This year the US in Schools Mentoring Team were able to offer four School Placements in June. These are week long placements in schools for mentors considering a career in teaching to gain experience within the classroom. Three local schools hosted the mentors including Eckington School, Firth Park Academy, and King Edward VII School. Katy Shearsmith reflected on her experience at King Edward VII School and here is what she had to say:
What did the placement involve?
The placement was within the humanities department so I mainly observed History lessons although I did observe two Geography and two Politics lessons. The lessons were a mixture of year groups in both the lower school (years 7, 8 and 9) as well as some upper school (year 12) lessons. I was therefore able to see the difference between the upper and lower school lesson in terms of behaviour, expectations and teaching styles. Also, I was able to ask staff about the differences they perceived between teaching the different age groups and the challenges of working with the two schools.
What was my role in the lessons?
My role depended on liaison with the individual teacher although mainly it was helping small groups of students with the task. For example, asking whether they understood the task and answering any questions they had. However, I did sometimes work with one small group to encourage shy pupils to contribute or to help an individual student who had been absent in previous lessons. When working in the group, I worked with different individuals asking questions to allow them to interact with the source and the lesson.
What skills did I gain from the placement? What have I learned?
I learnt communication skills from interactions with students and teachers. Also, I observed how teachers deal with poor behaviour and how they challenge students through questioning in order to encourage learning. Through witnessing these interactions I was able to further develop my own skills of using questions. Additionally, I was able to improve my own confidence in interacting with pupils and within the classroom. I also learned how teaching staff interact within offices and staff rooms as well as with teaching assistants to deliver lessons. Initially, I did not know how teaching staff collaborate to produce resources for lessons therefore I learned how important these interactions were in delivering information to the students.
How will I use the placement? How this experience has helped in teaching career?
The placement will contribute towards the experience I need to apply to a post graduate certificate in education. It has allowed me practical classroom experience which allowed me to become familiar with the environment and observe different teaching styles. Also, I have seen how teachers differentiate types of learners such as more able and less able in order to challenge the former and support the latter.
How similar/different was it to mentoring?
It was similar to mentoring as it was similar age groups and some familiar topics. However it differed as I was able to witness some of the same classes with the same or different teachers. Therefore I learned how pupils act differently depending on the day and the teacher. Additionally, it allowed me to see how pupils acted with their peers within lesson which I did not witness during mentoring.