Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Month at Sandlot

So, tomorrow is my last day at Sandlot School. I've bought a lollypop for each of my kids and some cake for the staffroom to mark the occasion. Various teachers have been bringing all sorts of yummy treats for break to share with us because of their birthdays, so I felt like I should participate in some way.

I'm going to miss it terribly. I have my moments why I wonder why I picked such an exhausting career option, but it also feels good to be good at something. My host teacher was ill for two days this week so I had the students all to myself- it was rather hectic but good to get a picture of what goes on when you're on your own. 

Some of the things I loved about my placement at Sandlot School:
  • Bonding with the students, being able to help them when they were upset and celebrate with them when they were happy. Listening to their crazy, funny and heart-breaking stories of their lives (real and imagined).
  • Teaching! Explaining interesting things to my class. Encouraging them to work better. So much that they do in Grade 1 is fun, and I feel so happy when a student understands something new.
  • Having the privilege of working with such wonderful teachers and staff. They really made me feel included in the faculty, which meant more than they may have realised.
  • Being able to watch my host teacher and share her classroom. She's such an amazing teacher, the students respect her and she uses that opportunity to teach them valuable things.
  • The camaraderie with my two fellow student teachers, sharing the many gripes about the PGCE and school experiences with them. 
  • Introducing the behaviour clip chart and seeing the students actually respond to it. 
The kids are what really fascinate me about teaching at the moment. They also exhaust me! It's worth it, though, to hear about what they dreamed about last night or helping them build a superhero costume out of paper (I had an Iron Man and Dragonfly in my class, to name but two).

I've got a file due at the Education Department tomorrow afternoon, detailing my experiences. I'm not asked to write a reflective piece or anything though, so my many anecdotes will have to wait for Monday when I can share them with my other PGCE-ers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 2 at Sandlot School

Since May 7th, I've been working as a student teacher at Sandlot School (not it's real name). I'm assigned there for four weeks, in a Grade 1 class. My host teacher is really great, she's been teaching for many years and I'm learning lots from her. During this time, I don't attend regular lectures or seminars on campus, I follow normal 'teacher hours' at Sandlot and follow their lead about how I spend my time there. 99% of the time, I'm in the class, either teaching or assisting. The rest of the time, I'm making photocopies: this is really not a lot of time, but photocopying is an important job as grade 1's go through so many handouts!

The school I'm at is quite small, it reminds me of the school I was at for matric/grade 12. It only takes a certain number of grades and there is no uniform. I have 23 in my class, with a slightly higher number of girls than boys. There is a very large isiXhosa home-language group in the class, but all of them speak very good English (it's an English-medium school) and I can make myself understood to all of them. I find classroom management the hardest thing to crack, but try to remind myself that it is not my class. My teacher has trained them well, they listen to her requests (most of the time!) but my voice will often be ignored. The class doesn't have a set behaviour system, my HT prefers not to use one- she just praises/discourages as she feels. This makes it more difficult to step into her shoes, but she has presented me so well to the students and for the most part they try their best.

Right now, my only main complaint is that I feel that I'm constantly juggling. I have lesson prep to do for teaching every day, assignments and essays for my PGCE work, and resources to create for my PGCE coursework. On top of that, I'm supposed to keep a special record of everything I do on teaching practice, keep track of 4 students in my class specifically, save all the work I teach, etc. I get overwhelmed a lot, and when I get home from school I am sometimes so exhausted that I can't do anything except nap and zone out for a while- I then feel guilty for this later. Every time I relax or have fun (or do something that isn't work), I feel bad because I feel that I should be working instead.

I feel that I can't be as good as a student teacher as I can be because of this heavy load of work constantly weighing on me. Many of our essays I feel are unnecessary and just busy-work to prove we've been to lectures, which I have been. The teaching practice file is not too much work, but the fact that it's being checked twice during this 1-month period is stressful and I find that I'm having to make time just to make printouts of things and put them into this file, so that they can be checked on.

Something they never mentioned about this course is how much money you will spend on printing, building resources, and laminating. There is so much printing I've had to do so far, and so much more to come. All of my resources need laminated, which isn't cheap. I also have no printer at home and no colour-printer at school, so it is a mission to get this done. Trekking 25 minutes on foot to print something does not make me feel more fondly towards it having to exist in the first place.


On the upside, I love being in a class with students. I find them generally delightful, and I'm going to miss them terribly at the end of my month at their school. I've (nearly) learned all of their names after the first week, and they've been drawing me pictures and wanting to know more about me. Generally, they are a sweet bunch. Due to the teaching practice portfolio, I have to track four of them, but I'm interested to see how they all develop over this month.