For student teachers with a formally assessed teaching practice looming, life can become a daunting confusion of demands and expectations. There are mentors, teachers and tutors to satisfy, relationships to forge, and a teaching practice file to feed with developmental plans, evaluations, profiles and assessments.
And then there is the business of actually teaching. In this very comprehensive book focused on primary schools, Denis Hayes in a reassuringly down-to-earth way unravels the confusion and demonstrates how to make a teaching practice a positive learning experience.
The book starts by helping the student consider the teaching practice in the context of his or her overall development as a teacher and the school in which the practice is taking place. There is a brief analysis of the national curriculum, followed by substantial chapters on lesson preparation, teaching performance and classroom order.
The book concludes with a section describing the competences needed to receive qualified teacher status.
The devil is in the detail of teaching practice, and attention to details (which to a student teacher might sometimes appear to be trivia) can make or break a teaching practice. Hayes highlights the sort of detail and apparant trivia in which the devil is likely to reside.
For example, in the quite innocent comment from a student that the school's swimming pool is "small". It may be true, but it is unlikely to enhance your relationship with teachers who have put in enormous effort raising money to build and maintain it.
A lesson plan can look brilliant on paper, but unless the detail is right, the actual lesson could be a disaster. Hayes advises students to think through the lesson, asking questions about practical detail at each step, such as: Where will I be before the children enter the classroom? Where are the resources for the lesson? Who will get them? How will I settle the children? How will I start the lesson? What happens next?
The chapter on classroom order (of over-riding concern to all student teachers) is full of sound advice with model examples: what to do if the class won't settle down, if one child is snatching all the best equipment or if the children sing rowdily during a singing lesson.
Not forgetting, of course, that all-important attention to detail: What's the difference between saying: "You can all go out to play when you finish tidying up" and "Once you have finished tidying up you can all go out to play"?
With the first statement, the children aren't there to hear the second half!
Paul Harrison is a freelance writer and lecturer on primary education. Next week: Becoming a Secondary School Teacher