Apr 13, 2011

Get some work experience in the classroom

To find out if a graduate career in teaching is right for you, do some work experience. As well as helping you to make up your mind, work experience is an important asset when it comes to your initial teacher training application. 
It’s only by going into schools that you can get that sense of whether teaching really feels right – and whether you think you could do it. Although relevant experience isn’t a formal prerequisite to get onto an initial teacher training (ITT) course, it is a supporting factor in the application process. Not surprisingly, it demonstrates your commitment to the profession and recruiters will feel reassured that you have a realistic view of what teaching is like. A further plus is that you will have something concrete to base your answers on at interview. As the availability of places on PGCE courses has reduced nationally, recruiters are becoming increasingly focused on the previous experience of applicants.

Getting work experience in teaching

Many universities provide opportunities for students to volunteer in schools, so your first stop should be your university's career service or volunteering society. It is also possible to organise a placement yourself at a local school or even at your old primary or secondary school. Teaching work experience can take a variety of formats from classroom observation to working as an unpaid teaching assistant, depending on the needs of the school and whether or not you have had an enhanced Crimincal Records Bureau (CRB) background check.

Long-term benefits of work experience

Most course providers require students to do a pre-enrolment placement, whether or not they’ve spent time in schools. However, that doesn’t mean that any previous experience you’ve gained will have been a waste: not only will it be useful for your academic coursework, but the more styles of teaching practice you’ve encountered, the better a teacher you will eventually become.
The more styles of teaching practice you’ve encountered, the better a teacher you will eventually become.

Explore different age groups

It’s crucial to spend time with children of different ages to clarify which age group you want to teach. People tend to have a strong preference once they’ve had some experience and that might not match up with what they initially expected. Furthermore, getting some cross-phase experience is really important. Education is a continuum, so it’s very useful to accumulate some knowledge of the stages before and after your preferred age group.

Teaching taster schemes

Government schemes include the open schools programme, taster courses and student associates schemes – find out more details from the Training and Development Agency for Schools. Taster schemes are intended to help you decide whether to apply for initial teacher training and are not designed to provide basic experience to support an application. It can also be a good idea to contact schools off your own bat, as staff can often use some extra help. Spending time with children in other contexts, such as holiday camps or youth groups, is also relevant experience.
While you’re in a school, it’s useful to record what you did in the classroom: for example, you could take photographs of projects and keep notes on lesson plans and schemes of work. Bringing these in to interview can provide a useful talking point and boost your confidence.

Evaluate your teaching work experience

Once you've done some teaching work expertience, you need to decide if teaching is right for you and whether you want to progress to the initial teacher training application stage. You also need to think about your work experience in terms of how it will enhance your employability as a graduate teacher. As yourself these questions:
  • Do I enjoy working with children and will I enjoy the company of children at the age I wish to teach?
  • Will I feel comfortable communicating with other teachers and parents?
  • Am I secure in my specialist subject knowledge?
  • Do I enjoy responding to daily and sometimes unpredictable challenges?
  • Can I motivate and engage others?
Work cited : http://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/teaching-and-education/work-experience/go-back-to-school-teaching-work-experience

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