Thriving not Surviving the PGCE year

I am a firm believer in paying it forward in everything that I do…I hope to do this by sharing my PGCE journey with some top tips that helped me…

My career goal was to teach from the age of 14, I am now 29, I have received my QTS and I was fortunate to land a job whilst still completing the course.My route into teaching was as follows: I completed PE at GCSE and A-Level. I went through clearing and got a place on a sport and exercise science course. I completed this and left in 2011.I applied for my PGCE in that same year and did not receive a place, I applied for a GTP programme which was also unsuccessful. At a loose end, I applied to complete my master’s in the same discipline at the same university which after two years I completed. Then finally in 2016, I landed a place on a PGCE which was very short-lived as I had to defer. After returning in 2018, I am now qualified and completing my NQT year.

When I finally returned in 2018. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but I was well supported by family, friends, and also a counsellor. Initially, I honestly questioned what it is that I had walked back into, but I constantly had people pushing me and reminding me why I was there.

Top tip No 1. Have a good support network.

The day before starting my first placement I can honestly say the nerves that I had were unlike anything I have ever had, and it stemmed from the fact that I did not believe that I could teach. Students and young people are very good at picking up on any signs of fear/lack of confidence. So even if you don’t believe it, when you walk into your classroom have that persona of confidence – believe in yourself!!It took around a month before I settled in at my school, it was a small homely environment and I was lucky to have 4 other PGCE students who were going through the same things as me. Although we were from different disciplines and different universities, we all helped each other along even if it was just to have a good old moan.

Top tip No 2. Fake it until you make it!

I had a tough time during my first placement and initially, I didn’t reach out, to be honest, I hardly spoke to those on my course for the first four months as I just like to get on with things. Upon reflection, that is something that I regret as once I started reaching out, I found that some of my colleagues were experiencing the same problems/challenges. Without a doubt, they were all there for me at some point throughout the course with words of encouragement, ideas, and resources! 

Top tip No 3. Engage with your course colleagues they will be one of your strengths.

Time out between placements provided a good opportunity to rest, reflect, and prepare. I found that I always had something that needed to be done however I highly recommend taking some time to catch up with friends, have fun and look after you.

Top tip No 4. Look after yourself!

Everyone has other commitments; I worked alongside the PGCE and at times this was challenging as I found myself with no rest day. Writing lesson plans was painfully time consuming and sometimes seemed like a pointless exercise but once you get used to them it will become a quicker process. I am still consistently planning even now when I am at the stage when no one is requesting to see them. They make my vision for the lesson clearer and most importantly provide me with an opportunity to reflect on what went well and where there is room for improvement.

Top tip No 5. Be organised and plan your lessons.

And for the big one…Lesson Observations! I think this is something that you just have to get used to because it is going to happen anyway. That doesn’t mean I was any less nervous however after about 5 minutes I forgot that anyone else was in the room.  Just be you and focus on your lesson, at the end of the day everyone is here to help you develop and grow as a teacher. Even if your lesson doesn’t quite go as planned, keep going, it’s all a part of the learning process.

Top tip No 6. Just be you!

My second placement had different challenges to the first. Teaching hours go up, things start to feel a bit more real and I found that the expectations began to increase. I struggled to find my feet in my second school, and I most definitely was ready to quit at this point. I was in school every day, teaching every day, I still had assignments and then the added pressure of searching for a job. Please do not be disheartened or give up at this stage, lots of tears and four interviews later I secured a job. Every setback on this journey reinforced my own beliefs that I wasn’t capable of teaching. For me, those around me kept me going – I have to thank my mum, colleagues, and my lecturer for helping me over these final hurdles.

Top tip No 7. Reach out for help – there is no shame in it!

And finally, most importantly having evidence of everything that I did made the end of my PGCE less stressful. Get on top of your evidence folder as soon as you start the course. I added something to it every day which made it easy to track and to be honest it just made my life a whole lot easier.

Top tip No 8. Do not leave your evidence folder until the last minute!

I hope that this somehow helps. Feel free to get in touch.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive…

Maya Angelou

Now that I have officially received my QTS I can say that I MADE IT! 

The PGCE is a challenging journey, but I made it and so can you!

Two recommended reads…

Written by Laura McBean – September 19th, 2019

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