Life as a PGCE student

How was the year?
I’m just coming to the end of a fantastic year of training to teach Geography in secondary schools. My year has been like a whirlwind! I never believed that I could stand up in front of a class full of teenagers, command their attention and be able to share the subject I’ve always loved – now I do it every day.

How was the course?
The course is in many ways relentless and you could quite easily spend twenty hours a day, seven days a week studying and attempting to perfect the art of teaching, but you need some time to relax.  I now have specific cut-off points during my time at home and this has really made me prioritize tasks.

What couldn’t you do without?
There are so many things that become invaluable to you whilst on a PGCE course, for example, yellow sticky notes. I use them to remind me of everything that needs to be done, from ‘evaluate 7A’s lesson’ to ‘put some laundry on’. Supermarket, ‘value’ pens are also an indispensable teaching item as they have a tendency to disappear. Mainly, though, it’s the people around you who will help you get through the course. If you’re lucky enough to have course mates for support and humour; understanding housemates; school mentors who keep pushing you forward; friends to keep your life in balance; and a supportive partner, you’ll find that you cannot possibly go wrong.

What are the challenges?
Despite having good subject knowledge, I wasn’t sure I was cut out for teaching even a term into the course. I became terrified each time I welcomed the class into the room, but with school support, I soon found my feet and was able to manage a class of teenagers.  

What are the high points?
One of the greatest highlights of the year was a lesson when I was observed by my university tutor and which I was very nervous about.  With the help of my university tutor, I resourced and created a really dynamic lesson on the distribution of volcanoes. We began with a quick quiz, did some paired work, had some discussion and finished with a game of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’.

Together with my mentor, we went through the expected progress stages and as she went through each point, I was surprised to find myself telling her that I’d done that and explaining when and how. In just eight weeks I’d developed from taking the register to teaching full lessons and creating some great resources. It was fantastic to be able to think back over such a short period of time and realise just how far I’d progressed.  It was a real confidence boost.

What were the low points?
Not being able to achieve learning objectives with a particular class, or when I’ve not done a very good job at controlling a class  I felt awful the first time I had to give a student a detention, feeling like it was my fault for not being able to get this particular student to do as I had asked. I sometimes forget that the students, no matter how mature they want us to think they are, are still young people who still need boundaries.  The paperwork for this course is also endless and Friday nights are often taken up with unremitting lesson plans, evaluations and all the extra coursework

What next?
Thankfully, the highlights far outweigh the endless paperwork and other frustrations. I’ve been fortunate enough to secure a job for September at a wonderful school. I’m so excited about starting there and being a ‘real’ teacher. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing students progress throughout the years and watching them grow into adults. I want to make my mark on the school, to instigate new, exciting lessons and really get involved with the school community.


Need more advice? Visit Trainee teachers and NQTs