During my work experience as a teacher assistant for YIS summer school, I was fortunate to work with a group of Kindergarten and 1st grade students. I remember my first official day in the classroom as one of the most memorable days of my time at work. I was constantly in awe from watching how my supervisors handled kids’ tantrums so easily and so effortlessly. It made me a bit anxious that I was going to have to be able to do the same but it was also inspiring to know that I was going to be learning from people truly experienced in the field.
During the first week completing behind the scenes work like assembling children’s portfolios and printing worksheets, I was overwhelmed by the work and the responsibilities that were placed on me. And, to be honest, was quite frustrated that I got very little time to actually spend time with the kids. However at the very end of the week, my teacher whom I assisted asked if there were any recommendations to improve certain aspects of classroom activities. She was very open and happy for me to contribute as much as I wanted to and this really made me feel like I was part of the team.
One of the most important skill I learnt through my teaching experience was being able to understand every students’ abilities and providing them the work and assistance that met their needs. We had 13 students all working at different levels and paces and designing group work was especially hard when not all could read and write at the same level. To overcome this challenge, I designed activities involving 3 different groups for all subjects. These groups were based on children’s different abilities.
Whilst working with children, I’ve also learnt that I could spend hours planning activities in preparation for the next day, but the most important and necessary skill was being able to think on my feet. And that I wouldn’t always get the outcome I expected because there were always interruptions and complications that were out of my control. Hence, problem solving skills were an important part of working with children. At times it was very difficult to think on the spot (eg; suggesting new classroom activities when the one before did not work), especially in an environment where “collaborative learning” was encouraged because to me, one-on-one teaching / activities was so much easier than designing group work where students could learn from and teach each other. But with the help of my supervisors who had years of experience, I felt more confident and supported as I knew my work would be double checked and that any uncertainties were explained.
As I started gaining more confidence in the classroom, I started realising that I had so much more to offer than just working in my supervisor’s shade the whole time. I decided to combine teaching with something that I love: dancing. 🙂 On the last 3 days of summer school, I had the opportunity to teach dance to Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and 3rd grade students. This was the most memorable experience of summer school for me. Teaching dance reminded me of the joy of being able to see shy turtles come out of their shells. It was so encouraging to see children who barely ever spoke in class stand in front of the whole class and find confidence in expressing themselves.
Earlier in the year, I had a conversation with my parents about a career that I might want to pursue in the future. I was torn between becoming a dancer (performer) and a dance teacher. But working as a teacher assistant this summer inspired me to choose the latter. I discovered my love for working with children and working in a caring environment 🙂