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Looking back 4 years after leaving the PGCE and teaching

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by beebelal, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. beebelal

    beebelal New commenter

    I thought this might be useful or at least supportive to some of the struggling PGCE students out there today.

    I started my primary PGCE in 2014 and left in May, 2015 with about six weeks of my second placement left. My first placement was relatively alright - an Outstanding school, supportive mentor etc. I didn't do brilliantly but I didn't majorly struggle either (ended up on a 'minimum with elements of good'). As the story goes, my second placement was a bit of a nightmare, and at the time I felt really lost and alone. I definitely felt like an impostor for most of the PGCE - despite some of my peers saying I was the most 'naturally teachery' person in the cohort. I had a few issues with the placement/mentor, and as most of the threads here seem to be about schools/mentors that are not supportive I thought I'd throw in my two cents now that I've had a few years to think it through. This all applies to placement 2.

    I am naturally a sensitive person, and will admit to immediately taking a dislike to my mentor teacher when they didn't even look up from their planning to say hello to me on my first day. I'm sure that dislike has colored my perception of her - just putting that out there.

    So for the first week or two everything seemed like it was going well - we were communicating well (to me), I got to know the class and spent the first week getting to know the school. It all changed when the time came to teach my first lesson. MT (mentor teacher) told me they had a meeting and would be leaving the class in my hands (no TA). At the time I thought this was unfair and wondered if leaving me alone with the class was actually allowed by the rules/regulations, but I didn't query it with anyone as I didn't want to cause a fuss.

    The lesson went absolutely horribly - there were kids refusing to do work, swearing at me, and although by the end every student got something done (which I still think of as an accomplishment), there was little in the way of progress. The lesson knocked my confidence completely, and I raised this with MT who then agreed that that the next week should be team-teaching rather than me being left on my own or lead teaching. This rarely happened and for most of that week I was basically working as a TA attending to small groups of students. Time went on, I didn't have weekly meetings and was never observed teaching by MT.

    Unsurprisingly, the first time my uni tutor came to observe me I was passed with a minimum by them and failed by my mentor teacher. The second time they came to observe me I was failed by both, primarily on assessment and behaviour management. This was followed up with a meeting wherein I was placed on cause for concern and told I had one week to improve.

    I didn't make it to the following week's observation - I decided to leave the PGCE that weekend. I do not regret leaving the PGCE for one moment - I also don't regret a moment of doing it. I love my job now and I wouldn't have it without things I learned during my 'school years'. What I do regret is not speaking up for myself. I also regret not thinking about how my perception of my mentor/school and their role might have been influencing my attitude. A successful placement seems to take a circle - proactive and eager student, supportive mentor and school. I believe a failed/abandoned placement is never just one person's fault. I am sure I could have done things differently, queried more, stood up for myself. I should have spoken to my uni tutors about how I felt the placement was going (and why). That's the message I really want to get across to any struggling trainees - think honestly about how your placement is going (and why it is going that way), and raise concerns if you then think you need to.

    I was scared of unemployment, debt, failure and shame when I left. Now I can see my PGCE experience for what it was, but it has taken a long time for me to see it clearly. If you are thinking about leaving please realise that it is not the end of the world. Think about what the experience has taught you and use that going forward. But make sure you are thinking clearly - talk to friends, family, peers.

    I hope that was at least slightly helpful to someone!
  2. 1FineDay

    1FineDay New commenter

    That was interesting to read, thank you for sharing.

    I think people are too hard on themselves sometimes when going through ITT. The process is grueling, and there are so many variables and inconsistencies from school to school, provider to provider, mentor to mentor, trainee to trainee; that it becomes a bit of luck as well as having the ability to adapt to the situation and get through it. Regardless, not being successful in gaining QTS does not mean the person is worth less than those who were successful, it just means that the job didn't work out - the role and the person were not a match: and that's fine!

    The realities of day to day teaching are only really known to you when you give it a go and go through a year of it - and many people find it doesn't work for them and teaching simply isn't their thing. That's nothing to feel like a failure over - even though technically the terminology is 'fail' because you've still grown and developed during that year. Move on and use what you've learnt to propel yourself closer to the path that is right for you.
    agathamorse and blueskydreaming like this.

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