Wow….what a month! So much has happened but by far the most interesting experience has been my placement in a school. A placement in Key Stage 1 is mandatory for all students studying Early Years Initial Teacher Training and must be at least a two-week block.
Prior to the placement, I was feeling very apprehensive and should there have been an option to complete the course without it, then I most definitely would have done. This apprehension was for many reasons but my employed role was one of them – I was concerned about the implications of me being out of the setting for two weeks and the increased workload of my deputy. I’m lucky that she covers for me while I’m out of the setting but she has responsibilities as a key person aside from managing my workload as well. This made me feel very guilty that I was having a wonderful experience which would impact on my practice, personally and professionally, and yet she was carrying the burden of my workload.
As we are also due to be inspected before the end of July, I needed to ensure that everything was in place should the inspection occur whilst I was on placement. There was also a sense of nervousness at being out of my comfort zone so I had many questions going round in my head – what would the teacher be like in the class? Would I be made to feel welcome? What would be expected of me?
I had chosen to have my placement at Bromesberrow and St. Mary’s Primary School which is a small, village school border between Herefordshire and Wales. But I was made to feel welcome immediately. The class was a mixed Reception, Year One and Year Two. Not only did I benefit from observing Key Stage 1 practice, as required for the placement, but I also had an insight into the practice within Reception. The number of children at my setting who stay with us before moving on to Reception increases each year so I need to plan for how these children are prepared for school. Conversations with the class teacher, Mrs Carpenter, as well as observations have given me lots to reflect on. I am now feeling confident that the children at my setting leave us having had a solid foundation.
During my time in school, I was given many opportunities to work with the children in small groups. The range of activities I was able to engage in gave me an insight into the expectations of children at different ages and the differentiation of activities required for particular children. With clear instructions on the learning outcomes from Mrs Carpenter, I was able to support children in maths, literacy and science activities. There were some elements of practice with Reception which I can definitely take back to my setting and implement with our very able children. This includes maths games which involve estimating, adding on and taking away, interactive phonics sessions and ways to promote independent writing.
One particularly interesting discussion with Mrs Carpenter was around the subject of rhyming and how this can be nurtured. The more stories we read and rhymes we tell as practitioners, the better able children are to recognise rhyme and use rhyme in Reception and beyond. As a lover of books, this is something which I feel we cover well in my setting – children always have the opportunity to read independently and be read to with a range of stimulating books.
One of the highlights of my time was a Forest School session. Although I am a Level 3 Forest School Leader, time constraints at my setting have meant that I have been unable to fulfil this role for quite some time. However, experiencing Forest School at Bromesberrow and St. Mary’s Primary School has given me the motivation and drive to resume it. Their site was amazing and many hours of work had obviously gone into setting up a well-resourced and stimulating area of interest. I had a fantastic time bug hunting, watching a puppet show, painting trees with ‘muddy goo’ and baking a birthday cake in the mud kitchen. The children were all completely engaged, eager to explore and play. Hot chocolate and conversations around the log circle was a fantastic way to end a most enjoyable morning.
Completely coincidentally, Mrs Carpenter and I already followed each other on Twitter (I spotted a wonderful wooden maths resource in her classroom which I had seen already on Twitter and discovered her husband made it). So we are in a great position for sharing practice and experience in the future. We have already made plans for me to visit next half term and Mrs Carpenter will also be coming out to visit me. These strong links will benefit not only ourselves but also the children as we get to share ideas and projects such as the Rocket Science experiment we are both taking part in (again coinicidentally) through the Royal Horticultural Society. I look forward to sharing information with you about this in the next instalment of my diary.
A reader contacted Nursery World with some questions regarding the Masters assignments so I will do my best to answer, based on my experience so far. Alongside the Early Years Initial Teacher Training, there is the opportunity to study three Masters modules which offers a postgraduate certificate in leading Early Years practice. Each module is assessed by an assignment of 3000 words, submitted at three different points through the year.
All of the information required to complete the assignments is delivered both online and through taught sessions with a comprehensive reading list to work through. My first module was on effective early years practice and pedagogy, which I submitted mid-March. However, I had a set-back, finding out a few days later that it did not actually submit properly through the online system. This meant that my mark would be capped at 50%. I was obviously very disappointed as I spent a considerable time researching, reading and then writing the assignment on pedagogy. So, I took the decision to withdraw from the masters course. This was a difficult decision as I’m not a quitter but have a drive to always do my very best.
It is most definitely achievable to study the masters modules alongside the Early Years Initial Teacher Training but my responsibilities as a mum, manager and trainee Early Years Teacher warranted so much of my time that I felt I was not able to do myself justice with the masters modules.
If you are passionate enough about the sector to be training as an Early Years Teacher, then you should find the modules engaging, giving you opportunity to reflect on practice and policy.
If you have any questions about training to be an Early Years Teacher, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to reply.
More information about Ms Davis' setting's involvement in the rocket science project can be found here