During the winter holidays, I was fortunate enough to secure a two week work experience placement at my old high school in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, working in their Languages Department. When I was offered this opportunity, I immediately jumped at the idea because I had been considering the idea of going into teaching for some time and I had found out at the university’s careers fair that I would be required to spend 10 days working in a school before going onto a PGCE programme. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So once my DBS had arrived all clear, my placement was confirmed and I couldn’t wait to finish term and get started.
Although, I knew the school well, it did feel a bit strange to be back; especially since this time I wasn’t entering the school as a current pupil and instead of spending my break times on the playground, I spent them taking advantage of the free coffee in the staff room. The majority of lessons that I was either assisting in or teaching were Spanish. However, I was also asked to teach 8 hours worth of Portuguese GCSE & A-Level classes and observe several French classes. I spent most lessons going around the classroom and helping students with the work that their teacher had set them.
The lesson I probably enjoyed getting involved in the most was year 8 Spanish on my last Thursday at the school. I managed to get the students in the classroom and settled down quickly, explained what they were going to do on that day and led them in their lesson starter where we were looking at several Spanish sentences with different common mistakes and the students had to choose the correct sentences and try to explain why they were correct. As this particular task involved students knowing about certain grammar structures in Spanish, it gave me the opportunity to teach the students a little bit of Spanish grammar.
When I was teaching the Portuguese GCSE & A-Level, I had to plan the lessons & find resources myself. In fact, as there are a limited number of resources for Portuguese, the head of languages asked me to create some resources which the students said they felt would help them greatly when revising. As the students I was teaching came from Portuguese backgrounds, I concentrated more on exam technique, explaining what would be expected of them in each exam in detail as well as giving hints and pointers on how to get the highest grades & going through past papers. However, I did teach some grammar structures such as the subjunctive mood. In addition, after my first week of teaching Portuguese, I started to see the areas where students struggled the most and so I held an after school revision session on my last week where I went through these difficulties. Teaching the Portuguese GCSE & A-Level classes really did help give me a feel of what it is really like to be a teacher from deciding what to do in each lesson to worrying about whether or not the students will remember everything I’d taught them when the exam come around in the summer.
I took advantages of before, after & between lessons to speak to staff about what teaching is like. By doing so I was able to get a good idea of what it is like to be a teacher. I was given advice, strategies and pointers for a variety of challenges that teachers face such as being able to control a class, the best ways to get students settled down and straight onto work, what makes a good lesson, child protection and how to support students from a troubled home background. I found this information really useful.
I found the whole experience extremely beneficial and having the bursary scheme was really helpful in making sure I could get to and from the school as well as helping me successfully secure the 10 days work experience required before going onto a PGCE programme. Therefore, I would highly recommend this scheme to other students.
– Joao Victor Martins Pereira is a 1st year Hispanic Studies student.