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Dear James: Question on PGCE working hours!

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by eannie, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. Hi James
    I commence teacher training (secondary English) this September. I was wondering what sort of hours I'd be putting in on a regular basis?
    I graduated with an OU degree last year. Whilst doing my degree over the past 4 years or so, I've been holding down a full time job in the city (working hours often 7.30 until 5.30pm) plus studying at home, plus brining up our little girl and I've managed with no problems at all.
    I guess what I'd like to know, is whether the hours will be any worse than this? Typically, I'd get home in the evenings, then study for about an hour and a half.
    Am I right to expect the same amount of hours, but with additional hours at the weekends for lesson planning?
    One thing in my favour is that I'm extremely well organised - I'm hoping this will save me a bit of time, and the fact that I'm used to home study alreday!
    Your help would be greatly appreciated.
    With kind regards

  2. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Organisation is extremely important but the one thing that's different from your previous OU experience is that you were only doing "new" (i.e. new to you) stuff during those coupleof hours a night you did the OU stuff - no doubt you already had your day job fully under control.
    Your PGCE is likely to begin farily gently and you'll wonder why people say it's so hard during the first couple of weeks and then you'll start to realise you're already slipping behind!
    And when it really gets going, you're likely to find there really aren't enough hours in the day to cope. Many PGCEers get by on the sort of sleep pattern that junior doctors put with (to bed at 1am, up again at 4...) just to get by.
    And it's not just because they're disorganised. It's because almost every moment of your day will be filled with something you don't know how to do yet. And you're being judged (it's called "supported"..) on absolutley everything you do, say, don't do, don't say and so on all the time.
    It's tough. There are reasons why around a quarter of the well qualified, used-to-burning-the-candle-at-both-ends people drop out within months.
  3. Hi Paul
    Thanks for taking the time to reply - I appreciate your help.
    My first reacion is "Blimey - I'd better order plenty of candles!"
    I do know it will be tough (I'm married to a teacher, so I'm forewarned), however, knowing and actually being there are totally different. I've already apologised to hubby in advance for being irritable and fed up and for him having to do all the chores at home!
    My tutor's already warned me about the so called "support". I think the words she used were something along the lines of "you'll have planned a lesson for days and days, and you will think the lesson went well, then your mentor will tear it all to shreds...."
    It all sounds so horrendous doesn't it? I think anyone looking on this website thinking about a career in teaching would run a mile if they saw some of these threads. And then there's the issue with the pensions.....!!
    Thanks again
  4. Hi there,

    I'm just coming to the end of my PGCE and although it was tough, it wasn't nearly as hard as most people warned me it would be.

    As long as you keep on top of the university workload, you'll be fine with all of that. The placement work like planning and marking got easier throughout the year for me and as you say you are an organised person, you should be absolutely fine.

    I probably did work more than an hour and a half each school night but I liked to have free time at the weekends! It is easily manageable if you don't give yourself too much work or put too much pressure on yourself. The observations and mentoring can be a really positive experience if you are open to advice :)

    Good luck!
  5. Hi upwiththefaries
    Thanks for your encouraging words. You are of course right about the observations. I've had to undergo this type of scrutiny throughout my career - with performance management reviews etc and you do get used to being criticised. I've also dished out a few performance reviews too, so it's now my turn to be on the receiving end! I don't mind - I really welcome feedback - good or bad!
    It sounds like I'm going to have a similar workload in the evenings. I'm also lucky being married to a teacher (and former OU mentor) so I kind of have my own personal tutor on hand - I'm going to make good use of him - especially around lesson planning.
    Can I ask you another question (sorry to be so cheeky!). Have you been applying for jobs yet - I'd heard it's quite a chore filling all the application forms in! My subject is English and there seems to be a glut of English teachers out there looking for jobs.
    With best wishes.
  6. Ah you'll be fine then, especially with your very own personal tutor!

    Yes I started applying to jobs around Feb/March and got my job in March I think. But I was very early looking, applying and luckily getting a job, compared to a lot of my friends. The app forms do take a loooong time but once you've done your first one you can use it as a model for others and do lots of copying/pasting!! The most important thing I've learnt through applying though, is that you have to personalise each application to the school. So reading up on the school, their website, Ofsted etc. is really important.

    I'm Primary so all teaching posts are also really over-subscribed. It just means you've got to stand out - 'what can you offer the school that no one else can?' kind of thing.

    Hope that helps :)
  7. Thanks upwiththefairies. I always assumed the application process would be a lot different from the private sector, but from what you're describing, it's almost exactly the same. I work in Corporate Finance, and when applying for jobs in our industry, we'd do what we call "DD (or due diligence) - basically as you say, swotting up on the company etc. Making yourself stand out is another top priority - what do you have that the other's don't etc then really playing to your strengths in the interview, asking lots of questions and taking a real interest in the company etc.
    You must be really talented to have been snapped up - well done! I'd heard primary was tough (200 applicants + for every role). I think English is pretty tough too - there seems to be a glut of us!
    Good luck in your job [​IMG]
  8. emids77

    emids77 New commenter

    I am just completing a secondary PGCE too, after having been employed. Don't believe the horror stories (as long as you get good placement schools and supportive mentors of course). You are clearly used to hard graft and multitasking, so assuming you don't mind more of the same you will be fine I'm sure, especially becuase your partner will be able to understand and support you- a more experienced teacher's opinion can be invaluable.
    The Uni stuff you will be fine- like someone else said, it starts off fairly easy, but make sure you do all the assignments straight away so you stay ahead of the game. Order all you folders and file things straightaway.
    As for placments- I worked from 8am to 5pm-6pm everyday (I preferred to stay at school, this may not be an option for you but generally it's quiet and no-one bothers you, unlike at home). My school stuff was almost always finished in this time. Essays I generally did some evenings and weekends; we had three major assignments and a couple of reflective essays spread over the whole year; I worked one week at Christmas and had one off. Ditto Easter. You need holidays!!
    You may think by reading this I coasted- not at all; I got good feedback from both my placments and worked hard- you need to be organised, have a good A4 Teacher's planner and folders for separate classes. Also, get your hands on resources- use what your school has, and don't think you have to re-invent the wheel.
    If you have problem with mentors or anything else make sure you keep in close contact with the Uni. Good Luck!!
  9. emids77

    emids77 New commenter

    PS sorry for lack of spell check!!
  10. *not expected to be perfect
  11. his5jw

    his5jw New commenter

    Unfortunately it's very hard not to succumb to Parkinson's Law with teaching. That will be your biggest battle.
  12. I completely agree with everyone who's said its hard but not terrifying. I have a demanding two year old and had been used to working long hours in the creative industry, but the relentlessness of the volume of work is very wearing. However, having just successfully completed my PGCE and with a job secured for September, it really does feel worth it now. You're doing the right thing in getting your partner on side before you start, mine has been amazing and picked up the slack whenever I was buried for a few days in assignment land. For the record, I worked at school after classes til about 5pm, spent time with my family until 8pm, then worked for a couple of hours at least, most nights. I always had one full day off at the weekend when I tried not think about teaching at all.
    A lot does depend on your school mentor, mine was lovely but lazy, some friends had a breeze, others a nightmare. All you can do is show them how hard you're prepared to work, that you'll listen to and act on their advice and that you appreciate their role. Don't be scared to raise it with your uni tutor if you don't feel you're getting what you should be out of the relationship.
    My slight worry now is that I've been told the NQT year is even more gruelling - on my second placement I was responsible for teaching 17 out of 25 periods per week, can anyone advise how much more can I expect this next year?
  13. You'll be fine if you're well organised. I got good grades (assignments and TP), enough sleep and the odd weekend off and I have 4 kids. You can do too much sometimes, and if you're still planning and making resources at 2am you're not going to be teaching well the next day. My tips would be:
    1) Do as much as you can during the school day- mark books at lunchtime, take in your laptop and use any free periods effectively to plan and do evaluations, set up all the next day's slides with learning objectives etc straight after school.
    2) Use your time as effectively as you can- ask yourself 'is this going to improve the children's learning?' and if it isn't, don't do it! You could break your back reinventing the wheel but what matters is that you plan well structured lessons with effective resources, NOT whether you have lovingly laminated every single picture or spent three hours making glittery fish.
    3) Ask other students or teachers for ideas! Sounds obvious but I think sometimes we obsess about proving how wonderfully original we are when there is nothing wrong with doing something tried and tested if it works for the children.
    4) If you can, write lesson evaluations in break or lunchtimes when it's all fresh in your mind, it takes a lot longer to sit racking your brain about the week's lessons on a Sunday if you've got behind.
    5) Delegate to support staff, partners, kids, parents, friends, anyone really- get them to help with resources. If you need to make your own sales brochure or some treasure maps or some laminated pictures or whatever else you need, it will obviously save a lot of time if you ask other people to do things for you and IME most people are actually relieved to help you!
    6) Don't fight your natural working pattern with assignments. I'm a last minute person. I excel at all nighters ;-) Just accept it if that's how you work. I wasted a lot of time stressing that everyone else had written 1200 words and I hadn't started reading yet. It's not worth it. Don't compare yourself to people, do it your way.
    7) When you have a crappy day where you cry (you will), where you feel criticised, where you think you can never get on top of it all...just remember that you're not alone and it will pass. Everyone has felt useless/clueless/exhausted/defeatist at some stage. No one is a perfect teacher. No one knows it all during ITT. Be kind to yourself and if you REALLY feel bad, give yourself an evening or Sunday off. It is possible, and sometimes you should.
  14. I'm starting a PGCE Primary in September and would just like to say thanks to all of you on here who have said that it is manageable and offered tips and advice to get through the year. I have heard lots of horror stories of mountains of work and sleepless nights and was beginning to feel overwhelmed before I've even started!!
  15. It is manageable, but the PGCE is really stressful and you do have to work hard to learn everything they expect you to know. If I'm totally honest, I found the endless paperwork and red tape the most difficult thing, as it is so time consuming and there is always something more productive that you feel you could be doing.
    I couldn't have completed my PGCE with a job and children on top, but that's just my opinion and it depends on the individual. I would agree that if you do decide to work, you will have to really prioritise. Get the QTS tests out of the way early to reduce the pressure and get all assignments out of the way as quickly as possible - I do tend to procrastinate with them and the stress when you realise you simply don't have time to do everything you need to do and assignments on top is just not worth it.
    Best of luck, when it's good (and it will be, despite the times when you feel overwhelmed!) it is fantastically rewarding.
  16. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    One tip my mentor gave me (which I'm still working on...) is to always carry your "marking pen" with you and when circulating in the class giving individual help, take the opportunity there and then with the individual you're helping to mark their book (should just mean flipping back a few pages at most). If you typically get to say, 10 learners per lesson, that's 1/3rd of the books marked and if you see that class 3 times a week you might be able to get all your routine marking/feedback done actually in the lessons.
    I'm not that good yet, but it worked for her.

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