Ask any teacher about the first step in their teaching journey and they will likely mention work experience.
While it is part of educational requirements, work experience provides trainee teachers with numerous benefits. These include understanding more about classroom management, behavioural strategies and lesson planning.
All these aspects help them in supporting their pupils’ learning whilst also developing their own skillset. If their work experience is funded through an Erasmus+ project, they are able to obtain all of this and much more.
Brighton Third Sector Training (B3ST) is an Erasmus+ funded organisation that co-ordinates VET work placements for learners, including trainee teachers. Two of their current participants, Alexandra Cheetham and Emily Gover, reveal what they have gained from their experiences abroad.
B3ST organises three-month placements for their participants in Seville, Spain. Offering plenty of opportunities for their trainees to integrate into their classrooms, whilst exposing them to a new language and culture.
Alexandra works as an English teacher; “I teach two classes of four-year-olds and three classes of 12-year-olds twice a week. I also have a one-on-one adult class once a week.
“I have gained so much experience through my placement - whether teaching a class myself, preparing lessons and marking work or watching my colleagues around me,” Alexandra said.
“Being able to put my skills into practice in a professional environment has been thoroughly useful.”
This not only enables Alexandra to prepare for her vocational course, but it also helps her in exploring her job prospects. She adds:
“The teaching experience will definitely prepare me for future jobs whether in TEFL or back in England, as a History teacher.”
Developing new skills
With this experience comes the chance for new skills to develop. Emily works as an English and Sports teacher and has gained vital expertise for teaching.
“Each evening I work from 4-8pm and the class changes each hour between gymnastics, ballet and gym dance. The ages I teach vary between 3-14 years old.
“My knowledge and skills have grown massively in regards to sports coaching, such as supporting students in a number of ways to improve their skills within their sport.
“I have also developed more behaviour management skills, as this isn’t an environment I’ve worked in before.”
Emily and Alexandra also embrace Spanish heritage in Seville, building their sense of cultural awareness and language learning. Alexandra says:
“At work, my colleagues help me with my speaking and understanding of the language. While teaching, the young children speak to me in Spanish, helping with my listening skills.”
By developing a versatile range of skills, this enhances learners’ understanding as trainee teachers. It also gives them an employability boost, as well as an appreciation for other cultures across Europe and beyond.
Another necessary ability any trainee teacher should develop is confidence. A teaching placement abroad can give learners the opportunity to build confidence in a professional sense, but also in their own personal development.
For Alexandra, she was able to enhance her confidence in all aspects of teaching. She explains: “I have improved my public speaking skills and my confidence communicating with a range of ages and holding authority within my classroom.
“You are able to push yourself out of your comfort zone but in a structured setting.”
By building this ability, Alexandra’s confidence has even gone beyond the classroom.
“This experience of living abroad for a long period of time will encourage me to travel more and feel confident and comfortable to live in different parts of the world.”
There is often an element of self-discovery in an Erasmus+ placement. In Emily’s case, this is embracing and adapting to a new challenge, as she teaches a new age group – secondary school pupils.
It has even now led her to consider more opportunities to teach this age group. “When I go back to England I actually have a job lined up to work in a secondary school where I can gain more experience.
“If I hadn’t done the Erasmus+ programme I wouldn’t have had any interest with working with this age group.”
New skills, experiences and discoveries; these are just some of the things that can await trainee teachers should they do a placement abroad. Allowing them to take their first step into their teaching journey.