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A message to PGCE students having a hard time

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by mark2581, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone. First time post from a long-time lurker.
    I am happy to say that have just completed my PGCE after having to resit my final placement. This is a message of hope really. I struggled through the course, constantly wondering if I had made the right decision to train as a teacher. I found it difficult to keep up with all of the 'admin' and often got behind on my files. I didn't prepare fully for my first teaching practice and Uni refused to sign off my file meaning I had a delayed start. Fortunately I had a supportive school who nurtured me through the practice and I made a success of it. I was completely exhausted after this though!
    The course continued and I stuck with it. I did a little better with my courswork and found that I was managing my time more effectively. I began my, then to be final, teaching practive in June at a school in a challenging area. This did not bother me as I always do my best to see the potential in children, no matter what their circumstance. Unfortunately the teacher with whom I was placed did not see eye to eye with me and began to undermine me in front of the children. As a result I never managed to gain control of the class (who were extremely challenging). The only support I was offered by my 'mentor' was to come in with a "different attitude" and "be mean to them". Not what I had come into the profession for, and certainly not my style of teaching.
    The teacher's passive-aggressive attitude towards me continued and gradually wore me down. I managed 5 weeks of the placement, limping into half term. By the stage I had been diagnosed with depression for which I was recieving medical treatment. I had also lost a considerable ammount of weight and could not sleep at night, despite working extremely hard. I discussed this with my tutors at university and came to the decision that I could not go back to the school. University were extremely supportive in this matter and never once made me feel guilty about leaving a placement that they had struggled to set up (severe lack of placement opportunities). In fact, my tutor told me that they thought I had made a sensible decision.
    I was extremely dissapointed not to be completing the course at the same time as my peers. I spent a long time feeling very sorry for myself. Luckily I have extremely kind and loyal friends and family, not to mention an incredibly supportive wife who were all very supportive to me at this time. I spent the summer getting my head together again and trying to beat the depression. I started running, took up martial arts again, stopped smoking, cut back on drinking and began meditation classes. With the help of medical treatment I am happy to say that I am now fully recovered after what can only be described as the darkest period in my life.
    Summer finished, my resit placement loomed on the not to distant horizon. I was of course very worried that it would be another repeat performance and that I was not cut out to teach. I needn't have worried. My new placement school was extremely welcoming from my very first day, and I immediately felt at home there. My mentors at the school couldn't have been more different. They were enthusiastic, forthcoming with their ideas, appreiciative of my input and respectful of the children. After 8 weeks of hard graft (there's no way around this - teaching is HARD WORK), I have completed the practice, gaining a first class grading.
    My message is this to anyone who may be experiencing a difficult placement: Think long and hard about whether your health is being affected. This should not be tolerated under any circumstances and you must speak to your GP and University as soon as possible. Don't put it off. It's always going to be a difficult decision, but resiting your placement is an option availiable to everyone and should not be considered the end of the world.
    I have re-sat a placement and my course has therefore taken three months longer to complete than it should have. But... I proud to say that I am a much more effective teacher now than I would have been if I had limped through the previous practice.
    Remember: it's not always you who is at fault. You're a student and your placement school needs to nurture your skills. If they aren't then let your tutor at uni know - you are being let down.
    Keep the faith! Good luck in your course.
     
  2. Hi everyone. First time post from a long-time lurker.
    I am happy to say that have just completed my PGCE after having to resit my final placement. This is a message of hope really. I struggled through the course, constantly wondering if I had made the right decision to train as a teacher. I found it difficult to keep up with all of the 'admin' and often got behind on my files. I didn't prepare fully for my first teaching practice and Uni refused to sign off my file meaning I had a delayed start. Fortunately I had a supportive school who nurtured me through the practice and I made a success of it. I was completely exhausted after this though!
    The course continued and I stuck with it. I did a little better with my courswork and found that I was managing my time more effectively. I began my, then to be final, teaching practive in June at a school in a challenging area. This did not bother me as I always do my best to see the potential in children, no matter what their circumstance. Unfortunately the teacher with whom I was placed did not see eye to eye with me and began to undermine me in front of the children. As a result I never managed to gain control of the class (who were extremely challenging). The only support I was offered by my 'mentor' was to come in with a "different attitude" and "be mean to them". Not what I had come into the profession for, and certainly not my style of teaching.
    The teacher's passive-aggressive attitude towards me continued and gradually wore me down. I managed 5 weeks of the placement, limping into half term. By the stage I had been diagnosed with depression for which I was recieving medical treatment. I had also lost a considerable ammount of weight and could not sleep at night, despite working extremely hard. I discussed this with my tutors at university and came to the decision that I could not go back to the school. University were extremely supportive in this matter and never once made me feel guilty about leaving a placement that they had struggled to set up (severe lack of placement opportunities). In fact, my tutor told me that they thought I had made a sensible decision.
    I was extremely dissapointed not to be completing the course at the same time as my peers. I spent a long time feeling very sorry for myself. Luckily I have extremely kind and loyal friends and family, not to mention an incredibly supportive wife who were all very supportive to me at this time. I spent the summer getting my head together again and trying to beat the depression. I started running, took up martial arts again, stopped smoking, cut back on drinking and began meditation classes. With the help of medical treatment I am happy to say that I am now fully recovered after what can only be described as the darkest period in my life.
    Summer finished, my resit placement loomed on the not to distant horizon. I was of course very worried that it would be another repeat performance and that I was not cut out to teach. I needn't have worried. My new placement school was extremely welcoming from my very first day, and I immediately felt at home there. My mentors at the school couldn't have been more different. They were enthusiastic, forthcoming with their ideas, appreiciative of my input and respectful of the children. After 8 weeks of hard graft (there's no way around this - teaching is HARD WORK), I have completed the practice, gaining a first class grading.
    My message is this to anyone who may be experiencing a difficult placement: Think long and hard about whether your health is being affected. This should not be tolerated under any circumstances and you must speak to your GP and University as soon as possible. Don't put it off. It's always going to be a difficult decision, but resiting your placement is an option availiable to everyone and should not be considered the end of the world.
    I have re-sat a placement and my course has therefore taken three months longer to complete than it should have. But... I proud to say that I am a much more effective teacher now than I would have been if I had limped through the previous practice.
    Remember: it's not always you who is at fault. You're a student and your placement school needs to nurture your skills. If they aren't then let your tutor at uni know - you are being let down.
    Keep the faith! Good luck in your course.
     
  3. veni_vidi

    veni_vidi New commenter

    Glad you've stuck with it, it shows that you even more perhaps than those who have 'easy' placements are determined to teach, and that dedication can only be good for your pupils.
     
  4. I'm really glad that you completed this course and really glad that I have read this.
    I have been diagnosed with depression, just finished my first placement at a not too supportive school and have felt like giving up.
    You have showed me that there is always a way, and for that I am thankful
     
  5. F1sydney

    F1sydney New commenter

    Hi
    My experience has been very similar to yours, and I too will not finish the course with my peers, however, the experience has made me realise I am not that dedicated to teaching and I can't wait that long to finish the course. I still want to work with children and young people but not as a teacher. So in a way I'm glad I have experienced this now which means I can move on quicker.
    Could you tell me - do you have a job to go to? I was under the impression that it would be much more difficult to get a job later on in the year. I know people who qualified in July and still don't have teaching jobs.

     
  6. Congratulations Mark!
    It is always good to hear a happy ending. I am on PGCE and although in a very good school in terms of its link with Uni and knowing how to get students through the course/what we need to know etc is excellent but I have been placed on a paired placement with a teacher in her 20s who only has a couple of years experience and didn't do the PGCE. The teacher is not the most friendly and helpful of people but will share some ideas if dragged out of her. I haven't had a single meeting to go through files (which should happen weekly), I was ripped to shreads (on my 8th day of teaching) following an observation by the deputy head (feedback given in an horific manner which took all confidence to the point I didn't want to go back in the class, let alone stand and teach!)...my teacher hadn't given me any idea my lessons weren't being delivered correctly so I really wasn't expecting deputies response. I was not 'allowed' to contact my class teacher between the end of term and the last weekend of the hols but had struggled on regardless and done all my planning for this week. I then received an email over the weekend just gone telling me the projector for the IWB was broken on the last day of term so to ensure I allowed for that in my planning for the week (a text/email at the start of the hols letting me know this, was clearly too much to ask!).
    ...the negatives go on and I spent the christmas 'holiday' getting more and more depressed - bursting in to tears at the thought of coming back. BUT...on my return from visiting family, I sat down and thought...I KNOW I can do this. I have worked with experienced teachers for several years and THEY all told me I am more than capable. If this one particular teacher wants to try and make life difficult, let her crack on! She will just have to learn that there's no point in messing with this PG student because I know I am more than capable! a text at 10pm last night (night before we started back) asking me to extend all my lessons might have been enough to tip me over the edge if I hadn't already planned extension activities and hadn't already decided I'm not going to let her beat me!
    I guess sometimes people are sent to test us. Your post is another reminder of why my mind is now in the right place!
    Thank you [​IMG] )
    x
     
  7. apologies for spelling mistakes! :eek:/ the first 6am start in weeks has stolen my alertness! [​IMG]
    x
     
  8. mickymilan

    mickymilan New commenter

    It is tough, although I revel in the hard work it seems there is only time to 'half-do' stuff.
     
  9. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm currently on a PGCE and have found it very hard too keep going on several occasions. I don't think a lot of people realise how hard teaching really is, especially for people who want to be really good at it. I sometimes feel like I put my whole heart and soul into it, so it's even worse when things go wrong. But luckily I have a very supportive family, and my tutors at Uni are very good at helping me to keep going.
     
  10. Hi Mark. It was really good to read your story - sounds like you have been through a lot. It's great that your University were so supportive and you managed in the end. You must be feeling really proud of yourself!

    I just wanted to share my story. I was on a GTP last year and after three months had to leave because of a breakdown. I was diagnosed with depression and have spent the last twelve months recovering. I loved my subject, although the school was challenging. The course providers were always very supportive. Unfortunately, my mentor, although willing, had only an hour a week for me and this just wasn't enough. The other people in the department kept to themselves and I ended up hiding from the staffroom most days, feeling more and more isolated. Eventually the sheer workload overwhelmed me and I had terrible anxiety entering the classroom. The head of the department had AWFUL people skills and I'll never forget having one particular feedback session - an hour of negative feedback which left me feeling like I was a total failure!

    I am not trying to put people off (honestly) but my message would be to really think about the course. In my experience, fellow students tend to put on a front even if they're struggling. If you do have terribly anxiety every day, don't necessarily put it down to being 'nervous' (as I did). Your health is the most important thing. A year is a long time to carry on working under such intense circumstances. Teaching is incredibly hard and if you are not getting the support from your school, make a fuss. I thought it was just me being a bit pathetic but in hindsight, iit wasn't - as a trainee you deserve to be able to ask questions and ask for help. Bullying at school can take place in the staffroom, too....

    Now I am just starting a course for teaching English to adults. There are so many other teaching opportunities out there that if you do decide not to go on, it doesn't have to be the end of the dream. (In fact my course provider advised me if I changed my mind I could always trying applying for a PGCE.)

    Good luck all!
     
  11. Have to say your success in your PGCE mostly depends on where you are placed and if you have a good subject mentor. My last subject mentor was a right horrible person, who seemed to enjoy ripping my lessons apart whilst giving feedback. She never had a positive thing to say about me. Its tough mentally to stay strong when you are faced with such a negative person who can break people.

    Well done for completing the course and solidarity to all the fellow PGCEers who have messed around!
     
  12. Hi i have to say i am experiencing exactly the same problems as yourself .My head of department took an instant dislike to me fromm day one and has been nothing but rude and pretty intimidating which i have stuck up for myself about.I feel liike i have had an uphill struggle from even starting uni with a pretty unsympathetic tutor.I have to travel over 40 miles to uni course and started 3 weeks after having my last child .This is itself is tough enough but i had both our cars break down which resulted in a massive bill .Student finance didnt give me any finance till end of November so i was paying everything out of my own pocket and to top it all my tutor ,on the days i couldnt get in due to not having transport said i was uncommitted!!!. I have had little or patchy support frmo my mentor and because i am a mature student and older than the very obnoxious head of dept i have been treated very badly .i had my first official obs today ,i had 24 hours notice and was then told by my mentor the team wanted me to change my lesson for todays obs at short notice...therefore you can pretty much guess how good a feedback i got!,,,,and i only got 10 mins with tutor who j had just told me my plan was poor..you don't say!....i have had no help with the barebones of planning and have had DVD players locked in cupboards by my HOD before i teach as well as keyboards being unplugged .I have also been told that interactive lessons are not challenging and that all pupls should sit in silence ..i got slated by my mentor for this today as he has an opposing view...im very confused, tired and utterly peed off...At the end of the day we pay for this course(albeit back through student loans) but the organsation and support is rubbish ...sorry for rant just having a really bad first placement!


     
  13. I am really heartend to have read your post. I too have just had a difficult experience which means having do a placement again. I really felt that it was not worth it at one point, but reading about your experience has hardened my resolve to complete. Thank you for sharing your experience it has really helped.
     
  14. Hi Vixen I am currently having a very similar experience. I had my uni tutor in this week, which I and he felt went very well, some obvious targets but overall he felt I was progressing. I felt really relieved but the following day I had my weekly review with my mentor. Who went on to say she couldn't progress me as I am not taking on her feedback. In her feedback she is constantly negative, I have stated so many times that I am struggling to push HAPs but not once has she sat me down and explained how to meet expectations. I ended up in a complete state when I got home.

    But I know I can do this, times like this are sent to test us and I am dedicated. I'm only keeping going by telling myself that in the long run it will make me a better teacher.

    My mentor makes me and my paired partner feel unwelcome, I don't understand why people like this offer to mentor, it seems clear to me they don't want to ??

    But stay strong people :)
     
  15. This really struck a chord with me.

    I haven't followed the more traditional route into teaching, having worked in the commercial sector for many years, but I am hovering somewhere between horrified and angry at the moment.

    If any employer behaved towards me as my placement school has they would have found themselves losing heavily in a tribunal. It is not acceptable and we should not accept it. We are consumers now. The government gets an NQT at the end of this year, please God, and I'm the one who has paid for it. I am not investing my own money to be treated like an awkward pupil and used as a kicking block by a breathtakingly rude head of department.

    All I can say to those struggling is to hang in there. Not all schools are the same.
     
  16. aliceinwunderland

    aliceinwunderland New commenter

    since i passed my pgce a couple of year ago. i pop back to the trainee forum every year for the lulz of threads like this. no i mean, my heart does go out to you in a schadenfreude way in that i'm thinking thank god i never have to do this again.

    all i can say is, if you don't quit now, you have 50% chance of quitting before end of your 4th year proper teaching. if that statistic doesn't faze you, you should do well as an nqt.
     

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