When I was a pre-service teacher, I was sent to a range of schools including a public and private high school for my practicums (In Sydney, we call them ‘pracs’), and a college which operated alongside TAFE NSW for my internship. In my first year out, I was fortunate to have landed a full-time temporary position at the public high school where I did my second prac.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of your time on prac.
Be prepared and make a good impression.
This one I learnt from my mistakes. On my first prac, I was half an hour late to my appointment with my supervisor to tour the school. I had underestimated the drive time in peak hour. My Maps told me that the school was an hour drive away, but in reality it was an hour and a half. Needless to say, my first impression was shady. I knew that I had to improve my initial impression and I did. I ensured that I was never late again and I gave myself an hour and a half every day to get to my prac school. I ensured that I developed a working relationship with everyone I met, and helped out in any way I could, so that my mistake was forgiven and forgotten.
Dive head first into the craziness of it all. On my internship, one of my supervisors gave me fantastic advice. He told me “if there is anything you want to try out, go for it!”. This school was particularly open and adaptable to change (unfortunately, not all schools are). On my internship, I decided to heed my supervisor’s advice and I ran my own fitness classes. With the help of a friend of who was a Personal Trainer, we developed a simple set of exercises for the students. When I ran the classes, I had to be flexible in considering the fitness levels of my students, who were around 17-18 years old. The beauty of being a teacher is that you can bring your own interests into schools. At my current school, I started a Volleyball Club where students play social games at lunch times. This is a fantastic way to get to know your students (Australian Professional Standard for Teachers #1), outside of your classroom. The students will appreciate it, and you will enjoy it too.
If you are interested, here is the sample fitness program. You could even run it yourself. Simply Google the exercises you are unsure of or moderate it as you like according to the fitness level of your students.
10 minutes Warm Up
Active Deltoid Stretch (Cross-body arm stretch), Triceps Stretch, Quad stretch, Glute Stretch (Thread the needle), Inner Thigh Stretch, Ab Stretch
Circuit 1 (Jog Variations)
Normal jog, High Knees, Back kicks, Sideways, Sprint
Circuit 2 (3 sets: max. 2 minutes rest) Optional: Group Activity
Sit ups x 20, Star Jumps x 20, Commandos (Plank-to-Push up) x10, Jump squats x15
Circuit 3 (3 sets: max. 2 minutes rest)
Leg raises x 15, Lunges x15, Burpees x15
Warm Down (10 minutes)
Have clear expectations from the get go.
Yes we need to set firm expectations for our students in our classes, however, setting expectations with your supervisor is equally as important. During my second prac, I was working several afternoons a week as a private tutor. It helped immensely knowing that my supervisor understood that I had to balance work (and uni assignments) with prac. Prac was my first priority and should my tutoring work interfere with my professional development, I would have limited my hours at tutoring. Luckily, I never had to resort cutting tutoring hours. If you think you might struggle with the balance, I would recommend taking a break from work for the couple of weeks you’re on prac. This may mean you need to work more beforehand to save money.
Your supervisor is your boss.
Regardless of your personal views on your supervisor’s teaching practices, they are your boss and they have more experience than you (and they will also be writing your final report). Take your supervisor’s advice with a grain of salt and whatever they want you to improve on, make sure it is evident you are implementing strategies to improve in these areas. At the end of your prac, you could realise that their advice was great or you could decide that it doesn’t align with your teaching philosophy and style, hence, you won’t be implementing it anymore. At that time, it will be your decision. Meanwhile, your supervisor will have their own expectations as to how their classes are taught.
For example, one of my first supervisors preferred their classroom to be extremely quiet. At the time I disagreed that this was best practice, however, I ensured that from that moment onwards my classes were mostly very quiet. This meant that I was doing less “fun” activities. However, as a pre-service teacher this forced me to improve my classroom management, which is one of the most important skills in a teacher’s tool kit. I had to recognise that after my couple of weeks of teaching, my supervisor had to resume teaching those class for the remainder of the year. They don’t want a noisy class. A little empathy goes a long way.
Micromanaging is your friend (…sometimes).
In the lesson plans you provide to your supervisor, detail your activities according to real lesson times and attempt to stick to these restrictions. Time management is another important skill for teachers. Having the exact times for each activity mapped out will help you become a better manager. Later, when you a qualified teacher, the rigorous lesson plans get thrown out of the window and you are expected to be competent at your practice, whilst being flexible with unforeseen circumstances. Until then, get the details of your teaching practice sorted by being explicit and providing detail in your planning. In reality, it is unlikely that everything will go according to plan. However, it is worthwhile understanding how you want your lessons to look.
Here is one of my lesson plans from my second prac (Yr 10 L1 Combustion+Cellular Respiration). At the end of each lesson plan, it is useful to have a few questions to prompt reflection. Without reflection there will be no improvement. Ensure you have someone to debrief about your lessons with. It could be your supervisor, another teacher, a university colleague or your partner.
These are some of my personal tips. At the end of the day, you do you. Be yourself because nobody else can. 🙂