Trainee Teacher Tips…

The PGCE year

The PGCE year is great. The PGCE year is terrible. The PGCE year is what you make of it.

There will be times when you want to rip your hair out, and give up. There will be times when you will be on cloud nine.

Be organised

While it might start off ok, you’ll soon have paperwork being thrown at you from all directions. You’ll have assignments for your University, record sheets for your portfolio, lesson plans to write, resource and evaluate… The paperwork soon stacks up. Your desk will look like the London skyline with towers of paper teetering left and right, a laptop hidden amongst the wilderness.

Block out some of your time and keep on track. When you get your timetable, it’s a good idea to find the empty periods and colour code them based upon whether you will be:

  • Planning
  • Evaluating
  • General administration/portfolio work
  • University assignments.

I wish I had done this far sooner in my PGCE year – it’s the first thing I’ll do when I get my NQT timetable.

Schedule downtime

It’s all too easy to let your training dominate your life. You can easily burn the candle at both ends and still feel that you are barely keeping up; burning the candle at both ends only leads to you burning out.

Schedule downtime. Keep doing something you love. Whether that’s going out on a Friday or Saturday night, going to the gym or whatever. Doing something where you can take your mind off the training is great.

Get some friends

Having two sets of friends can work wonders. A set of (trainee) teacher friends who you can turn to for help in behaviour management, tell horror stories and who understand what you are going through is indispensible.

A second set of friends who aren’t teachers can help too. They can remind you to schedule downtime and prevent the training from taking over your life: when trainee teachers meet up, their is a tendency to talk shop.

Keep your head up

You’ll feel down at times. You’ll teach lessons that are disaster – in my second placement I remember apologising to the Professional Tutor for the quality of the lesson. However…Keep calm and see the bigger picture

PGCE: Goodbye Cambridge, hello NQT year!

So. I’ve done it. The PGCE is over. What did it entail, in brief?

  • Very late nights and very early mornings
  • Thousands and thousands of words of assignments.
  • Lesson plans
  • And evaluations
  • Paper in plastic wallets.
  • Fun
  • Stress

It was hard work and tiring, but it’s over!

The final title of my 1c research assignment was:

A critical investigation using a case study approach into the extent to which low-attaining Year 10 students’ learning about reading unseen texts is supported by the use of iPads.

The use of tech in the classroom is something that I am extremely interested in. More specifically, the effective use of technology in the classroom. There isn’t much point in using a fancy piece of tech if it doesn’t actually improve educational outcomes (IE higher grades) for students, or increase engagement: tech is usually expensive.

While my own research was rather inconclusive – my research methods were not particularly “robust” and the sample was incredibly small – it does fit with the broader literature.

Ipads can increase engagement, but they can also increase barriers to learning. Using tech requires both the student and the teacher to be proficient in how to use the tech/application itself. If they aren’t, then the tech will not be using effectively. New barriers, such as increased off-task behaviour (Angry Birds, anyone?) can be witnessed.

In a PGCE session, we presented our research to our peers. As my actual research was rather inconclusive, I took two of the apps I’d used and provided a slightly broader exploration of the effective use of tech in the classroom. Many of my peers were surprised to hear what I said – “Surely using an iPad or an app gets kids engaged?” – until I said that we’ve all sat and browsed the internet, or sent a text, during a lecture or seminar… why would we expect our students to be any different?

The PGCE is now over and summer is here. It’s time to retire the PGCE blog and convert it into an NQT blog… (with more frequent posting.)

Let the adventure begin!