November: School Experience
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to teach a group of 10 unknown students on a given topic, for 15 minutes, without whiteboard, computer or any interactive technology, watched by 90 or so curious adults, in a school hall in which 10 other similar lessons are going on at the same time. Does that sound challenging? This is what awaited 50 or so of our school experience candidates on Tuesday and a Thursday this week. Not at all a passive observation of lessons, or a casual word with a longstanding teacher over coffee in this staff room, this was a bare-knuckled, uncertainty-ridden, nerve-inducing episode in which three prospective teachers would teach, one after the other (speed dating style) striving to impress, influence and intellectually improve the students in front of them before the sound of the bell signalled it was someone else’s turn to try the same.
And so, given the circumstances, it was extraordinary what a job was done by our enthusiastic protégées: flip charts, original historical sources, physical demonstrations, costumes and props (including flat caps and toy cars) and some beautifully delivered, intimately executed, question and answer characterised these lessons. Students were captivated by the swift succession of lesson after lesson and were very pleased to give their own feedback on lessons to those on this School Experience Placement.
‘Teaching,’ said Colin Hall (Head of Holland Park and National Leader of Education) to the group of enthusiastic recruits, ‘is not for the faint-hearted.’ His briefing to candidates in the morning was an entirely unveiled and unsweetened examination of this career path, but as he said to candidates, ‘no day is the same and it is all an act.’ Such an overture of the talents, resilience and skills required by teachers were visible throughout the weeks’ activities, not least in the lessons observed by School Experience Candidates and the lessons undertaken by them. They also featured in the professional training sessions on Behaviour Management, on Professional Values and on Teaching for Memory – delivered by some of the school’s leaders and Leading Practitioners. In addition to seeing teaching, to carrying out teaching and to experiencing some initial training sessions into essential skills required by those in education, there were opportunities to interview students one-to-one. Such discussions exposed a perspective of school life different from (though clearly related to) that of teachers and school leaders and this gave an authenticity to the School Experience Placement programme, rooted in the experience of the most important stakeholder: students.
This was a week of variety, of insight and of candour. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to enjoy a realistic encounter with the joys and challenges of teaching.
Andrew Smith, one delegate on the School Experience Placement wrote:
Many thanks to you, Amy, your colleagues and the students for the all time and effort you put into the recent School Experience day ...
"Here’s five things I found particularly valuable:
- Comprehensive, varied and well-structured programme which covered not only observation in the classroom but also application procedures and routes
- The generosity with time given over to us and the openness and friendliness of all we met (staff and students alike)
- High quality teaching with an emphasis on clarity of thought and expression
- Articulate but disciplined children, who listen well
- Opportunity to see the school as a community from close up and to get a feel for what it might be like to be part of it
"If I had to pick one highlight ... it would be the opportunity to talk direct with pupils. It must have been pretty daunting for them, but they were articulate and enthusiastic - great ambassadors for themselves and the school."
Another delegate, also a parent of the school, wrote:
"I was going to write to thank you and your colleagues for a very informative and engaging visit. Having visited other schools, I was really impressed with the thought that went into school experience week and personally found it invaluable. As a parent, I have visited various open events at Holland Park, with the school “on Show,” it was a privilege to see the school on a normal working day. I was especially impressed with the exemplary behaviour and positivity of the students. The lessons I observed were so creative and engaging, it was a real pleasure to witness and very inspirational. You have created a wonderful environment for those children who are fortunate to be taught there."
Ali Asad, who has attended all 10 SEP days the school has had on offer since October, wrote:
"Spending ten days at your school was not just school experience but these days will stay memorable for me in the sense that I got the chance to know about British values, culture and education philosophy. Before even starting any teacher training I can now differentiate between What I know and What I need to learn."
We hope that many will be pleased to return in January 2019, more information for which can be found here: https://www.hollandparkschool.co.uk/vacancies/school-experience-placements