May 23, 2024, by Arts Placements

An Unforgettable Experience of Teaching English as an Additional Language in a Primary School

By Ruiwen Zhang, MA Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching

Seizing the opportunity

The first time I knew about the Faculty of Arts Placements team was attending the Faculty of Arts Welcome Event. A team member told me to keep an eye on Placements in PGT community hub, and I could find many volunteer chances there. One night, I just looked through PGT hub and clicked Placements.  I saw a programme called Teaching English as an Additional Language in Primary Schools. Luckily I still had some time to apply and applied without any hesitation. As an international student from China, I knew that a chance to work in a local primary school could be a very amazing experience on my CV.  It was also a good chance to see the differences between British and Chinese primary school education.

All Preparations before Going to the School

After applying , I received the interview invitation email from the team and was very excited. Two staff members interviewed me, and we had a happy and relaxing talk. I shared some things about my previous teaching experience for two years in a public middle school in China and many experiences as a teaching assistant during summer and winter holiday as an undergraduate. Several days later, I received the placement offer email! I was so excited again. At the same time, my roommate, Chen, received the offer too.  We worked as a pair for the whole placement.

Before the placement began, the team organised some training sessions for us.  These included teaching tips, safeguard training, essential DBS checks and so on.   I didn’t know this before, so it was again a chance for me to learn new things.

My Experience at School

The school I went was in Beeston, and it was easy to find. I took bus No.36 with Chen there. The headteacher welcomed Chen and me in the first week. She was a really warm and kind lady who talked with us about our placement plan, such as time, the number of pupils, age group of pupils and so on. We were meant to be responsible for a small group of pupils offering one-to-one support, but we gave one lesson to the whole class each week. Although it was slightly different from the original purpose of the programme, we made it work.

I never thought, as an international student, I would have a chance to teach English to pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in the UK. It was a challenge but more progress for me and Chen. We thought we would be nervous when seeing pupils for the first time, but they were more outgoing than we thought.  They greeted us first when we were slightly shy and didn’t know what to say. Additionally, we built trust and friendship with the pupils. They would like to give us a hug, but we told them that we could not have any physical contact, then they said let’s have some air hugs which made mine and Chen’s day. I felt the children were pure, sweet, and lovely. To sum up, I did enjoy the time with pupils.

Posted in Community EngagementSchool experienceVolunteering