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

RealLife got in the way: An update

So RealLife has been incredibly busy and stressful lately. This has meant that I’ve had little time to write anything for Thoughtspill. However, things will slow down a little bit now, meaning that I can resume writing.


The PGCE is going well. I’m currently on half term – yay. I’ve also had my 1b assignment back and have a few adjustments to make on it before the next deadline (22nd.) I’ve handed in a proposed title for my 1c assignment (research) – although this is going to change as the scheme of work has now changed.

I had an interview for a job at my PP2 school, and was told that my lesson was excellent as was my interview – but I didn’t get the job. The job had a large emphasis on drama teaching, and I have (currently) minimal experience teaching drama. I have an application out for another school, so my fingers are still crossed.

I’ve taught a couple of lessons at my PP2 school. It was nice to be told by a student at the end of a lesson with a supply teacher that “at the start of the lesson, we were bored and then you made it interesting” and would I be teaching them again? (I will be.)

Writing and Flash Fridays

I have been writing, but I haven’t been able to keep with the Flash Fiction Fridays. This is because that RealLife thing got in the way a bit too much. I have made considerable progress on the gaps in the NaNoWriMo2015 novel, though – some of this will be posted later today. Hopefully the first draft will be completed by the end of the month.

My series of novellas has had a few more ideas added and progress has been made on the actual writing of the first (it’s now at about 18,000 words); plots and frameworks have been written for several more.

It’s still possible that 2016 will see my first books available for purchase.

Reading and Poetry

I had said that I would be keeping a poetry journal on here. While I have continued to read poetry, I simply haven’t had the spare time so far to write it up on here – it will appear…. eventually. It’s more or less the same for reading. I have been reading, but I need to sit down and write the reading journal post. This will appear by the end of the week.

I think that’s more or less everything. Stay tuned.

For Christmas I got… a warm welcome to my PP2

Christmas is over, the New Year has begun. As has my PP2 placement.

For the next three weeks, I’m spending two days a week on placement and two in Faculty. So what did I get up to this week?

Monday and Tuesday were devoted to studying Macbeth and how to teach Shakespeare. This was good fun, and we had a drama specialist come in on the Tuesday to give us more practical teaching/drama activities to use. These were good fun. Like last time, some of the warm-ups will be useful games to play with my Cub Pack.

My PP2 school is a bit different to my PP1 school – especially their use of exercise books and the fact that all students have iPads. I’m really interested in how tech can be used in education and my PP2 placement offers me an opportunity to see what e-learning apps are available and how tech is currently used in education.

I received my teaching timetable and there is a good mix of classes. I’m in the middle of writing my 1b assignment, for which I picked (from a number of titles) to discuss whether it was a mistake to close so many special schools. By chance, I was timetabled to observe a SEN student across the curriculum today, and this gave me a number of extra observations to add to my argument.

Finally, tomorrow we have a conference on Adolescence and Well-Being. For this we were able to pick three different seminars to attend. From the list I chose:

  • Hard to reach groups/Inclusion: Gypsy Roma and Traveller Culture and Education.
  • SEND: Autistic Adolescents Accessing Mainstream.
  • Sexuality: Challenging Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

The first and last are areas in which I have no experience. They will undoubtedly give useful insights which will help me in the future. I do have a bit of experience assisting ASD students and teaching them, but I felt it was worth learning more – the learning journey never ends!

PGCE Diary: Goodbye PP1

So. The term is over. We’re about a third of the way through the course.

It’s been tiring, exhilarating and a little exhausting.

There have been good lessons, and some not so good.

Our time at our PP1 school finished a couple of weeks ago. I finished on a high, with the class teacher impressed with my final double lesson on Larkin’s Mr. Bleaney  for Year 12s.

We spent the final week back in Faculty, having our PREVENT training – this was rather interesting, as the vulnerable targets for radicalisation weren’t always the most obvious. We also had talks on recruitment and applying for jobs, which seems similar to what other PGCE bloggers have experienced recently on other courses.

In the Faculty week, we also did some work on Brian Friel’s Translations, and how to teach drama texts at A Level. As part of this we did all sorts of drama activities – this was my first time doing drama since Year 9! Some of the more ‘icebreaker’ style activities seem like they’d be great for my Cub pack too, which is a bonus!

Our final Faculty day of 2015 started later than usual. This was so we could hand our second essays in. This was the essay that was based on students’ experiences of reading, as well as our short stories (mine’s here!) In this final session, we chatted about our 4th essay (the 3rd is written over Christmas), before we had our Creative Exchange.

The Creative Exchange was – wow. Some of us did things individually, while others worked in groups. We made origami Christmas trees (again, fab for the Cubs!), were witness to a stellar voice-over of the Genie from Aladdin, magic tricks, songs… There was all sorts. I went with a reading from the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo this year – it took a while to find a bit that wasn’t too rough to be read aloud and shared – I also gave a brief intro to NaNoWriMo for those who weren’t in the know.

We finished with the exchange of our Secret Santa gifts, then went off to our Christmas meal – scrummy.


PGCE Update: Writing short stories for the kids

For one of my subject studies assignments (1a2), I had to conduct a little bit of original research to find out what a class of students likes to read. From this data, I had to write a short story which I then had to read to the class. I also had to create a prop that I could bring in that would add to the reading experience.

After some interesting results in the research – the most common favourite book for the girls was Girl Online, but their favourite genre was… horror – I wrote the first draft of my story.

The first draft was very different to the final piece, although the main idea stayed the same: a girl puts on makeup that has disastrous results. However, in the first draft, where it was a horror story, her skin tightens and her lips become translucent, her bones show through, and her teeth rattle and fall out. It was very much inspired by a certain scene in Poltergeist.

But I decided that it was too scary for the Year 7 children (11-12 years old), and I rewrote the entire story as a comedy – that was the second favourite genre.

Once I had written the short story, I began to think about the prop. I had spoken to alumni and other people on the course. Some had used music, some were bringing in physical props, and others dressed up. From the responses on the questionnaire, I thought I could create some illustrations. However I’ve never really practised my drawing, so that wasn’t really feasible.

So I had a brief think about why readers might want illustrations. I decided that a probable reason (I have yet to check The Literature) would be because illustrations support the text and add extra interest.

After another think, I decided to use some sound effects that would play as I read the text. I scoured the web for free sound effects (it’s amazing how many laser beams, machine gun and explosion sounds there are) and then commented on my story where I needed to play the sounds.

Using various features of PowerPoint, I was able to automate the sounds so that they played at the right moment. This was really good, as it meant that I could stand away from the laptop and focus on reading the story.

The kids? They loved it. Or at least they said they did. So that’s good.

If you want to read the the story, check back on Friday as it’s this week’s Friday Flash!


PGCE Diary: Not every lesson goes great

I had a terrible lesson yesterday. It was the worst lesson I’ve taught on my PGCE, and probably the worst I’ve taught ever.

The students (Year 13s) didn’t misbehave, and I had prepared the lesson really well – the observer commented on how good the resources were. I had deeply analysed the poem, as well as learnt a lot of context.

But I fluffed the start of the lesson and then my mind went blank.

I muddled my way through the lesson, and the students did their best, but they’re a naturally quiet bunch which didn’t help the situation.

Today things went much better – a reminder that we will have good and bad lessons. I spent a long while last night reflecting on the lesson, and I’ve started to produce a lesson that (I think) will be able to remedy any errors and problems caused by the last lesson.

I also watched a really uplifting video from Kid President:

PGCE Update

Students, even those in the 6th Form, come out with the most interesting things.

Yesterday I was marking some redrafted paragraphs from some Year 12 essays where they were discussing Lucy in an extract from Dracula. The novel mentions that one of the men is described as “Thor.” Cue one student (seriously) writing that the character was being compared to a superhero.


While I love comics,  I never would have thought that their cultural significance would supersede Norse Mythology!

I’m almost halfway through the block placement at my PP1 school. I’ve been teaching a variety of lessons to a variety of year groups, although I am still focusing on teaching those in the 6th Form, so that I can satisfy the requirements of the Cambridge PGCE course.

Next week I’m teaching my first lesson on one of Larkin’s poems: Self’s the Man. I’m hoping that this will be a good lesson as I’ve enjoyed reading Larkin’s poetry; I used to live on the opposite side of Pearson Park in Hull to Larkin’s flat.

My second assignment of the course is well underway, and I had some interesting results to my reading questionnaire. Despite the most common favourite book for the girls being Girl Online by Zoe Sugg, their favourite genre was… Horror.

Another hmm.

From this questionnaire I am to write a short story and then read this short story to the class while using a prop.

Sounds fun.

PGCE Update

What with placement and NaNoWriMo, I haven’t updated the PGCE part of this blog for a while!

I’ve finished the two day a week part of my placement, and am now on the “block” placement part. This means that I am in school for the entire month.

After the initial struggle with the poetry, I think I’ve reached where I need to be – thanks to several documentaries on YouTube and York-Notes-Style guides.

I’ve taken a bit more responsibility with the Year 7 class, where I am teaching them Holes, which is pretty fun – they’re an enthusiastic bunch.

As for the actual PGCE course, I’ve written and had back my first assignment (Speaking and Listening), on which I got some really useful formative feedback. While the essay wasn’t marked (the course is pass/fail), it was a relief to get the essay back and not have to make corrections, as it is the first Masters level essay I have written. The next assignment is on reading, and the one after that forms part of the professional studies component of the course.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3… A student’s perspective.

I had been looking to upgrade my Google Nexus 10 for a while, yearning for a tablet with a pen so that I could take notes in lectures and seminars, straight into OneNote. I’d looked at the Samsung offerings and not been satisfied, and I’d flirted with the idea of getting an Nvidia Shield. And then the Shield was withdrawn from stock…

But then the Surface Pro 4 was announced, and the price of the Surface Pro 3 was dropped! The perfect excuse for me to spend the bursary that had just arrived in my bank account.

So what do I think?

It’s great.

After some umming and erring over which model to buy – the i3 or the i5 with the bigger SSD – I settled for the bottom model, with the i3 and a 64gb SSD. After a gazillion updates, which took well over an hour over the University WiFi, and the upgrade to Windows 10, I was ready to play.

I say play, I haven’t played any games on it yet. Well, I had a brief play of and the device’s fan got pretty loud. I touched the back of the device and was pretty warm. The screen itself is really nice, and is able to play 1440p video beautifully… It does get a bit warm though!

I’ve changed a few settings: set the pen to left-handed, the version of OneNote that opens when the purple button on the pen is pressed. Perhaps the most interesting setting that I’ve changed is the location of the taskbar. I’d previously not seen the point in moving it before, but I kept accidentally bringing it up and opening programs while writing. That doesn’t mean that the Pro’s palm rejection tech is bad at all. When writing, it has yet to accidentally draw where my arm is. Since moving the taskbar to the right of the screen, I haven’t accidentally opened any programs – yay! The one slightly annoying thing about this, is that the location of the taskbar has changed on my desktop too. This is because I have logged into Windows using a Microsoft Account. This means that all my personalisation settings are transferred from one computer to another. It’s nice, but I’m still getting used to having the taskbar in a different place on my desktop, and am beginning to look into solutions so that I can have it at the bottom on my desktop, and at the side on my tablet, but still use my Microsoft account. Know a way? Let me know in the comments!

Surface Pro 3 on a desk
Nom, potato quality photo!

In terms of device performance, I’ve got nothing to complain about. The i3 is fine for what I’m using it for, and even 64GB SSD is big enough for my needs. I’m using OneDrive a lot more than I was before, storing the documents (mainly those related to my PGCE) in the cloud, so that I can access them from anywhere. Also, thanks to the SSD, programs open nice and fast.

I got the black type cover with the device, and it’s great to type on. However, my cover seems a little “warped”, in that it doesn’t lie flat. I’m going to be taking it back to the retailer to exchange it.

Overall? Well worth the money.

Poetry, poets and more poetry

As said in a previous post, I skirted around poetry in my degree. It’s only now that I’ve begun to actually read much poetry. Rather than just reading the poetry that I’m going to be teaching on my current placement:

  • Songs of Innocence and Exploration – William Blake
  • And then, after half-term: Mean Time – Carol Ann Duffy
  • and, The Whitsun Weddings – Philip Larkin

I’ve been reading widely, including many of the “greats.”

In one huge Amazon order, I also got:

  • Simon Armitage – Selected Poems
  • Charles Bukowski – Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973
  • Ed: Andrew Motion (Selected by Larkin) – The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse
  • Wendy Cope – Serious Concerns
  • Isaac Rosenberg – The Collected Works of Isaac Rosenberg
  • Rudyard Kipling – Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson – The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in An Open Necked Shirt
  • John Cooper Clake – Word of Mouth – The Very Best of John Cooper Clarke (CD)
  • Robert Browning – The Poems of Robert Browning
  • W. B. Yeats – The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats
  • W. H. Auden – Selected Poems
  • Walt Whitman – The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman

That’s rather a lot of poetry to read. I haven’t read most of it yet, although I have dipped in and out of each book and read a few interesting poems. In light of that, I’m planning on creating a poetry journal where I jot down what each poem makes me feel and how it links to other things that I have read.

My knowledge of actual poetry wasn’t the only thing that was lacking. I needed to develop my knowledge of how poetry works and how to analyse it. So I picked up a few more books (in addition to the ones that my mentor lent me):

  • Stephen Fry – The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
  • Ted Hughes – Poetry in the Making: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching
  • Ruth Padel – 52 Ways of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life: A Poem for Every Week of the Year
  • Tom Paulin – The Secret Life of Poems: A Poetry Primer

Again, I’ve only dipped in and out of most of them, but I am making substantial progress through the Fry and Hughes books. I just wish I had bought them years ago!