Thoughts on work experience

I’ve known for a long time that teaching is the career path I’d like to pursue after I complete my degree in English Language and Literature. I love the idea of being able to contribute to someone else’s intellectual growth. One thing I’ve never really been too certain about, however, is the level I want to teach at. I already have lots of experience working in a secondary school, but I’ve been undertaking a range of volunteering opportunities and placements to test out different classroom environments and see which ones I feel I am most suited to.

For the past seven weeks I’ve been a classroom assistant in the university’s English Language Teaching Centre, or ELTC as its commonly referred to. I’ve been working closely with a group of international students to help improve their basic understanding of English. Before I applied to this role, I’d been interested in the idea of teaching English abroad to adults. I’d done quite a bit of research on TESOL courses and various other routes into this, but I realised that the cost to funding these trips abroad would be pretty expensive, so I jumped at the chance to gain experience for free! Although I had a wonderful time meeting people from different cultures and gaining an insight into their lives, I don’t think this is the career path for me. I’m glad I was able to trial this before I committed to a summer-long trip abroad. Then again, it doesn’t mean I won’t ever teach overseas, it’s just not something I think I’ll focus on for a while.

Currently, I am underway with my seven-week classroom tutor placement at a local primary school working with Class 4. I’ve only been in for two sessions and already I absolutely adore it. On my first day, as I was reading with a small group of children, one of them asked me if I’d ever read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ before because that’s what their sister likes to read and she is also at university. I didn’t really know what to say so I was just like “Ah. Erm. I haven’t really heard of that. Shall we read the next bit…” Just for the record I have not read it, nor will I ever! (I don’t think I need to if I’m honest since my friend Heather has given me such a detailed synopsis of the entire trilogy and has repeatedly forced me to watch the trailer for the new film numerous times.)

Last week I accompanied Class 4 on their first swimming lesson, which was fun. I did not realise that I’d have to sit by the side of the pool and decided to wear tights, which probably wasn’t the wisest choices of apparel. My feet were absolutely soaked. It was not a very pleasant experience. Anyway, in this session the children were being classified into groups based on their abilities. I couldn’t believe how advanced some of them were! At the same time, I felt incredibly saddened seeing those that were not as confident in the water and didn’t really know what to do.

Next week I’ll be helping out with creating displays for the new year. One thing I’ve noticed about primary-level teaching is the profuse amount of visually stimulating and interactive material used. This is slightly worrying as I am not, in any way, a visually artistic person. Musically, yes! If I am really going to consider primary school teaching, I know that creativity will play a huge part of the job. I mean, I’m not put off entirely by this thought, but I don’t want to limit the students’ learning because I can’t mix paints properly and always end up with an earthy coloured brown when actually I was aiming for a minty green. Maybe I’m overthinking this.

Work experience has been invaluable to me so far in informing my decisions about my career and reaffirming the fact that teaching is the path for me. I cannot recommend enough the university’s volunteering service inside the SU.

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