Why my final HPE teaching placement was an experience I will never forget

Rolling into school on my first day of my 12-week professional teaching placement I felt flooded with emotions … excitement, fear, anticipation, panic. Will the other teachers like me? Will I get along with the students? Will I cope? … and on and on went the questions in my mind.

I pulled into the first car park I could see and progressed to reception where I signed in as ‘Miss Pickles - Pre-Service Teacher’ for Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School. I took my name badge and backpack of tools, and set up residency in the HPE staff room. Lesson number 1: designated car spaces are incredibly precious commodities inside school gates, so never park in someone else’s spot! After promptly relocating my car, I was introduced to my new colleagues and was given an orientation around the school. I was overwhelmed at how friendly everyone was, and how happy they all were to help me settle in - this definitely helped ease my nerves. I approached the rest of my day, and the weeks ahead, with wide eyes and an open mind.

Hi, my name is Jess, and I am in my final year of a Bachelor of Health, Sport and Physical Education (Honours) at UQ. I have just completed my final 12-week teaching placement, and it was the most positive and uplifting experience. Yes, it was not always easy and smooth sailing, but it was something I will never forget. Let me share with you why.

The highlights

One of the best things about my placement was the amount of scope I was given in my role; it made every day interesting and engaging. I had the opportunity to teach several junior HPE classes (years 7-10), and assist in some senior HPE classes (years 11 and 12).  I was also allocated a year 8 junior science class. My responsibilities included (but not limited to) assisting in lesson planning, preparation and the delivery of content to my classes. Every day was a new day to experience and learn more skills! One day I would be teaching the year 9 students European Handball in the hall, and the next participating in a Zumba class with the year 11’s. In addition, I attended several meetings with my colleagues and faculty over the course of my placement as a part of professional development to enhance my skills. I even got to meet entrepreneur Lorna Jane and two Queensland Firebirds on a school visit to promote physical activity and wellness for young women.

I was actively involved in a number of co-curricular sports programs that the school had to offer. Watching young girls compete at their best in sports and enjoying being physically active is such an inspiring and rewarding feeling. I coached the junior touch football team, assisted in school and district trials for a number of sports and most significantly, officiated at the QGSSSA Cross Country meet.

Another highlight for me was being fully embraced as a member of the school community from day one. I often had to remind myself I wasn’t a ‘real’ teacher yet, simply because the school had such a welcoming environment. I found I was very confident gaining rapport with my students and fellow colleagues. All the teachers were keen to pass on their knowledge and share their experiences with me. The students would ask when I would be coming back and expressed their hope to see me back at the school again teaching: this was very humbling.

The challenges

Like I said, it was not always smooth sailing. One of the biggest challenges for many teachers (and fears for pre-service teachers), is keeping students focused and preventing disruption in the classroom. Before commencing my placement I did a lot of revision on behaviour management and discipline, which really helped me keep those components under control during my teaching. For me, my main challenges were outside of the school gates.

Prior to commencing my placement, I was selected to represent Australia in the sport of Race Walking at the World Summer Universiade Games in Taiwan. I found it challenging to balance my workload at school, as well as trying to train full time, plus maintain some form of social life. Although I found it very difficult at times, I received a lot of support from the school and I continued to push through and get the job done. While I have always enjoyed competing at a high level in athletics throughout my time at university, my main priority has always been my degree and to excel in my future teaching career.

Saying goodbye 

Although I didn’t think I would see the day, it finally came: the last day of major professional placement. Throughout the whole day I remember feeling underwhelmed, almost as if I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I may sound crazy but after 12 tiring weeks of unpaid placement, working with the most incredible group of young adolescent girls, I just wasn’t ready to leave. Finally at 2:55pm the bell rang for the last time. “I did it”. I wouldn’t describe myself as an emotional person, and while I successfully managed to last almost three months without having any form of emotional breakdown, that final school bell got me real good. I cried (very unpleasant I might add) for two reasons. The first being that I was so happy to have finally finished major placement, but the second was because I was sad to think I may never get to teach my students again or work with the incredible staff I got to learn from. Experiences that will also be etched into my memory.

Going forward

After completing major practicum, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that health, sport and physical education teaching is the career pathway I want to pursue. Everything I have taken from major placement, has added to my existing backpack of tools that I gathered throughout my degree at UQ. These tools will continue to cement and pave a solid foundation, and I will strive to build upon them to be the best possible teacher I can be. With my last ever semester creeping around the corner I have never been more eager to complete my degree and start a new chapter of my life.

My advice to future pre-service teachers

‘Be a sponge’. Always be present and absorb everything that is happening around you. The more you put into your major practicum experience, the more you will learn and love to teach!  Some extra tips for when you are on placement:

  • Set a suitable bedtime and stick to it; I was in bed at 9:30pm every night
  • Have a diary and make sure you adhere to a schedule to ensure you can keep up to date and on track with your workload
  • Always act in a professional manner
  • Offer to do anything and everything
  • Never say no to an opportunity to teach or observe
  • Take the time to get to know your students and build positive relationships
  • Observe as many different teachers as you can and ask as many questions as you can; remember that you are still learning and there is no ‘stupid question’
  • Keep letters/pictures/notes or any work students have given to you over your time as a practical teacher, so when you are having a tough day you can pull out something to remind you of how important you are in someone’s life and that you’re doing a great job
  • Learn to laugh at yourself and embrace your mistakes as an opportunity to become a better teacher.

Last updated:
19 December 2017