It’s here, I’m there: PGCE time!

So. It’s here: The PGCE. And I’m there: Homerton College.

I moved in and Matriculated yesterday, and met various people on the PGCE course. The actual course started this morning… us English lot were in the earliest: 9am (We’re guessing it’s to make up for all the late starts we had as undergrads). At least the Faculty of Education is only a minutes walk away!

Homerton

So I moved in and unpacked yesterday. My room is pretty much a standard university room, although it is nice to have bedding and towels provided and washed by the University. It was also nice to find that we each have our own cupboards in our kitchen, and each cupboard is lockable! The only downside to my room is that there is some sort of boiler across the corridor that constantly drones. My room also means that I’m the “Deputy Chief Fire Warden”, which basically means that I have a bit of extra responsibility, but not enough that it’s a worry.

Homerton College, view from Queen's Wing
The view – doors to the Great Hall.

Inside a Queen's Wing room

When I came back from study today, I found a box on my desk. It’s a kind of “Fresher’s Care Package.”

Digin box

Inside were a number of goodies, including: Jam (Yum), Marmite (yuck), an energy drink (ok..), and some tea (yay), along with a pack of cards…

Goodies - Fresher Care Package.

Today

After a brief introduction to the e-learning environment (Moodle), the course handbook and the next few days, we launched straight into studying. Much of the day revolved around speaking and listening.

We took part in a number of activities that would be easy to transfer into the classroom. The first revolved around swearing in children’s literature and consisted of a role-play, with lots of rotation and discussion. Another involved transcribing and transforming speech into different forms. This helped to get us thinking about the conventions of different forms, and we discussed how it could be used in class, with reference to different assessment focuses.

The day ended with an introduction to our first assessment (not due for a while), just so that we were aware that it existed.

Tonight? Tonight there’s a pub crawl… and study starts at 9 tomorrow, so moderation is definitely key!

I’m doing Secondary… but I’m in a Primary School?!

A key feature of the Cambridge Secondary PGCE is it’s requirement that students must complete a week in a primary school before the start of the course. If students do not provide evidence of this, they cannot complete the course.

I was fortunate enough to have a primary school right next to the secondary school where I used to work. It was at this school where I completed my week. That was last week.

It was really exciting and interesting to see how younger students learn, and what they learn. I was astounded by much they use small whiteboards to answer questions and draft answers – this never happened when I was in primary school. All of the students read several times a day, and I was able to read with several of them – many were pretty fluent, confident readers.

I’d forgotten how varied the primary school day was, and was treated to PE, a history lesson on the Mayans, a singing assembly, lots of English and Maths, as well as Art. I’d also forgotten how respectful primary aged children are of adults – they were inquisitive and enthusiastic to accept help.

Did I enjoy the experience? Yes. Did I find it interesting? Yes. Do I now want to teach primary? No. I prefer the challenge of the secondary environment, as well as the variety of ages.

Breaking Bad + Zombies = ???

As part of the prep work for my PGCE course, I have been asked to keep a journal of the books that I’m reading. So here’s the start of that.

I read “Noughts and Crosses” by Malorie Blackman. I’d heard good things about this, and it was on the recommended list sent to me by the University. The premise was interesting – an inversion of the positions of black and white in history. At times the novel is insightful in its descriptions of discrimination and thought processes of minority groups. I do wonder, however, whether teenagers will be completely able to grapple with the subject matter. With young protagonists the novel does feature elements of the coming of age story, which (I guess) gives young people something to identify with.

Fiend by Peter Stenson is a book that I picked up in a local charity shop, after reading it’s blurb. The phrase “Breaking Bad + Zombies” seems to encapsulate the book. Waking from a meth-induced trip, protagonist Chase initially struggles to distinguish between the trip and reality. The only people to survive the zombie apocalypse are meth-addicts. Cue Breaking Bad style drama as he and a group of fellow survivors attempt to score, attempt to get ingredients to score, and then score. Scoring becomes necessary not just because of their addiction, but because they need it to stop themselves turning into the zombies. It’s violent, and contains a heck of a lot of swearing, but it’s a fun read. The only thing that lets it down is the ending, and I’m still two minds about that. Definitely not one for the kids though!

I buy a lot of books off Amazon (Kindle Daily Deals), as well as through HumbleBundles and the like. It was through these that I got copies of “Swarm” by B. V. Larson and “The Lost Fleet: Dauntless” by Jack Campbell. At the end of the novel he discusses his experiences in the American Military and how this affects his writing. It is clear that he has much experience and knowledge about combat. To me, his descriptions of tactics and strategy within the novel are too detailed could have been used to build up more suspense and tension. It’s a shame, because the premise – a mythic hero figure returns and battles with expectations is promising. Other than the drawn out bits, the novel is rather fun to read and is really easy to read. There was nothing in there that teens couldn’t read, although it may not be the best intro to military sci-fi.

While I was working at my previous school, author Julian Sedgwick visited and gave a talk to the students. I picked up a signed copy of his latest book “Ghosts of Shanghai.” I’ve only read the first page, but am intrigued, mainly because it’s written in the present tense which is a little uncommon for children’s literature.

I’ve just started reading “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis, so let’s see where that takes me…