This semester I'm studying in Bath, England and am fortunate enough to be able to have a school placement at Widcombe Infants School. I work with one of the "Reception" classes, which is the equivalent of pre-school in the United States as all the students are 4 years old. However, the students seem to be learning at the same level as a US kindergartener. They are learning to seriously read and write, with a significant emphasis on phonics. This took me by surprise because when I picture 4 year olds in school, I don't think of them as nearly able to read and write on their own. Other than this, I feel like the school operates very similarly to ones I've attended or worked at. The school is very small because it only contains students in Reception through Year 2, so the teachers and head teacher (our principal) know each student very well. I was even surprised at how welcoming everyone was to me when I arrived on my first day back in September. The staff is very involved and I'm continuously impressed by how efficiently the school is run and how well the students seem to respond to their teachers.
In my classroom, there are 30 students, a much larger class size than I have seen back at home. This is mostly a reflection of the success of the school. They are at capacity and have a fairly long waiting list to get in, despite the fact that it is what we would consider a public school. I can easily see how this would be true because I think the school is great and the students seem genuinely happy to be there. When I'm there on Tuesdays, there is more of an emphasis on writing for the children in Reception and I often get to monitor my group for this lesson. Mrs. Williams, my CT, is very open to my assistance in the class and had no problem giving me responsibilities as soon as I got there, which I loved! I have never been with an age group this young before, so I was also surprised to see how great a focus there is on play time. The students have various stations to work or play at for probably between 2 and 3 hours everyday. I like this part of the day best because it allows me to see how the children interact with each other and with me when I decide to stay at a particular station. It has been fascinating to watch these children grow through their very first semester in school because there is such an unbelievable change in just these several weeks.
Overall, I feel like Widcombe Infants runs very similarly to an American primary school and is truly a place I could picture myself working. The environment is very conducive to giving each child a great education and it reminds me a lot of my own elementary school, so I feel that this has made me gain a deeper connection with my placement in general. Being here has made me strongly consider teaching abroad after college. I could get used to the British way of life!