What classroom experience did you gain before undertaking your initial teacher training course?
I had the opportunity to partake in a teaching placement at an inner-city London secondary school, in the final year of my Mathematics Degree. The module was called the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme and was worth 30 credits. I was required to go into the school once a week for a period of 15 weeks. The main goal of the placement was to allow me to gain valuable transferable skills in addition to giving me first hand teaching experience.
I was assigned a mentor at the school who I was meant to shadow for the duration of the placement. Initially she wanted me to familiarise myself with how things were run at the school therefore I started off by observing how lessons were being taught.
In the following weeks I was expected to start interacting with and helping students; my role was like that of a Teaching Assistant. To fulfil my role properly I started to prepare beforehand by asking for the lesson plan and material in advance. This worked particularly well until I was put into a different classroom than originally planned. I doubted myself in this situation, but I decided to focus on helping students break down the problems. This made me realise that the role of a Maths Teacher is not in giving pupils the answer or even knowing the answer, it's giving them the tools to be able to break down the problem and find the solution themselves.
At times helping in the classroom became challenging because the students had not built a relationship with me, so they preferred receiving help from their teacher. I had to be patient with both myself and the students. I was trying to rush the process of cultivating meaningful relationships with them.
As I progressed through the placement I became responsible for planning and delivering some starters then eventually lessons for pupils from Year 7 to 11. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I also conducted lessons via Microsoft teams - this taught me how to adapt my teaching style for virtual lessons. At the start of my placement I struggled to find different ways of explaining a concept. I quickly realised that I was trying to explain things with the use of examples because that is the way that I learn; however, this did not suit all the students' learning styles. I then understood that I needed a way to teach auditory, visual, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic learners simultaneously. With some guidance from my mentor, I learnt how to incorporate multiple learning techniques into my lesson plans to cater to everyone in the classroom. This included colour coding and asking for students’ participation, which worked particularly well during virtual lessons.
The placement showed me how enjoyable I found teaching and was the main determining factor in me deciding to pursue it as a career. I felt as though I was doing something purposeful and I realised the positive impact that my teachers throughout my schooling had on my life. They were able to cultivate my potential and help me to achieve my goals. The structure they provided in the classroom along with their enthusiasm for learning aided my growth. I hope to create a similar environment for the next generation; one that is conducive to learning.
By Dzifa Gazo
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