As a requirement for a Bachelors of Education in Universiti Brunei Darussalam, undergrads are required to go on a 'Teaching Practice' or 'TP' in real classroom in school around Brunei. Each undergrad will be assigned a school and will stay there to teach and be observed and assessed by the assigned Co-Operating Teacher or CT and the Universiti assigned Supervisor for a duration assigned by the Universiti.
Back when I was still an undergrad we had two separate teaching practice sessions. My TP was six weeks during our 'summer' long semester break in my third and final year. So we were kind of annoyed that our holiday time was taken away from us.
My first TP was at Maktab Sains in 2002. They were occupying the current S.M.Rimba school while waiting for the renovation work to finish at the current school along Jalan Muara. It was a daunting idea to be sent to a school where you had the best students in Brunei grouped together in every class.
I was given two Form 2 classes and my CT was this old lady who used to be a principal for a grammar school in London. She was so old I could barely hear her. I do not know how her students were able to listen to her. She was nice and she gave me a week to observe her classes and showed me the ropes. I mean I had never taught in a real class so having a week to settle in was crucial to settle my nerves.
I remember the first time I was introduced to the classes. I recalled weird stares and felt like having arrows shot through me with their eyes. One class had a royal family member which made it even more awkward. However, she was kind enough to let me just call her by her name.
I made some quick notes that the boys liked to do things by themselves and there was no communication in the class and especially with the girls. I designed group activities and indirectly forced the boys to sit with girls to get some social interaction going.
Some boys opened up, while others just did their own thing. The girls made efforts to interact with the boys. Guess I was just pushing my them too hard. But I slowly gained the respect of the boys when I tapped into their interest and spoke their language.
Talking about music always helps, plus rumor started spreading around that a radio deejay was one if the TP teachers in school. *Gulp* My Students found out about it so most of them started to be extra nice to me. 'Sir play me a song when you go on air please Sir!'
I learned that you have to earn your stripes in class. Students look at you as a walking dictionary, however, we accept that we are not and we do not have answers to everything. Kids know that, we just need to keep reminding them once in a while that we too are human and we make mistakes.
As a future educator, students can smell if you are nervous or not. Once they figure out if you are, then be prepared for attitude. But if you are gleaming with confidence, students will realise how approachable you are.
You pick up a few things as you teach. You start realising what works and what doesn't. Your CT and Supervisors are there to support you and advice you. Take whatever advice that throw at you. It is for your own good. Never take it as criticism because teaching requires practice. It is not a talent like singing or dancing. I requires careful planning and execution and practice makes perfect. I do not believe it when people say that they were born to teach.
Enough about classroom environments. More in the second part when I share my second TP at Maktab Duli in my final year.
How to socialise / interact in the staffroom especially with the, in my case, English department and administration and other teachers?
- Smile. Its a great ice breaker. A smile allows others to warm their way into a conversation with you by following your smile with a 'Hello!' or 'Hi!'. Trust me when I say this, teachers expect you to break the ice. They want to know if you can 'fit' in with the rest of the pack. First impressions say a lot about the person.
- Never be afraid to ask. If you have trouble with something, just ask. We constantly remind our kids to never be afraid to ask yet we know that the new teachers and TP teachers are afraid to ask. We have to instill within us 'You practice what you preach'. Teacher love to share ideas and will always be willing to lend a helping hand.
- Get to know the Head of Department and Assistant HOD. They have more insight and they will be more that willing to help you settle in. They want to make sure you have a great TP experience and to ensure that you don't change you mind about teaching as a career.
- Mingle with the Admin. Make it a point to know the Principal and deputies and senior masters and mistresses and clerks. If they like you they may want to get you back there after you graduate. However, if that does not happen you would have left a lasting impression on them to know the potential you have. Again, it is all part of a learning process.
- Record book. Now this area I failed to pick up. My lesson plans were never really checked by my CT. I only provided lesson plans for lessons when my CT or Supervisor came over to observe me. They did not even ask for a record of my lesson plans. Trust me, learning and practicing to have a good record of lesson plans and marks will go a long way.
I think I got a 'B' for my TP. I had pick up a lot of useful tips and I had a memorable TP in MS. My students from the classes have moved on to Uni and I'm glad some of them remember me, even though I was only there for a few weeks.
Overall my first TP was a success and just sing along to the tune and you'll find that teaching is easier than you think. Well, sometimes it is.