I was working as a teaching assistant in the primary school linked with Canterbury High School through joint Academy status. The Learning Away coordinator from the High School asked me to take part in a forthcoming residential for their Year 10 students as a member of the support staff. The residential had a big impact on me and my future career. This is the story of how it happened.
The experience of the residential
The residential was a fantastic opportunity for me to join the teaching and support staff, encouraging me to view education in a different perspective. It enabled me to see the positive effect of learning when the teaching was within a context that students could identify and relate to (e.g. maths within the context of archery). Importantly, the experience of the residential taught me that teaching is about more than learning. I began to form bonds with students who I previously found it difficult to interact with and encourage with their learning.
The residential experience emphasised finding a common ground or interest with the students that encouraged them to open up and become more confident, and take more risks. For example, I found that talking to one student about the height of the climbing wall being a bit daunting for both of us encouraged her to talk about her fear of heights. Consequently, I was able to reassure her and embolden her to face her fears. It was not long before I began to observe students willing to take risks in lessons on the residential; those who usually feared getting their answers wrong were now willing to try.
Watching these students progress in both their learning and confidence in many areas provoked a positive feeling in me – I wanted to make a difference. I observed the teachers who were engaging, proactive and encouraging. These teachers inspired some ‘difficult’ teenagers to participate in lessons. It was at this moment I knew that the TA role would not satisfy my wish to make a difference. I wanted to be like the teachers I was supporting and make a greater impact on students’ learning and confidence.
The influence of the residential
The residential revealed that I wanted to do more – I didn’t just want to help or support, I too, wanted to inspire like the other teachers.
The residential motivated me to consider teaching in a different way, in a creative context. I knew that if I became a teacher I could apply this to a variety of subjects. Furthermore, when I began to understand the students’ way of learning and could see their confidence increase, I wanted to help with students’ self-esteem as well as their learning.
Choosing primary education
This was a huge decision for me, as I was always torn between secondary and primary education. My decision stemmed partly from taking part in the residential. Supporting the teaching staff on the residential allowed me to see how you could be creative and use the outdoors in a variety of subjects. I wanted to use this style of learning for various subjects; seeing the teachers use an outdoor environment started to provide me with ideas about primary education in particular and I made a decision to work at this level.
How the residential helped my GTP training
The residential has inspired me to be more creative in my lessons and try to help students put learning into context. For example I have held science lessons outside, so students can actually view nature in their correct habitat, and run numeracy lessons in the playground to make learning real.
The residential and the teaching staff showed me the importance of creative learning and the importance of making learning relevant to students, whether primary or secondary.