Before applying for my PGCE I spent just over two years in a high school working as a one-to- one Maths tutor, mostly for Years 10 and 11. I was also entrusted with having my own form, a responsibility I thoroughly enjoyed. After successfully gaining a School Direct place with Chorlton High School, I was asked to come in and work as a Curriculum Support Assistant for the Maths Department in the Summer term. This was a great experience for me as it allowed me the time to get to know the school, its staff and its pupils, without the extra pressures of the PGCE to distract me. It meant come September that I felt a lot more prepared than I would have with that initial term.
Those who are considering applying for a PGCE should definitely try and gain some experience of working in a school. You might have the best subject knowledge in the country, but until you have spent every weekday working in a school environment and building a rapport up with the pupils that surround you, you will never truly know if this career is the one for you.
As previously stated, the transition into teaching at the start of the course was made easier by the time I’d previously spent at Chorlton High School. My mentor was really supportive in easing me into the teaching timetable and showing me how to plan engaging and effective lessons. This assistance and preparation for my first week of teaching was invaluable and it really helped me be confident and comfortable when teaching my first few lessons.
The contrast placement was important for me in terms of seeing the different challenges involved with other schools. Swapping an inner-city school with a wide array of backgrounds for a much more rural school with a predominantly white, middle-class intake showed me the need to be adaptable in teaching. Expectations were different, school days were structured differently, behaviour systems were rarely needed, my block B school really was a “contrasting placement". This contrast, however, can really help form your own views on the kind of school you want to teach at in the future.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time at my placement B school, due to the relationships I had built at Chorlton High I was more than looking forward to returning for my final block. This is the point where your timetable increases closer to a normal teaching timetable and while it feels ominous before, once you are in the swing of it all again it feels quite natural and akin to what it is like to be a fully qualified teacher.
Training provided, both by university and school, is comprehensive and offers you all the tools you would need in order to become a successful teacher. University sessions were much more subject specific, so for me it was largely looking at ways of making Maths accessible for all different types of learners. In-school training was more general, but just as useful, as we were shown different techniques to combat behaviour issues, ways of assessing and monitoring progress and strategies to encourage peer working to name a few!
I was fortunate enough to be offered a job, after interview, with Chorlton High School and am looking forward to starting as an NQT in September. The challenges will be different but I know I am in the right place in terms of my professional and personal needs being looked after.
If I was to offer advice for any prospective trainee it would be to stay level-headed and think of the bigger picture. There will no doubt be some days where you feel everything you’ve tried hasn’t worked and your classes have been particularly hard work. However, staying calm and looking at the important role you are playing in the day-to- day lives of the young people you are working with will make you realise and appreciate how worthwhile the work you are doing actually is.