Week 2 – Primary Placement

So there’s week 2 done and dusted too. Time flies when you are having fun!

I was tempted to say that I was being sarcastic there, and I half was, but half wasn’t. Last week was educational, inspiring and exciting. But it was also chaotic, noisy and tiring.

I spent my Primary Placement week at a local feeder school. It’s a teeny little one form entry community school, pretty much serving the few streets surrounding it. Everyone in it knows everyone else in it, all the parents know the other parents and all the teachers know every pupil’s name. It was a lovely place to be, with a real community atmosphere and feeling of togetherness.

This immediately worried me for the Year 6’s because I was here to think about their transition to Secondary. The Secondary they’ll be going to serves the whole of their town, and despite its very similar ethos of celebrating the community and its diversity, it is huge. People usually describe the Year 6 to Year 7 transition as ‘Big fish in a small pond, to small fish in big pond’ and in this case that is so true. Infact, their Primary is more like a puddle and Secondary like the Pacific Ocean.

That said the schools really are trying to make this transition easier for them. They have replica planners as they will be given in Y7, regular interaction with staff from the Secondary for MFL and PE and will have a number of days spent at the Secondary as a class before the end of the school year. The pupils generally seem well aware of the protocols when they get there, including the behavior policy. It’s quite common to hear a teacher say “At **** that will not be tolerated. That would be a comment/detention/insert other punishment here”.

I don’t really want to wax lyrical about everything I saw and heard last week because most people reading this will have had their own experiences of Primary and, if discussions with my coursemates are anything to go by, they’ll have been very much like mine. However, I would like to talk through some of the things I learned, some of my highlights and my ‘low lights’.

  • The school fostered a sense of responsibility and independence that the Year 6’s will need next year by giving them positions to reflect those attributes. e.g. as Reception buddies, Head Boy and Head Girl, School Council reps, Class Captains etc.
  • Check-in: Every morning and afternoon after registration, the class forms a circle and answers a few questions. The only rule is that everyone gets heard; one person speaks at a time. Questions can be teacher or pupil led and range from “How many pets do you have and what are their names?” to finishing the sentence “If I had a magic wand, I would change…” I loved this part of the day. Even in the very short space of time I was there it helped me really get to know the class and the individual personalities within it. It’s something I’d hope to carry forward with my own form group in the future.
  • Golden Time: The last 45 minutes of the day on a Friday are known as ‘Golden Time’ in which children get to enjoy a session that’s a little out of the ordinary. They do all sorts, from arts and crafts to fashion club, animation club to sporting activities. The pupils earn the right to keep this time by good behaviour, but can lose up to 15 minutes of it through persistent or severe bad behaviours. If they lose the time, they have to explain why to the Head Teacher!
  • In terms of teaching, the knowledge Year 6 are required to have is enormous now, especially in Maths and English. They are using incredibly technical language in Maths, and working on concepts as complicated as Prime Numbers. In English, I think they knew more about grammar than I do… (I wish I was exaggerating). It’s given me a good idea of what to expect when they get to me in Year 7.
  • Wednesday: The Brownlee Triathlon – A School Trip! This was an exciting prospect in itself with lots to be learned, but I have to admit that the highlight was meeting Alistair Brownlee while the kids did their Mini Triathlon!

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  • Also, Alistair was blatantly checking me out…. 😉

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  • Thursday was spent with Year 2, and I can wholeheartedly say that this is what made me 100% realise that i could not be a Primary teacher. The class was adorable; one of them at Check-In said ‘If I had a magic wand, I would make everyone happy.’ (I know!) But it was like herding cats, despite the fact that their teacher was phenomenal and had thought out every single aspect of his lesson perfectly. This was the day I went home with my biggest headache, and the utmost respect for Primary School teachers.
  • I welcomed my return to Year 6 with open arms, and its a good job that I did. When we left that day, we received cards and hugs from many members of Year 6 as they went home. I’d grown quite attached to them and so it was a bit emotional!

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  • Friday also saw me coming down with a cold that had swept through year 6, and then puncturing a tyre on my drive home. I was 5 minutes from home, tired with a sore throat, raging headache and getting hangry, and had to wait 2 hours to be saved… Weirdly though, the cards and Golden Time are what I remember most.

The whole week was an education. I learned a lot about the differences between Primary and Secondary, and how the transition between the two works. I’m hoping that this experience will affect my own teaching for the better, so that I am mindful of the challenges the children in the class have faced and how to be prepared to teach them in light of the new curriculum.

I had worried that I would come out of it thinking “Oh my god, I should have applied for Primary”. So many people had assumed that was what I was doing when I announced I was going to be doing teacher training, and I was worried they were right. But I can wholeheartedly say that I have made the right choice. I will be teaching a subject I am passionate about, to children who hopefully take less coaxing than kittens…

I hope everyone else had a wonderful week, with less headaches than my own, and you didn’t work too hard over the weekend. Personally, I ended up missing #mathsconf5 because I only had 3 functioning tyres on my car and wanted to fight off that cold! Instead I did a lot of shopping for work clothes with my student loan… Productive in some ways I guess…

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