In June 2014 I had the opportunity to do a work experience as a learning support assistant in the secondary school of Greensward Academy, a comprehensive school located in Hockley, a small town in the county of Essex in England. In contrast to a teacher a learning support assistant (LSA) does not teach anything but help the students with their tasks. It is comparable to a private tutor.
My typical work day started at 6am when we, me and my roommates, had to wake up. After a one-hour bus ride to the school – from Southend on Sea to Hockley - we arrived there at 8:40am. First we had to go to the reception and sign in for our attendance. The school was well equipped. After entering a code on the locked door we had access to the school building. Then we had to wait in the LSA-room for our hosts to pick us up. After we had been introduced to the students we immediately started working. The secondary school teaches 7-13 graders.
On the very first day I and my colleague Phillip had to participate in a PE lesson with a 7th grade, but we weren’t prepared for this. The friendly students forced us to take part in this period so we had no other choice. In that period the students had to take care of us because we weren’t familiar with the rules of the game. Dressed in suits we played baseball and longball with them. However, we had a lot of fun, but it was also a difficult situation because we had to make sure that we did not get dirty.
The second period was an IT-period. The young students had to create games on their computers. Some of them were really professional, others needed some help. In that lesson we basically had to go round and ask if they knew what the task was and if they needed any help. I really enjoyed this lesson. It was exciting. Compared with German students the English ones seem to have a much better knowledge of IT-technology. To me it seemed that the students had a lot of fun working on computers.
After that period we finally had a break. We spent it doing walks around the nice area which the school was located in and talked to other teachers and students, of course.
Then the third period started and we had English. The 8 graders had to analyze the movie Cinderella. The analysis was very similar to ours in Germany with the only difference that they did it in English. The students discussed symbols, characters, setting and the plot. This lesson was one of our quiet lessons since we almost had nothing to do.
Then lunchtime started. It lasted fifty minutes from 1pm to 1:50pm. The school canteen had a wide variety of meals. They offered warm food, cold food and instant meals. After I had topped up my account for the school canteen I was able to buy food. Paying was digitalized as well. We had to scan our fingers so that the staff could deduct money from our accounts. A regular meal costs £3.
After lunch we went back to the school building and participated in the fourth and last period of the day. This time we had science. Our task was to help the students with their experiments and make sure that they minuted their results correctly. Finally at 3pm school finished and we took our one-hour bus ride back to our hotel.
To sum up, I think that our work experience was a good way to be confronted with English school life. Unfortunately the short time didn’t help me to improve my English skills that much, but it helped me to refresh my existing skills. I suggest everybody who likes different cultures or speaking English should apply for this experience.
Visit to London
(report by S. H.)