My Professional Journey by Alexandra Lock (EYGPC Special Edition)

This week we are celebrating the Early Years Graduate Practitioner Competencies. The competencies allow students to develop their practical and reflective skills up to level 6. We will round this week off with a fantastic podcast from Gayle Victoria Blackburn who will answer the burning questions about the graduate practitioner competencies. For you today we have a fantastic blog from Alexandra Lock who is an amazing graduate of the University of Sunderland and one of the first students in the North East to achieve the Graduate Competencies. Read about Alexandra’s ‘professional journey’ below.

Alexandra Lock – My Professional Journey

I began my journey into education through an apprenticeship, as a Teaching Assistant, at Holy Trinity Academy. I received employment on completion of this apprenticeship as a full-time Teaching Assistant. I pride myself in being exceptionally hard working, motivated, ambitious, dedicated and above all extremely passionate about becoming a successful practitioner. I handle tasks with accuracy and efficiency, with a drive for excellence. All skills I have gained or enhanced throughout my experience with the competencies.

I was enrolled on the Education and Curriculum Studies top-up degree, which I studied part-time over the course of 2 years. I continued my employment as a Teaching Assistant full-time whilst studying for my degree. Whilst I did this, I was offered the opportunity to take part in the pilot: ‘Early Childhood Graduate Practitioner Competencies’. This began in January 2019 and was completed in June 2020. Had I not been in full-time employment, or studying alongside this, I feel the competencies could be completed in a shorter period of time.

The competencies have provided me with ample opportunities to develop skills I was not confident in. I have been able to create strong relationships with parents and colleagues by setting up and organising a support program, in which I identified target children who required additional phonic skills. I planned regular meetings with parents to discuss the function of this program and monitored this progress over the course of the academic year. The competencies allowed me to ‘get out of my comfort zone’ and experience a role I have always been motivated to take on.

The competencies were my responsibility to complete and I feel because of this I have been able to develop strong organisational and prioritisation skills. I am dedicated and committed to my profession and an enthusiastic member of staff who works well alongside others to plan and coordinate work, develop best practice and to achieve all targets or goals. The competencies have allowed me to approach my team with ideas and take lead on implementing activities. It provided me with leadership skills, a requirement to the role I’d eventually like to take.

The children I worked with whilst completing the competencies were also provided with new experiences and opportunities to develop their skills. Certain competencies could only be completed if I had experience working in small and large group sizes and creating lessons that would stimulate their learning. My expertise within education lay with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Due to the competencies expectations, I have been able to be responsive to children’s spontaneous play and support their learning by enhancing their environment; with activities directly fuelled by their interests.

Throughout the competencies I have been observed working with small and large groups of children. I have had numerous professional meetings and communicated effectively with my mentor and tutor through email and face-to-face interactions. These forms of assessment allowed me to complete the competencies. The end of assessment ‘Viva’ was conducted through Microsoft Teams. I had the opportunity to share my portfolio which included all my experiences throughout the competencies. Staff at the University asked questions that were directly focused on the competencies and asked me to provide examples of how I evidenced them within my portfolio.

I thoroughly enjoyed developing and applying my current skills and learning new skills to better my knowledge and understanding. I have always been happy and willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to demonstrate my hunger to progress with my career. The support from the University and my workplace; working with outstanding teachers and creating a rapport with University Staff, has only inspired and motivated me more.

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