Pre PGCE reading

My PGCE course starts imminently, and I’ve had a lot of paperwork from the University, College, and Faculty to fill out. I’ve also decided to complicate matters slightly by changing my student bank account. When I signed up for my current student bank account 4 years ago, banks weren’t offering any incentives. That’s a little different now and, after comparing several accounts, I’ve decided to switch to HSBC. They’re offering a £60 Amazon voucher as well as more interest than my ISA offers.

Apart from all that I’ve been trying to get ahead with course related reading. I’ve read both of the booklets that we’ve been told to read:

  • Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk 4th Ed by R. Alexander
  • English Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the English Classroom, Ed B. Marshall and D. Wiliam.

I’ve also been reading:

  • Why don’t students like school? by Daniel T. Willingham. This has been a really interesting read. It’s by an American cognitive scientist, analysing how education works and how the brain works.
  • Why are you shouting at us? The Does and Don’ts of behaviour management, P. Beadle and J. Murphy. I got hold of this book earlier this year, when I was teaching 6 lessons a week and struggling with one of them. This and “Getting the Buggers to Behave” by S. Cowley really helped me get to grips with one of my classes (just in time for the school year to finish.)
  • Mindsets in the Classroom, by M. C. Ricci. This book discusses the implementation of the growth mindset in an education context, specifically how it can be used to change both student’s and educator’s perceptions of learning and achievement. It should really be read along side the seminal book on the growth mindset.

I’ve also been building on areas of weakness in my subject knowledge. I’ve been re-reading:

  • Rediscover Grammar by D. Crystal
  • Beginning Theory by P. Barry
  • Eats shoots and leaves, L. Truss
  • Introduction to English Poetry, J. Fenton.

My previous school was also having a clear out, and I was lucky enough to get copies of two anthologies of poetry for different exam boards. I am unsure of whether these specific anthologies are still used, however the poems and extracts are likely to still be used.

Till next time!

Intro to the PGCE blog

I’m going to be blogging about my PGCE experience, here’s the start!

I’m leaving my job in August to be a student on the University of Cambridge’s Secondary English PGCE program.

Over the course of the program, I aim to publish a blog a week covering what I learn and ideas on the pedagogy learnt and my experiences.

I’m starting the blog now because, in some ways, the course has already begun: I’ve been sent two extracts, details of two more, and instructions for other pre-course tasks.

The extracts detail the journey of several readers and writers. They are rather interesting, and I connected with the extract about the journey of reading. I remember not being able to read, learning to read, and then delving into the world of books. I’m pretty sure that I read most, if not all, of my local library’s children’s section. Then I progressed to YA and eventually adult fiction.

An extended reading list was also sent, and I’ve started to obtain copies of some of the books. We’ve also been told to begin to develop any gaps in our subject knowledge, and we have to hand in a subject knowledge audit at the start of the course.

I have also received initial confirmation of where I shall be undertaking my Initial Primary Placement. As part of the Cambridge Secondary PGCE course, students observe and undertake several exercises in a primary school.

Finally, I have been notified of my two professional placements – both were classified as Outstanding in their last OFSTED inspections, and they represent two contrasting placements.

What does a Teaching Assistant do?

Although my job title isn’t “Teaching Assistant” – it’s the much cooler “Student Motivation Assistant”, much of my job is the same as a teaching assistant’s; I am slightly more specialised and teach small classes.

I usually get to work at about 8:10am – the bell for registration goes at 8:30am, and I use this twenty minutes to get a coffee and catch up with other staff; once a week we have a whole-staff briefing at 8:10am.

During registration I take out my mentees to talk about any issues they have, both at home and at school. Sometimes these issues can be minor, sometimes they are serious. The chat gives students a chance to clear their mind of any issues so that they can give full attention to their lessons.

Lessons start at 8:45am and stop for break at 10:25am for break; this is two 50 minute lessons. At my school we aren’t based solely in one department, so I might move from an English lesson to an Art lesson, or Geography lesson. We have been given some influence over our lessons, and attention has been given to our particular skills – I have an English degree and a broad humanities background so I spend more time in these lessons; I have not been in any Science lessons.

Break offers a chance to recharge with coffee and catch up with other teachers and chat about any issues that need addressing.

Then it’s two more lessons before a recharge at lunch. I have a duty once a week, which means I patrol a designated area at break and lunch to keep an eye on students. Other teachers and TAs run clubs during lunch.

Depending on the TA’s timetable, there could be up to three more 50 minute lessons after lunch, meaning a 3:40pm finish. Students in Year 10 upwards finish at 3:40pm, those in the years below finish at 2:50pm.

Once a week we have a team meeting after work, finishing at 3:40pm to discuss any SEN news and any concerns. This also provides a chance for our SENCO to award the TA of the Week certificate and chocolate.

Extra-curricular clubs are imperative to a good education, and TAs contribute to running these; I co-run the Debating Society, while others run a Minecraft club and others.

And to those who are thinking about becoming a TA to test the education water before applying for teacher training: Do it. It’s hard, but incredibly fulfilling.