Having studied abroad, I spent a few months before the start of my PGCE year observing different schools and looking at the different subject specifications. This allowed me to gather a better idea on how science is taught in the UK nowadays and what it is required to study at KS3 and KS4 levels. It also helped me identify some gaps in my subject knowledge. While it may seem time consuming, I think these experiences helped me starting my PGCE year more prepared.
My induction and block A were probably the scariest and most stressful times of my training. Starting to teach with no previous experience was a bit like learning to swim by diving straight into the sea. However, thanks to the precious help of trained staff, I managed to learn a lot in a short period of time. Furthermore, the more mistakes I made the more I learned, thus making even the most dreadful lesson an opportunity to grow and develop teaching skills. Lots of stress derived also from the incredible amount of workload trainees need to face due to lesson planning, marking, university assignments and formal observations. One thing I came to realise was that even though next year I will not have any university assignments, the workload will probably stay the same as I will be teaching more classes and lessons. However, you learn to finish tasks in a shorter time and begin to prioritise them in a different ways, so there is nothing to worry about.
My contrasting placement was an eye-opening experience. After you start feeling slightly comfortable in your first school, you go to a place where children, staff and teaching style are completely different. Sometimes this works for the better, other times for the worse. However, it is an invaluable experience that allows you to test yourself, gain new skills and give you an idea on what type of school you want to work in your future. Mine was a bit of a struggle, but I gained so many new skills and it gave me a better insight regarding the teacher I want to be.
Finally, I returned to my host school to finish my training. This experience allowed me to test the new skills acquired during the contrast placement and fine-tuning my teaching practice. While in my first block, I was more concerned about surviving in the classroom, during this placement I focused on how to make sure that all pupils lean according to their different needs and abilities. It was also nice to see how many of my hurdles encountered in September had slowly faded away.
After I finished teaching, I spent the last two weeks of my training in the enrichment programme. During these two weeks I worked at the Green Room, helping targeted students with their learning in science; I also created revision booklets so that staff could use them in the future. In the remaining time, I visited a SEN school to observe how students with SEN learn at their best. This gave me ideas on how to best support my future students.
During my training I tried to be involved in the school and department as much as possible. In fact, I wanted to build relationships with pupils as fast as possible and also create connections with other members of the staff and use their expertise to help me with my teaching. I attended numerous CPD sessions, helped with a form group, assisted with after-school activities and acted as TA during various lessons.
In parallel to the school training, I spent a few weeks at university in September and January with my university tutors. These sessions gave me tools to use in my classroom practice and also helped me understanding several issues happening in education. After January, I rarely had to go to university; however, the amount of university assignments and tasks increased significantly, having a considerable impact on my stress.
My biggest challenge has probably been the workload. Lesson planning, marking, university assignments, job applications and various school commitments have filled every single second of my life. I had to learn to be less of a perfectionist and live with the idea that there will always be something to do; therefore, I had to create some free time for my own well-being and prioritise work accordingly.
This year has been very challenging but also very rewarding. Despite the fact of having finished my training with an ‘outstanding’ grade, which was unexpected, I got many successes with my pupils, which paid off all my efforts and struggles. I also got a job in South Manchester and I will start in September.
My thoughts and feelings regarding my NQT year are very contrasting. On one hand, I cannot wait to start teaching my own classes and nurture the pupils for an extended period of time (during my training I taught many different groups only for a few weeks). On the other hand, I feel scared as I will have more responsibilities and less support during the lessons. In the final part of my PGCE year, however, I was more independent and this helped me build some confidence.
There will be many tough times during your training, which will test you on a personal level. Do not take things too personally and be resilient; every apparent failure will be the source for your greatest victory in the future. But my best piece of advice is: enjoy the training! Teaching is a very demanding profession but it can give you a lot more than you think.