Monday, 28 December 2015

Poor times, Great times, Creative times, Exhausting times - The PGCE year


I thought I would take a moment to reflect upon my PGCE year. What a wonderful year it was!

It's almost the new year and I'm sure all PGCE students across the country are enjoying this magical time off. Well they should they earned it!

By now, students have experienced or had a taste of many different interesting aspects to the role of being a teacher. Many will have flown enjoying rich opportunities to get to know children and teach them new things. Some may have had harrowing and heart breaking experiences thrust upon them that have tested them to their cores. Both versions are very much necessary in the never ending journey to become a teacher. For myself, the first term was very much the former. An enlightening time where I deemed that I had arrived in my future. I remember thinking 'yes, this is definitely for me!'

The Spring hit me like a steam train and I felt my experience changing rapidly. Difficult behaviour, assignments and audits building up, looooooong lectures, driving and monetary issues all seemed to provide enormous obstacles. Having met up with my other student friends for Christmas drinks I remember laughing and commiserating with them about the bad times they were having. But at the very same time thinking well why am I finding this brilliant. But as it turns out Spring was just my time or turn. However, I look back I am so thankful for that time it was testing and the real definition of character building. Most of all I learnt that we are not islands and that asking for help was the only real option. The more I asked and lost any sense of ego I had the more I clambered through the year.

I hope I can share neutrally now what the Spring holds for students. This is what I knew collectively we all experienced.

  • Assignment meltdown - Your teaching hours increase and expectations rise. It is only natural that in the deep dark months of winter that you want to hibernate when you get home from long lectures. But those assignments are due and they will creep up fast. 
  • Lecture fatigue - 'What do these have to do with teaching' classic stock phrase coined by many students. I remember sitting through an hour long lecture at 4 o'clock on a Thursday having had lectures solid all day. The lecturers message was essentially why you should drink water when teaching. No side points or pedagogy. I was tired drunk big time and cracked my head on someones knee behind. My advice just bear with these lectures you will be craving CPD when you are fully fledged.
  • Costs - Man its expensive and if I think back I'm not really sure how I afforded everything without a job. You want to make these beautiful resources for your next big appearance in front of your awesome new class but fuel costs, living costs and food costs get in the way. Endure and be smart. There are many many many different ways to create awesome costless resources that children will love. Look at pinterest if you don't believe me!!!!
  • Observations - I'm still daunted to this day about observations. You are desperate for that outstanding I know but it really isn't that important. I got a few of them in my PGCE year and found that when you get into an actual school the expectations rise again. Just keep improving your practice is the best thing to do!
Undoubtedly this was one of the best years of my life. A passion sandwich with a slices of optimism and wonder all inside a stress bun. But there were somethings missing...

  • Parents - To a certain degree you are shielded from the parent teacher relationship by your mentor. This is one of the most vital relationships you will ever experience. There is nothing more uplifting than a grateful parent but on the opposite end of the spectrum soul-destroying when there is problems with parents. Often you can be left it moral crisis feeling helpless at situations. Just find your style and keep talking the more experienced.
  • The TA relationship - I got so lucky. Teaching assistants are the most vital part of schools and they make the world go around for little or no money! Treat this relationship like it was the most fragile artefact ever discovered. Teaching assistants should be revered and you would do well to nurture this relationship.
  • Paper work - Your endless lesson planning sheets may well end but the paper will not. It is replaced with things far more fat and unforgiving. Forms, policies and data will rule your life if you let them. It is coming for us all!
  • Data - Unfortunately the school system relies on data. Now it's progress related data and you will be generating it out of the wazoo! It's important to remember that in the darkest depths of the wee hours that the only thing that matters is the children.
  • Leadership - Now you may be given grace for a year as an NQT but soon the leadership will be asking you to organise and develop parts of the curriculum. Taking on subject leaderships is something that nobody is ready for. Embrace it and know that it is on-going.
To everyone who is on their journey through their PGCE years, know that whilst the late sleepless nights may never end, it is worth it at the end! I can tell you 'the juice is worth the squeeze'...