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!

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.