Heathfield's Intern Programme

Hello! We’re Anabel, Katie, and Mary Anne, the three American interns working at Heathfield this spring. We’re all from Bates College (an American uni) in Lewiston, Maine (Anabel and Katie just graduated; Mary Anne will be in her third year). Anabel is working with both the Science and Geography departments, Katie is dividing her time between the English and Dance departments, working with students in Years 9 and 10, and Mary Anne is working in Dance and Drama classes with the Year 10s, as well as coordinating the Dance Clubs.

We’ve loved working and learning at Heathfield; everyone has been so friendly, generous, and welcoming. On weekends, we’ve enjoyed exploring North Curry, where we’re staying this spring, with its village charm. The beautiful rolling green hills and vast open landscapes of Somerset are so different from the more urban environments we’re used to, so it’s been a lovely escape. We’re only here for seven weeks, so we’ve been making the most of it by saying “Yes!” to every opportunity to explore south-west England, spend more time with Heathfield faculty and students, and learn about English culture.

A Day at Heathfield

Anabel: Whether a day at Heathfield is on or off timetable, it’s always an adventure and no day is like the next. I’ve been to the Bristol Zoo with the Year 7s, Butlins with the Year 9s, and to Taunton with the Geography Year 10s for controlled assessment. On the more typical days, I spend time with my Year 9 tutor group preparing our team for Sports Day and the Year End celebration, working with our Student Council representatives. These responsibilities require me to be a leader on the ‘other side’ of the classroom. When I’m not with my tutor group, I’m in Science and Geography lessons. Geography lessons are a great environment for cultural exchange. The Year 10s are learning about how cities are set up. I am able to challenge the students’ UK visions of a city with my experiences of cities in the US. The Year 8s are learning about the Amazon Rainforest, where I spent four months of university. I have taught lessons and shared my experiences, empowering students to form their own opinions about sustainable development in the Amazon. In Science lessons, I feel most effective when helping students to understand difficult material to prevent them from getting lost or checking out of a lesson.

Katie: At Heathfield, I can usually be found running back and forth between the Dance department, in the Tacchi-Morris Center, and the English department. I’ve loved working in subjects that are taught so differently, yet have so much overlap: creative narrative, for example, and a love of art. Most of my time is spent with Year 9s and Year 10s, and I’ve found that these students are brimming with curiosity and a desire to learn.

In English, I’ve been working with Year 9s developing their speeches for the annual Speech Competition (which took place on Friday, June 27). I enjoyed encouraging them to choose topics which they felt strongly about and coaching them to write well-structured speeches and deliver them with emphasis and passion. At the competition, I was blown away by the quality of work; many of those speeches might have been delivered by university students! It struck me that the curriculum at Heathfield, by emphasizing public speaking through the English department, does its students a service by making them confident communicators both on and off the page.

In the Dance department, I have been chiefly working with students in Year 10, initially helping them to develop and perform their solos for the GCSEs, and now working with them as they begin their group choreography unit. Working with them has reminded me how much creative energy and power young students have, but also how much confidence is needed to let it shine. It was a joy to see how students who came into the process thinking “I can’t make and perform a solo” ended up crafting beautiful work and performing it confidently. Mary Anne and I also assisted the Dance department with the Primary Dance Festival, in which Heathfield dance teachers go into local primary schools, teach students dances, and then the students come to Heathfield for a dance-filled day culminating in a performance. We taught the young students a dance workshop on the Festival Days and also performed a piece of our own.

Mary Anne: Since arriving, I have had the pleasure of working closely with the Year 10 Dance GCSE students on their solos and group choreography assignments. All three sections of this group are comprised of well humored, dedicated and creatively intelligent students. Each individual artist that I’ve worked with is enthusiastically open to feedback and new ideas: a skill that would distinguish them as mature learners at any university in the US. Also, a lesson rarely goes by where I don’t share a laugh with a student about something comical that has happened in the creative process. Recently, students were faced with the challenge of generating short motifs from their personal inspirations or random picture stimuli. In a period of one hour I watched three sophisticated movement phrases inspired by a range of idea (such as a day at the beach, Alice in Wonderland, and rugby) manifest themselves before me.

Inspired by students’ diligence, Katie and I put our best foot forward for our lesson on creative process and choreography for the Year 10s. Mrs. Hoare gave us the task of choreographing a 3-minute piece for the Primary Dance Festival in a cumulative few hours. The department generously set aside studio space for us, and we filmed our entire creative process both in and out of the studio. The piece, ‘Chasing Corners in Funhouses,’ was inspired by students’ pursuit of happiness that always seems to be escaping around obstacles in our future. After many discussions, Katie and I translated this idea into various choreographic techniques. We were pleased with the resulting piece, and we had so much fun performing it together in front of the audience at the Primary Dance Festival. When it came time to present our lesson on choreography, we edited a 7-minute film about the phases of our creative process. We compiled our main pieces of advice from our experience creating pieces at university and shared anecdotes with the attentive Year 10s. The experience of sharing information on a subject so close to our hearts has given us a sense of closure with some of our courses at university. Through opportunities such as these, this internship validates many of our past educational experiences as students.

Differences between UK & US

Anabel: The curiosity of the students inspires questions and conversations in which we notice the similarities and differences between a young adult’s experience in Southwest England and the Northeast United States. For example, in the US many students do not specialize their course work until halfway through university or later, whereas Year 9 Heathfield students have the agency to pick which courses to continue at GCSE and ultimately A level. Adolescents across the pond also have different hobbies. Girls’ football (soccer to us Yankees) is quite popular in the US, but US boys and girls hardly know the difference between croquet and cricket. (I’m fortunate to spend two lessons a week in a rounders and cricket PE class!).

Mary Anne: I’ve appreciated how seriously the arts are taken by teachers and students alike. I often find myself wishing throughout the day that I could have attended Heathfield because I would have loved to take so many Performing Arts classes. At my secondary school in New York City I invested myself heavily in our school dance company; however, there was a bias among most of the student body to take more ‘academic’ subjects more seriously.

We’ve been impressed…

Anabel: Each day at Heathfield, I continue to be impressed by the staff, teachers, and students of Heathfield. So many people have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and to show me the ropes of the school while seamlessly completing their own work. Each teacher I’ve observed is completely different from the teacher next door. I’ve seen teachers that can keep students entertained in a lecture for an hour, and others that have students responsibly performing practicals for the whole lesson. I am most impressed by the students here. Each student at Heathfield is a young adult with fascinating hobbies, a great personality, and a unique passion.

Katie: One of the things that has impressed me the most about Heathfield is the diversity of modes of learning I see taking place. The school respects and values not only traditional classroom learning, but learning through movement, adventure, and action-based exploration. Through pull-out days like Global Citizenship Day, field trips to the zoo and opportunities such as Ten Tors and Duke of Edinburgh, students are able to learn about our world kinaesthetically, through experience. It’s also great to see the emphasis on international exposure through Cafe Paramo, Global Citizenship Day, and the fact that we are here from the US! Having a global consciousness is so important in today’s world, and we’re glad that through our presence here and our interactions with students and faculty, we are fostering cross-cultural exchange. 

Mary Anne: I have already learned so much from the tight-knit and welcoming team of teachers at the Tacchi Morris Center about how to encourage students to develop a genuine relationship with the performing arts. The more classes I see, the more impressed I am with how the teachers here are able to tackle any challenge in front of them. If students are reluctant to dive into a creative task, the teachers quickly find ways to make it even more accessible and fun. They’re honest with themselves about how difficult it can be so effectively teach arts, but this fact only inspires them to work more creatively. Last week I read intently through schemes designed for a “007”-themed PE dance class. I was alarmed at how much extensive behind the scenes work had gone into the design for few lessons.

So finally…

This internship has surprised us in many ways, but most of all we’ve enjoyed watching each of us connect what goes on in our daily lives at Heathfield with experiences we’ve had in the past. Our time as students in primary and secondary school and then at university has only positively informed our decisions here. Some nights we sit around our dinner table discussing how our experiences in lessons that day compare to those of our memories, and how to best contribute to the community so that we feel we’re helping students at Heathfield get the most out of their education. They’re usually long discussions, and they keep us thinking about pedagogy long after our early American dinners. Thank you so much for welcoming us into your community; we’ve loved working and learning with you!

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