My initial placement was in a school that covers a very mixed catchment area - some economically deprived areas along with the more affluent. The school isn't the best in the district and I did have a few concerns but the science department I was in was well staffed, well resourced and above all very welcoming. This was a busy department coping with the demands of two PGCE students and a GTP trainee, yet they bent over backwards to offer me encouragement, support, and a range of valuable experiences at the very start of my teaching career. I really felt as if I belonged, as if I was part of the team, that my ideas and opinions were important to them. My worries were their worries and no worry was too small. The most amazing thing about this placement was that it was only scheduled for a week, right at the beginning of my PGCE year, but what a flying start to my career. By the time I hit university lectures I was buzzing. I could see myself as a teacher, all thanks to the efforts of the science staff who really were a team. I admit, I was envious of the student who would have their first block placement there. The best school in the area couldn't have matched the support from these guys !
My first block placement was so different it was a real shock to the system.
I guess I had been viewing the teaching world through rose-tinted spectacles. This school had recently come out of special measures, covers a deprived catchment area, and has a reputation that makes the eyes water. When I heard where I was being placed my first reaction was "what have I done to deserve this?" but I was prepared to give it a go. After all, my initial placement hadn't been in the most salubrious school, and that had turned out to be brilliant. The day I arrived in the school my heart sank. The attitude of the staff was far from welcoming - hostile even, the department was seriously understaffed and the pupils were enough to frighten the life out of any rookie teacher. It could only get better, couldn't it?
Sadly, no, it couldn't. The resources were severely limited and it felt as if no one had any time for me. I don't think the idea of student support had occurred to them. I'm a born survivor but after a few weeks I was beginning to flounder. Did I really want to teach? Could I teach? I took the stress home, didn't sleep well, didn't eat well and took it all out on the family. This couldn't go on. I ended up sobbing in my tutor's office, (that's what they're there for), then once back at school was berated for seeking that help and support. Thanks to my tutor and the good experience I had at my initial school, I know that I can teach. One day I will teach and I'm on my way to being a teacher. I have learnt some valuable lessons from these two vastly different experiences.
When going into my NQT year I shall be looking for a supportive department, not necessarily at the best school or the school with the best exam results, but at the school that really cares, and, like me, believes that teachers really can make a difference.