What felt like weeks was only 21 days but it was the most intense of times! Especially when I had to catch up on study on the weekend!! Full time working and studying is way too much. I am actually catching up and starting a new assignment today so I have to say I am grateful for the family for keeping dinner on the table that was one less thing to worry about after I came home from my meetings or time with the kids. Every day I had a new story of what was happening at school! Such an amazing experience and here is my critical reflection because as teachers – we love to reflect on everything 😀
I have learned that teaching in a primary classroom is a very demanding position requiring you to juggle multiple roles of not just the teacher but the manager of the classroom and the mediator of the children. Plus there are the meetings after work that require reflection on teaching practices within the Professional Learning Community to help guide the practice and focus on areas of teaching for the students. This practicum has changed my professional approach to gaining an even greater respect for teachers and all of the work they do to teach students. The behind the scenes organisation and preparation to make lessons happen is just a small part of the magic of teaching. For my intellectual development, I have learned so much with regards to interacting with children and have learnt to appreciate them as individuals, it was truly upsetting to experience at the beginning of my placement that school was the safest and supportive place for some children to be. The insight of this understanding has been phenomenal in seeing into the community in which I live and that there is a lot of suffering out there for children and at school they see positive role models. For my personal and ethical development, I have to say that I am now looking at myself from a new lens that I have travelled an emotional journey with this placement to see that children no matter what level they are at need the individual support they deserve but the reality is that one teacher with 20 students that task is near impossible. So I have felt that whatever I can do so this group of children can take away one thing with them whether that is to cut with scissors or learning to be organised, I wish them all the success in the world.
Teaching is a job that requires new ways to compartmentalise all the jobs that need to be done by making multiple lists that are just endless. The way children are looking for challenges in their learning has made me realise that, if children say their classwork is boring they are not being challenged enough. It is really important to find that fine line for children, which is the just right place in their learning. What I have learned about the teaching profession that I was not previously aware of is just how overwhelming it is and how important it is to have a supportive teaching team. The challenges that teachers face with inclusive classrooms is huge and what I have seen is that the model that exists now within the public school system can be seriously damaging to the children and also the teachers. I believe in inclusive learning but because of a lack of funding there are children that fall through the cracks and do not get the help they need because they are in the wrong learning environment.
What I would do differently if I had to do this again is to prepare myself for the emotional rollercoaster of the placement. I now know that there are many facets to the community that is seen at the microcosm of the school level and that itself is confronting. Nothing can prepare you for the challenges in the classroom but it helps to have someone that is there to support you like my mentor teacher. I think I would have set up more conversations with my psychologist over the period to actually deal with the emotions I was feeling about the children with some of the situations they are dealing with. Our school teaches Auslan (as our shared language for the whole school) and I would have thought that would be a way of communicating for all with children with speech/language difficulties. As a teacher, you just want to solve problems but sometimes they are out of your control.
The impact on student learning has been that some struggling students were given the opportunity to work with a teacher one on one and I feel that will help them understand what they need to do for the future. Sometimes I see that students want to read with me and that all they want to do is for someone to actually care about what they are doing and give them some positive feedback. I know this because of the trust some of the information the students share with me, I suggested to her to draw and encourage her to visually represent what she wants to say which she is really good at. I would say that these experiences with a handful of students in the class gives me hope that they look at learning in new ways.
I certainly have a new respect for teachers and the multitude of experiences they have to deal with daily.Trish