I just finished up my student teaching experience at St. Andrew's Primary School this past Tuesday, and it was so bittersweet. While I was excited to have finished up my 10-week placement and not have to wake up early on Tuesdays anymore, it was immensely sad to say goodbye to my CT, the kids, and the rest of the staff. They were all sad to see me go and said really sweet things about my contributions during my time at the school. I will always treasure my experience at the school with kids who touched my heart and made my Tuesdays the best day of the week.
Being given the experience to teach abroad taught me a lot about myself as a teacher, how my experiences compare to student teachers at other American and British universities, as well as my newfound willingness to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. Not only has it altered my teaching pedagogy, but it has allowed me to see my job as a mechanism for promoting equity and social justice. My school in particular was extremely diverse; about half of my class was ELLs, about 60% of the class has social and/or emotional problems, and a few have severe learning disabilities. Therefore, promoting equity within the classroom and making sure that every child got an appropriate learning experience regardless of their disability became an important issue within my classroom. Even in the crafting of my lessons I found myself needing to implement huge differentiations in worksheets, instructions, and activities. I also needed to pay particular attention to how I gave instructions, who the kids worked with, as well as what kind of support each kid was receiving throughout the lesson. It was hard work, and I have never had to think about equity that deeply before, but it definitely helped to benefit my teaching. It allowed me to learn a lot about how to not only construct lessons, but how to deliver them in a way that allows every student to learn appropriately and perform to the best of their abilities.
Additionally, throughout my placement, the need to promote social justice was present as well as amongst both students and teachers. All of the teachers in my school were extremely experienced and I found them to be some of the best teachers that I have ever seen. However, promoting social justice within the school was an issue that they had to face everyday since many of the students did not get along or had issues that impacted their learning and the learning of others. This resulted in teachers not only trying to promote equality amongst the learning of their students, but also forced them to focus on the level of equality between students, socially. Many of the girls in particular would fight constantly either because they did not get align or because of competition between them that pinned them against each other. It created chaos on a daily basis, and I constantly found myself getting crying girls from the bathroom or breaking up fights. I have learned from my placement not only how to instill equality in my lessons, but how to inspire an equal love for everyone throughout the school. My CT did a great job of bringing up social justice issues with her students so that they learned the importance of it at a young age. This also helped them to get along better and create unity within the classroom, which is a method that I will definitely be taking with me to my own classroom eventually.