PGCE school placement

Kathryn Nott, PCGE student, University of Exeter

What was your first week like?
I’d just moved to a new town, my life was still in boxes and I wasn’t as prepared as I should have, or wanted to be, which undermined my confidence. It was very daunting but everyone at school was incredibly friendly. Everyone made me feel really welcome from the senior management team to the support staff, so it was easy to ask any questions. I felt like I’d never understand all the documentation and procedures, but after three weeks it felt like I’d been there forever!

Is there anything you wish you’d known before your first placement?
I wish I’d known exactly how many things you’re required to do, know and remember at once. You’re just bombarded by thousands of tiny things to do, such as learn names, get seating plans, so my life became ruled by post-it notes (and still is!). I wish someone had warned me about that before.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt?
To listen to what everyone has to say, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Ask everyone for their opinion on things - “Could I have handled that better?” “What would you have done differently?” “Where should I go from here?”

Never ever be afraid to admit that you screwed up - to yourself, your college and even the students. Realise where and why you went wrong, apologise and correct it. Don’t dwell on your mistakes because it’s not possible to be perfect.

What tips do you have for others going on placement?

  • Attitude makes all the difference : If you make it clear that you’re happy in the classroom, the students are more likely to respond well
  • Remember to bring your personality into the classroom - it’s great getting to know the students and enjoy spending time with them, yet you can still remain professional
  • Make time for yourself: teacher training can eat away at your life, and a supportive network is vital. Other trainees are great but it helps to have someone outside teaching to talk to
  • Finally, my philosophy is “it’ll get done, because it has to,” so don’t worry.

 

Laura Bellinger, PGCE student at Cambridge University

What was your first week like?
I found it pretty overwhelming at first in both my schools because there was so much to learn and new people to get used to. Luckily, colleagues were really welcoming and it helps having other trainees around as everyone looks out for each other.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before your first placement?
That no matter how out of depth you feel at first, its amazing how quickly you settle into a school - you get used to the routines, get to know the staff and students, and feel like part of the team remarkably quickly. I didn’t want to leave my first placement by the end, but I would never have believed that in September.

Also, I thought everyone would expect me to be amazing from the start, and even though I wasn’t everyone was so encouraging and reassuring. I soon realized that everyone remembers what it’s like to be a trainee!

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt?
How important it is to have supportive colleagues with whom you can discuss things and bounce ideas off. Also, that however scary they can seem at times, most pupils are excited about learning new things and they can surprise you with their passion sometimes!

What tips do you have for others going on placement?

  • The advice my dad gave me before starting the course was ‘dig deep’ and he was definitely right. Its extremely hard work with long hours, and you need commitment and perseverance.
  • Use the other trainees on your course to share stories of ‘triumphs and disasters’ (as our tutor calls them). It’s often really easy to think you’re the only one struggling with something and its so helpful to find out how other people have dealt with similar issues.

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