Highly ashamed of the fact my last teaching related post was back in September LAST YEAR!
9 months, 2 placements, 3 observational assessments, 2 essays and several near emotional breakdowns later… I am very pleased to announce that I am officially a newly qualified teacher (an NQT for all my teaching friends). Over the past couple of months I have had a few people contacting me to ask whether or not they should apply for the PGDE (post-graduate diploma in education). Always happy to help (or maybe more of a hindrance!) I thought it may be of use to write a blog post on my own personal experience of becoming a teacher. So if you have any friends or family who are contemplating going into teaching, feel free to pass this post on to them.
Applying for the course
To apply for the PGDE or PGCE if you are in England, the entry requirements are pretty much the same for every university (a degree – this doesn’t have to be an honours degree, english at higher level and maths at standard grade level).
I always knew that I wanted to be a primary school teacher ever since I was a little girl, although I veered from the path a few times. Personally, my intentions were to apply for, and undertake the PGDE straight after completing my undergrad in Psychology (I stayed for my honours year) in the summer of 2013, however I made the terrible mistake of putting my career on hold to follow my heart – foolish I know.
I applied instead in November 2015 and in hindsight these two years out from studying were incredibly beneficial to me. As I had worked full time for these two years I had built up a good deal of savings to see me through my year of studying. I also felt far more mature having had more experience of the working world, building relationships with colleagues and generally maintaining a work-life balance. I had also matured a great deal due to my personal circumstances meaning that I had a new found level of determination as well as a gift of empathy which I have since brought with me to my classroom. So my first piece of advice is, don’t go straight into the PGDE from your undergrad, take some time out for experience, this may however not suit everyone and if you feel it best then of course dive straight in!
When it comes to the application process it is pretty much the same as applying for any university course, you enter details of your qualifications and of course write a dreaded personal statement – be sure to include ANY experience you have had with children. Also take the time to explain any hobbies you may have – I wrote in my application about my baking and this was seen as an extra skill I could bring to teaching and my classroom. I know it is hard to talk about yourself, but don’t hold back! There is an extremely high number of applicants for the PGDE course and it is very competitive so you need to make sure you shine.
Everyone who is accepted for a place on the PGDE course must first go through an interview. The interview process involved a group discussion, a written short essay and a one-on-one interview. Again you will be asked for any additional skills or interests you can bring so be sure to discuss a few. One of my best friends has a history in speech and language therapy and the other is an incredibly talented artist so both of these skills were viewed highly and have been useful to them throughout our placements.
You find out if you have a place within a few days of being interviewed – try to relax and don’t stress out everyone around you like I did!
Half of the course time is spent in university and the other half is spent in schools on placements. During your time at university make sure that you DO keep up with the readings – that is what my Fridays were devoted to! I was in university from 9-4 Monday to Thursday and Friday was a study day. There are no exams, instead the course is graded through continuous assessment by way of 3 essays. The first essay was a critical literature review based on a pedagogical theory, the second focused on raising attainment in a curricular field using a specific form of pedagogy and lastly the third essay was a professional enquiry. A professional enquiry is where you carry out a research investigation during your placement and document your findings in the format of a report. None of these essays were easy but you are given a lot of support from university and it is the best feeling once you have completed each one!
To tell you the truth, the hardest part of this course is when you are on placement. You will be on placement for a total of 18 weeks and this is split into blocks (I believe each university is different).
The first placement I had was with an upper stage (I had primary 5), followed by an early stage (I had primary 2) and lastly a middle stage (I had primary 4).
When it comes to your placements… HAVE FUN!! this is where you will get the real experience of what being a teacher is really like. Amid the never ending lesson plans, lesson evaluations, weekly reflections, keeping up to date with your teaching file, watching learning rounds and your assessed lesson you have so much on your mind that you kind of forget to enjoy it. Make sure you do sit in the staff room at breaks and talk to the teachers rather than staying in the classroom to work.
I was very lucky in that all of my placements were at wonderful schools where I met truly incredible teachers who became more like friends and I continue to stay in touch with them. Don’t dread your assessed lesson either like I used to, it is your time to show what you can do so grab that opportunity and make the most of it!
I was also extremely lucky as one of my friends from my course was placed in the same school as me for all three placements – knowing that there was someone to keep me right and also be there whenever I wanted to share a funny story or a worry was amazing!
Another tip is to set up a group chat with your friends so you can keep up to date and vent about anything and everything. My group chat with my best friends really got me through as I knew they were there when I was stressed with a pile of work to do and could just spend a few of minutes to share funny stories or funnily enough talk about how stressed we were and our lack of time (!)
Completing the course and getting your first job as a teacher
We are very lucky in the UK as all NQTs are guaranteed a job for their first year. The first year of teaching is known as the ‘probation year’, I don’t know much about what will come during this year as I am just about to embark upon it but I hope to keep updating my blog with posts of my experience! You will be asked to choose which 5 local authorities you would like to work for in your probation year (in order). The local authority you are allocated to is worked out at random, you are then allocated to a school within this local authority. I found out which local authority I would be working for on the 23rd of May and then I found out which school I would be going to on the 24th of May (while typing that I realise that wasn’t a long time to wait but trust me at the time it felt like the longest 2 days ever!)
First you are DYING to know your local authority, then you are DYING to know your school, then you are DYING to know which class you will be teaching and finally you are DYING to see your classroom. All in good time though you will find out everything you need to know and it will be well worth the wait!
I was very lucky enough to be given a school which I had one of my placements at, in fact I have been allocated to one of the classes I previously taught (whom you may know as the class I made the rainforest cake for!). This is fantastic as it means I already know the school, the staff and the pupils which is of great benefit!
I am extremely excited to start teaching my p6 class starting in August and I will be setting up my classroom this summer. If you follow me on instagram or snapchat you will already have seen some of the bits and pieces I have been working on but I hope to share my ideas with other teachers so may keep posting on this blog as a platform for this. If you are thinking about applying for teacher training or are about to embark upon your PGDE please do not hesitate to get in touch via instagram or snapchat (@misshoneybakes for both) or via email: email@example.com. I will be happy to answer any questions!
Lots of love as always,
Miss Honey ♥ xx
A little something i’ve made to use as my class jobs chart!