July 24, 2020

I view my journey to becoming a mature student at Cardiff Met and studying Primary Education as if I have been climbing a ladder for over a decade and my time on this course represents one of the most significant steps in my goal of one day becoming a primary teacher. I have really enjoyed my studies so far and as I approach going into my third year of study, I thought I would highlight how I chose to study Primary Education Studies at Cardiff Met and some of my most memorable experiences on the course so far.

After leaving a previous degree, I began by volunteering with a local primary school to give me the experience of being around children in an educational setting and helping them out with their learning. I then progressed to train to be a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) and my role as an LSA on various placements across schools in Cardiff and the Vale had the most significant impact on my journey. My experience was invaluable in terms of being involved in the day to day running of a school and finding out how different schools run, working closely with teachers and other members of staff, getting myself known amongst schools in the local area, and having different experiences such as working within a classroom on a 1-2-1 or group basis with children. It also demonstrated to me that working with children is something that I could do well and was really interested in. However, finding a full-time job as an LSA was challenging, so I realised that if I wanted to continue my progression then I would need to return to university education.

I applied to Cardiff Met and although my previous experience working in education gave me confidence that I could be successful on the course, I still experienced some anxieties before starting the course as a mature student. Such as whether I would be able to engage and build friendships with younger students, having the right support from my tutors and returning to academic study after years away from Uni.

However, since joining the course I have not looked back! I have gained friendships on the course with a mixture of mature and younger students and I have developed good relationships with our course tutors.

I have had the opportunity to engage in some new practical experiences working with children and explore and use some of the resources and materials that are being used within primary education. All of which have helped me to come out of my comfort zone further and try things that I may not have chosen to do prior to joining the course. There have been lots of experiences I have enjoyed:

  • Visiting a local primary school to deliver yoga sessions with children
  • Going out to deliver a science lesson in a local school in partnership with Techniquest
  • Forest School Level 2 Qualification which I participated in and completed alongside my studies
  • Using technology such as virtual reality, iPads, green screens for animation, and a variety of educational apps. 
The practical experiences are so varied! I’ve enjoyed exploring outdoor play at the on campus Forest School and having the opportunity to gain a Forest School Level 2 qualification.

On the course our tutors have emphasised the growing importance of digital competency within the primary curriculum here in Wales. Therefore, we were given opportunities to explore and use technology within our seminar sessions with tutors.

In one session we learnt about an app called A.L.E.X. which can be used to teach children how to programme an avatar and bring it to life from within the app, and to move in the directions that they tell it to. The aim was to get the avatar from a starting position to a finishing position without it falling off the screen. There were different levels to this, and each level increased in difficulty as we progressed. We could see the value that this app had in terms of introducing programming to children but also how engaging this app could be for children.

In another session we worked with iPads and Green Screen technology to create our own short animation films using props provided to us by our tutors. The activity was cross-curricular and gave us the opportunity to practice skills in several disciplines such as literacy, numeracy, digital competency, and expressive arts. It provided me particularly with a new educational experience, something which I never engaged in myself in school or had seen in my years working as an LSA.

Learning how to use technology in our seminar sessions has been fascinating! For this session we used the Voki app, created an avatar and learnt how using tech can help to promote safety messages to children whilst being online.

I have also enjoyed studying modules on play, so much so that I have chosen to research children’s rough and tumble play for my dissertation study in my third year. I have also enjoyed studying the Curriculum for Wales 2022 and its new areas of learning and experience. I believe we are heading for an exciting new approach to curriculum here in Wales and it is something I’d like to be a part of delivering!

As well as the practical experiences as part of the course, I have also had the opportunity to engage in my own continuous personal development. I currently represent the views of students as a course rep, I have used social media to network with educators and demonstrate my experiences on the course and I am continuing to engage with new online experiences during the current global pandemic by engaging in Microsoft Office Specialist Training to become more experienced in using Office software.  

I think what comes across for me having discussed my experiences on the course is just how much my previous life and work experiences in educational settings have allowed me to enjoy the course more, but also ignore any anxieties I had and put myself out there to make the most of the opportunities that are on offer.

So as I enter my final year and my course moves towards a more blended approach to learning, I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I have had to date to succeed and build upon my previous life experiences I already brought to university, and I’m hopeful that these will support my continuing journey towards teaching!