Reflective essays may seem simple on the surface, but they can be a real stumbling block if you’re not quite sure how to go about them. In simple terms, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and, with the right guidance, they’re not too challenging to put together. A reflective essay is similar to other essays in that it needs to be easily understood and well structured, but the content is more akin to something personal like a diary entry.
My Reflective Essay During Teaching Practice
Assignment – write a reflection of around 1000 words about an incident which occurred during the first few weeks of your teaching placement. Use Gibbs’ model, and structure your assignment using Gibbs’ headings.
I am currently on a teaching practice placement in an adult education college in the south-west of England, learning how to teach GCSE maths to various groups of adults. I have only just started the placement, so I am mainly assisting the class tutors and have just started planning and delivering a small part of each lesson.
The incident occurred in an evening class during which I was due to deliver my very first session. The class tutor had been teaching the learners about fractions, and my task was to carry on with this, looking at how to multiply two fractions. When I got to the whiteboard, I became so nervous that I could not start speaking to the group. I fumbled about with my papers and pens, and stumbled over my first sentence so that it did not make sense. The students were quite understanding, as they are all mature students who are aware that I am new to teaching and am nervous, but the class teacher snapped at me to stop being ridiculous. She came up to the front of the classroom and took the lesson over from me, and I sat at the back of the room trying not to cry. I left the session as soon as the class was over, and did not speak to anyone.
I felt so miserable at the time that I considered leaving my teacher training course. I was embarrassed and upset by my own inability to speak in front of the group, but I was also extremely angry with the class teacher for snapping at me in front of the learners. I felt afterwards that she had not given me enough time to gather my thoughts, and that she should have left me alone to get over my nerves. I was so mortified that I rang in sick the following week, and it was only when I had calmed down that I decided I needed to speak to the placement supervisor about this. I also realised later that it was perfectly natural to feel nervous, as I am not used to speaking in public.
At the time, I did not feel that the situation had been resolved at all. I very deliberately left at the end of the class without speaking to the class teacher or the learners. When I got home, I telephoned a fellow trainee and he made me feel much better. I realised that everyone feels scared at first and probably stumbles through their first few classes. This is clear in the relevant literature, as Greene (2014) explains, saying that nine out of ten new trainee teachers found their first session “incredibly daunting”(p.43). It appears that most trainee teachers have moments of being “tongue- tied” and “losing their way with the lesson” (Parbold, 2009, p.223).
The situation was made worse by both my own actions and those of the class teacher. I feel that I should have stood up to her, rather than letting her take control of the lesson, and that I should have spoken to her immediately after the lesson about how I was feeling. Dealing with situations like this immediately is preferable, as Cooper (2011) points out. Instead, I spoke to my placement supervisor several days later, and did not see the class teacher again until a formal meeting consisting of myself, the teacher and the supervisor. Daynes and Farris (2013) say that, by not dealing with situations immediately and personally, and instead taking it to an authority figure, the situation can be made worse. The class teacher could have felt that she was being “ganged up on” (Thomas, 2015, p.22), which could lead to future problems.
The teacher’s actions also made the situation worse, because she did not give me time to overcome my fears and she deliberately embarrassed me in front of the class. She claimed that she had thought she was helping me out, but I do not believe that to be the case. However, as we only spoke about the incident over a week later in the meeting with the supervisor, she rightly argued that I should have said something to her at the time.
In retrospect, I would do several things differently. I should have spoken to the class teacher immediately after the session and voiced my opinions. I should also have been braver and stood up for myself so that I retained control of the lesson. However, I think the main thing I learned from the incident is that I had built up no relationship whatsoever with the teacher in the preceding weeks, and that I should have made an effort to do so. I would then have been able to explain how nervous I was beforehand.
In future, I will make sure to build up more of a relationship with colleagues. I am working alongside several different teachers during my placement, and I will speak to each of them about my nerves. I have already had a good conversation with one of them, and we have worked out a way of team-teaching for the next few weeks so that I do not feel so pressurised. I need to do this with the other class teachers, as I cannot expect them to understand how I feel if I keep quiet. I also need to speak to my fellow trainees more often about how they feel, as I think I will be able to learn from them.
In terms of training, I have booked onto a presentation skills workshop at University, and intend to follow it up by attending the practice sessions afterwards. I need to gain more confidence with presenting and feel this is the best way to start.