In Simplicitus, Emma Turner asks us to consider three core questions:
- What should it be like to be a pupil in a primary classroom?
- What would you want a primary child to tell their adult as home time about their experience in your school that day?
- If a child in your school had to leave your school only being able to do one thing, what would you want that one thing to be?
Simplicitus (Turner, 2022) p23
This is our starting point when introducing our Associate Teachers to the curriculum in primary school. It’s important to recognise that the curriculum is not just the subjects we teach, but the wider experiences we plan for our pupils, and the windows and doors we open for them.
As we introduce each of the subjects across the Autumn Term in our Primary Programmes, many of them through practical activities, a picture begins to emerge of the richness of a well planned and executed primary curriculum. And although in their placement schools this will already be mapped out in detail, Associate Teachers start to understand that the decisions made in the classroom every day have an impact on the children they teach. From the vocabulary they include to the feedback they give, their consideration of prior learning to the resources they choose, there is always plenty to think about and each element matters.
Getting to grips with the range of primary subjects and the threads that tie them together into a cohesive whole is a daunting but deeply satisfying task. Our Associate Teachers benefit from learning together, sharing their experiences in school and embracing the challenges of getting up to speed with subjects they may not have experienced since their own school days. There are sometimes nerves, often discussion of our own attitudes to different subjects, and always laughter as we explore the learner’s experience in different ways. It is no coincidence that my favourite image from the past two years has been from our initial PE curriculum day, when everyone joins in with parachute games which they are always rather reluctant to leave at the end of the day.
Just as in the best classrooms, my role is to set the learning into context. In some subjects, such as Geography and History that might be thinking about the learning opportunities available in the local area. Our recent Art and DT sessions had a more seasonal twist as we tried out our observational drawing skills on autumnal objects and then used simple mechanisms to make greetings cards. It’s important to be realistic about what might be claiming most attention in school and there is little doubt that December in a primary school is a rather busy time!
Which is why, much as the Associate teachers enjoy their subject sessions, they are always keen to get back to school to test out their ideas and experience the richness of primary school life in all its colour and vibrancy. And to return to our original questions, reflecting on each of these as we are planning learning guides our thinking to ensuring those experiences are positive and guided by enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers with a real passion for primary.