Work Experience: Secondary School Teaching
By Megan Robinson
Level 3 History Undergraduate
The main benefit of work experience is to make sure the career path I have chosen is the right one for me. I originally thought a career within the heritage sector was what I wanted to pursue after university but after a short placement at the Lincolnshire Archives I realized that it wasn’t the right choice for me. Going to the archive felt more like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. In contrast, I found myself looking forward to going to work at a school and felt I was really getting something out of it. If you are considering going into teaching, I’d recommend getting some experience as early as possible, allowing time to explore other options in case you realise it’s not the right career path for you.
When it comes to securing a placement, you need to be willing to put yourself out there and communicate with as many people as possible. I contacted three different schools before I found one which would let me observe some of their history classes. Also bear in mind the time needed for a DBS form to be completed and processed. Everyone over the age of 18 is required to be DBS checked before being allowed unsupervised into an environment where you will be interacting with young people and children. Due to mine taking almost a month to be processed, I could not complete the original placement I had planned and had to go on a later date, so in future, this is something I would take into consideration.
During my time at the school, I was primarily there as an observer. I sat in a variety of history classes with different teachers, observing how they taught, what resources they used and how they interacted with their students. No teacher had the exact same teaching style, which was interesting and useful to note as an aspiring teacher. Alongside this, I also observed a few geography and religious studies classes. Being adaptable is highly valued by employers, so the ability to teach outside your subject specialism is a skill worth developing.
On a more interactive level, I was given the opportunity to teach two lessons on slavery and Jim Crow laws to a year 8 class. At the time, this seemed like a terrifying prospect but, in the end, it was extremely beneficial for me. Not only is it something that I can discuss in my applications but it also helped to build my confidence when in a classroom environment. Furthermore, the feedback I received is something I can use to build on this experience in the future.
During my work experience I was introduced to aspects of teaching I had not considered before. I had the opportunity to be in a lesson in the inclusion unit and speak to one of the members of staff who worked in this department. Inclusion aims to help students who need more support than mainstream lessons provide, such as special needs student and those with a first language other than English. Before this, I had no real knowledge of this part of the education system and although I only spent a brief time there, it gave me the foundation required to research more about this system and how it works, along with other aspects of teaching I hadn’t considered before.
One of the main things I have learned, is that you can never have too much work experience. Some PGCE courses don’t require any prior school experience but any you have will contribute to your applications and give you the experience and knowledge you need to be a successful teaching candidate. In my case, I did my work experience in a school which has a SCITT programme that I wish to apply for – hence I’m eager to get as much experience as I can in order to demonstrate my dedication to teaching and my interest in this particular school, allowing the staff to get to know me more personally than would be the case with just a personal statement.
For further Information see on the PGCE course offered by the University of Lincoln, visit https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/course/edmpedpc/