I’ve written about the Brilliant Club before in a couple of different posts, you can find them here and here, so I thought I would post an update now that the spring placements have arrived. My first placement with the Brilliant Club, working with Yr12 students last summer, was daunting but massively rewarding, and I knew that I was going to carry on working with them (if they’d have me 😉 ). Unfortunately they didn’t have a winter placement (working with Yr7/8’s) available for me so this round of spring placements will be my first chance to work with school aged kids since June. Spring placements are predominantly for KS4 students although the Brilliant Club are flexible and offer other ages groups where possible, which is how I ended up with two placements this term! I was allocated a KS4 placement but asked if I would be interesting in doing a KS3 placement as well. KS3 placements are slightly different as the Brilliant Club provide the courses rather than tutors designing them. If I had to design a course for two age groups I don’t think I could’ve managed it, but after a little bit of a debate with my boyfriend I decided to go for it. I’m actually teaching a KS3 maths course as I’m classed as a STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) tutor, which is a little daunting but I’ve been through the course and I think I should be fine. My programme officer Joe has been hugely helpful in organising my placements, he’s managed to get them on the same day, this way I’m only travelling and not working in the lab for one day rather than two half days. This makes doing two placements much more managable.
As with my last placement there’s a requirement to attend a training weekend, although as a returning tutor I’m granted a slightly later start on the Saturday which was very appreciated after a long week in the lab. The process is slightly different for returning tutors, rather than producing a course outline for review before the training weekend, we produce a course redesign which includes a reflection on what went well and what could go better. I’d already planned a fairly big redesign on my course but the reflection definitely helped me cement aspects to keep and areas to focus on more, for example my latest course has a whole tutorial on how to finding reliable resources and how to reference them. I’ve included this because I realised from my last course the students need time to practice this before being sent away to do there final assignments, handing them a referencing guide will never be enough! This is where I think the personal value of doing the Brilliant Club can really be seen, putting aside the fact that I hugely enjoy the actual teaching, the opportunity to learn to teach, design a course from scratch and then reflect and continuously improve that course develops skills that will be beneficial to future jobs regardless of whether I stay in academia or not.
So what did the actual training weekend involve? Well it was fairly similar to my last one, except this time round I knew people 🙂 , day one was spent at the University of Warwick with the other midlands tutors and day two was down in London with the entire cohort of Brilliant Club tutors. The Saturday covered some advanced teaching techniques (for returning tutors) as well as some necessary admin and the Sunday included keynote talks on the importance of vocabulary and the chance once again to choose two electives. Dr Tom Wilks put on a particularly good (and entertaining) session challenging the image of scientists and introducing us to how the national curriculum presents the scientific method. Following the training weekend I feel ready and prepared to finish my KS4 course. So that’s what I’ve been busy doing over the last few weeks, in the evenings, at the weekends etc. A course redesign for me hasn’t been any less work (although this might be my own fault for changing my course so much) but the task has felt much more manageable. I understand what I’m doing and I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes. I’m filling in lesson plans for each of my tutorials as I design the booklet and I’m finding this to be one of the most beneficials changes I’ve made to my approach. By working this way I can make sure now that I had all the resources ready to go, every homework is mapped out along with a follow up exericse in the next tutorial, and each exercise I’ve planned has a space in the course handbook. I have additional resources ready in case a particular point needs more time spent on it then I’ve initially intended. So far I have tutorials 1, 2, 5 and 6 in the bag (lesson plans and all) and tutorial 3 is under construction, the deadline is Monday for the course handbook to be completed but I’ll hopefully also have all my lesson plans and resources ready to go by then.
I hadn’t realised until I’d begun my course redesign how much I’d learnt from my first placement, so I want to thank the Brilliant Club, not only for the amazing work they do to help pupils but for what their programme offers tutors like me.
P.S. before agreeing to 2 placements this term I did check with my supervisor, I won’t give you his exact words but the gist is he’s happy for me to do as many placements as I want provided my PhD doesn’t suffer.