School experience will be a vital element of any teacher training course.
It will offer you the opportunity to put into practice some of the more theoretical aspects of the university course, to develop and demonstrate a good level of subject knowledge in the relevant curriculum areas, and to develop a practical understanding of pedagogy (the theoretical underpinning of classroom practice).
You will have a great deal of support during your school experience, from university tutors, class teachers, and mentors or ITE co-ordinators in the school, so you will not be alone in your endeavours. You will usually have serial days in school prior to a block of school experience, or an incremental build-up to a block of school experience, depending on the practices of your institution. This gives you time to find out about the children, the class, the school and the systems and routines they use.
During the school experience you will be expected to address all of the Professional Standards for teachers, and you will be assessed against these on an ongoing basis. It is important to note that these Standards will need to be consistently met by the end of the final school experience.
During the school experience, you will increasingly take responsibility for teaching and managing the whole class.
During the school experience you will increasingly take responsibility for teaching and managing the whole class. This is likely to start through a focus on teaching small groups and progress towards whole class teaching as your competency develops.
You will be expected to maintain a detailed and well-organised file which contains, for example, details of the school and the children in your class, medium-term and short-term planning for everything that you are going to teach, evaluations of taught sessions, evaluations of your own professional development based on the Standards, targets for improvement, detailed assessment of the children’s learning and specific profiles for a small number of children in a focus group.
Throughout your practice you will be expected to be exemplary in your approach and to address the following:
- be professional
- present yourself at all times as a positive role model to the children and treat them with respect (remember that you are in the role of the teacher, and not their friend!)
- remember, and demonstrate, the principles of equal opportunities and equality
- dress appropriately (find out whether the school has a particular dress code)
- behave in a manner commensurate with the profession when dealing with staff, other adults in the class, parents and children (think about your attitude, language, general demeanour)
- attend school regularly and punctually on the specified days (you will generally be expected to arrive at school at least 45 minutes before the start of lessons, and not to leave before the class teacher does)
- engage constructively with any advice or constructive feedback given to you by your tutor, teacher or mentor, and take an active role in improving your own practice
- take part in wider school activities, where possible (staff meetings, INSET, after extra-curricular clubs, sports matches, school drama productions etc.)
- be aware of the statutory frameworks relating to teachers’ responsibilities
- familiarise yourself with school policies and procedures and ensure that you follow them
- recognise that you are a ‘guest’ in the teacher’s class, and fit in with the normal routines and organisation, negotiating specific university-based tasks, timetable etc to accommodate the teacher and the school
- research, carefully plan and teach all of the lessons you are expected to (think about what you are going to teach and how you will teach - what questions might children ask? what might children have difficulty with? How can this be pre-empted?)
- ensure that you are well prepared for each lesson you teach (are resources set out in advance? do teaching assistants or other adults know what they are expected to do in the lesson? have you thought of support materials for those who might find the work hard, and extension activities for those who complete work early?)
- evaluate teaching sessions (what did the children learn? What could I have done better? what went well and why was it successful? what do I need to do in the next lesson)
- try to observe other teachers teaching (you can learn a lot from watching others)
- take part in wider class activities such as trips, swimming, special events
- be proactive in class management, and all activities relating to the class (display, planning, marking, playtime duty and generally supporting whatever the class teacher does)
- get to know staff around the school and interact with them (school staff appreciate a proactive, enthusiastic and smiling trainee who is keen to share new and creative ideas!)
- find out who is responsible for various areas, and what their role entails (e.g. the special needs co-ordinator, maths, science and literacy co-ordinators, the teacher governor etc)
In conclusion, entering the teaching profession and becoming a professional involves very rigorous training, some of which will take place in school. You will therefore be expected to demonstrate that you have the professional values, standards, subject knowledge and understanding that would be expected of a new teacher during their school experience. You will also need to demonstrate that you are thorough in your planning, assessment and evaluation activities and that you are able to manage a purposeful working environment in the classroom.
Most of all, you will need to demonstrate that you can participate fully as a member of staff during your placement and that you have the interests and learning of your pupils at the heart of everything you do.
Download ATL's free publication for students, Into the classroom, for further advice on how to get the most out of your studies.
Help and support
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