spend 2 years at the same school so you really get to know the students and follow their progress. However the cons were that as she has been teaching a nearly full timetable from the off she has felt very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work needed to be done just to get through the curriculum that she had no time to reflect. She therefore felt that a PGCE course trains you to be a ‘better’ teacher than Teach First. Personally I am very interested in Teach First however as it is very competitive I will also apply for PGCE courses.
Teaching is a challenge I am very much looking forward to!