On my final placement, as part of my teaching programme, I was given the opportunity to teach and learn at Ruawai Primary School in Northland for seven weeks. For at least three of those weeks, I was given full control of a classroom.

“Morena Tamariki Ma! Talofa Tamaiti”, is how I greet the class at the start of the day. My learners would respond in kind with a respectful “Tena Koutou Matua Christian!” and then we would launch into our day’s learning.

This might sound easy enough to some, but for a fairly shy person such as myself, the nerves can be somewhat high going in. The first few days of practicum are always a mixture of excitement, confusion, discovery and in my case, a heavy combination of all these things.

Every school operates a little bit differently and you never know who your associate teacher is going to be and how you will get along with them. Fortunately, I lucked out and was landed with a woman who is not only a phenomenal teacher but a great all-around individual. I learned so much under her guidance regarding the management of classroom routines, behaviours, expectations and the implementation of ICT in the modern classroom.

This was my first time experiencing a classroom programme that integrated ICT and learner management to the extent that Ruawai Primary School did. For instance, the daily tasks were planned out on a big “active board” (AT) (a huge flat screen tv which doubles as a touch-screen computer) followed by the reading out of school notices. On Fridays the notices would be followed by an online shared book, recent news and a game of Kahoot. All of this was facilitated by the learners who took turns being the teacher during these and other segments of the day on a rotating roster.

This is one of the things I love about being out on practicum. Experiencing new and innovative ways to teach through observing other teachers’ practice. I’ve learned that there is no one way to teach; teaching is as varied and unique as the individuals who take on this career.

Once I knew the daily routines and how the learning was structured throughout the day, I started to settle down and really enjoy my time at the school. I started to focus on building good relationships with the learners and staff at the school, as well as familiarising myself with how my AT planned the daily learning and individual lessons.

I quickly learned that one of the keys to success as a teacher which naturally translates to success for learners, is “relationships”. The more I got to know the learners in my classroom and understood their learning needs, the more fun we had with the learning that took place, and the more purposeful it ended up being. In all honesty, my three weeks of full control flew by and was over in the blink of an eye.

During that time I immensely enjoyed so many good learning experiences with my class. Admittedly I went into it full of nerves, armed with my accumulated knowledge of the classroom programme and what I knew from studying educational theory at the University of Auckland. I was quite worried that I would make mistakes, botch up a lesson or forget my lesson plan and not know what to say in front of the class. I ended up doing all three, and quickly found out that the best learning comes from your mistakes and failures while you’re on practicum.

Many failures and successes later, I am now sitting here at one of the classroom desks typing this up. School just finished for the week, and my last practicum has drawn to a close. I’m looking forward to going back to university next week and telling my classmates everything I have learned during this awesome placement.

I often hear teachers say that teaching is a lot of work, and quite honestly it is. It’s a lot of work. However I also think it’s one of the few professions where hard work truly does pay off. What better calling is there than enabling the success of our children after all? And to be honest, when your hard work pays off during lessons, it barely feels like work at all.

Christian Ioka is on his final year of the Bachelor of Education (Teaching) (Primary) programme at the University of Auckland. He is based at the Faculty of Education and Social Work’s Tai Tokerau Campus in Whangarei.

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