1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

PGCE Secondary English

Discussion in 'English' started by DalekTeacher, Jul 4, 2009.

  1. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I hope to train to become an English teacher in the future and I was wondering what the PGCE Secondary English was like at all and what experiences people have of their PGCE? Did you prepare much in advance for the PGCE or did you do your preparation as the course started in September? What were the assignments like and also was there time to read and study the texts required as well?
    Thank you,
  2. Nead2604

    Nead2604 New commenter

    Having just finished my PGCE at the University of Southampton, I have LOTS to say about this!

    Firstly, there is NO PREPARATION that will really help you before you get in.My University had a significant reading list. I read all the books before classes started. They were never even discussed and hugely did not make sense to me until I finished the course when they became good resources to support my teaching pactice. There are no tests in the PGCE program. There MIGHT be some papers to do. That depends on the University. Southampton offers a PGCE which also gives you 60 points of credit toward your Masters. You are REQUIRED to write two 6000 word research papers and do a presentation.Portsmouth does not require these papers. There are 'tasks' to do along the way with every University.Examples would be; to work in a group to create a medium term lesson plan, to create a powerpoint presentation on the paragraph,to write a synopsis about how the ICT resources are used in your placement school, or to track one high level and one lower ability child, keeping records of your input to SEN, parents, lead teachers throughout your placement.Tasks vary. They can be anything, but these are examples of some tasks I had to do. You do them, you get little or NO FEEDBACK on them. No grade certainly. A box is ticked SOMEWHERE that you did it.The only 'grade' I received from the University was from the final papers of the Masters element. NOTHING ELSE. What you MIGHT get is feedback on what was good and what needs to be improved but not always. That is it.
    Basicially you are learning for YOURSELF throughout your PGCE time. You keep up with evidence that you satisfy the 33 criteria for QTS status. The school will explain that. You have to keep evidence and present all your evidence in some format at the middle and end of your PGCE year. This evidence, along with observations by teachers, and mentors are what finally grants you the QTS. Be organized and prepare yourself to keep track of everything. You have to write your OWN self evaluations throughout your time. Keep a diary.Be critical of yourself and find solutions which you document. This is a vital part of what is required by the University to pass.
    PGCE is not a class....it is an experience. You will initially attend lectures that seem disjointed and pointless to what you are doing. You don't get why you are there until the whole thing is over and it all makes sense. You will need to work well with others. What they don't tell you is that you are being watched. Every minute of every day, you are being judged....and working well in group exercises is HUGELY vital to your success. Even if you hate it and disagree with the others in your group....keep smiling and produce something you are proud of.
    Placement is you in a school, acting just like a teacher. You are given a mix of classes. (Mix of age ranges and abilities) and you create lesson plans. You work with your department, you are watched and observed every minute of the day. Teachers at the school are helpful or not...but they are always critical. That is what they do. They help you improve and as you improve in one area, they find the next thing you need improving. You get feedback and what you do with that feedback determines how well you are doing in the course. You might design and write and deliver a whizz-bang lesson and you are told at the end of it that you need to enlarge your font on the powerpoint and you are crushed. You think you did a perfect job....you want someone to say they were dead impressed.....but no....you get a criticism on the minutia...UGH! You have to be reiliant. Teachers and mentors take their job to improve you very seriously and so that is their focus.They will ALWAYs tell you how to improve, and rarely (never) tell you how great you are. Start forming a thick skin and learn how to take everything with a grain of salt. Get rid of your ego completely, but most importantly DO WHATEVER THEY TELL YOU, even if you think it is irrelevant. Just do it.
    Once you get settled in your placement school and you feel like you understand everthing, you get along with teachers and pupils etc....you go back to University for more seemingly inane lectures. They tell you how important it is to keep your documents and begin to explain the mysterious ...but only JUST....which is HOW YOU WILL BE ASSESSED FOR QTS STATUS. Basically it is this: YOU have to prove you are worthy this is an individual path. Your experiences will not be like anyone elses so your ulitimate portfolio will not be like anyone elses. It is your portfolio and the formal and informal observation made by other teachers, mentors etc...which is the proof that you have successfully completed the PGCE.
    THEN A NEW PLACEMENT! Everything starts over again from scratch only now everything is increased. More to teach, you are left alone with a tutor group, now things are serious with GCSE classes, reports, meeting with parents, differentiation, etc....and the observations are more stringent and detailed.Just as you think you got it, the anty is raised.This is the most important part of your PGCE because it will make you. You will be exhausted.
    You learn how to teach the subjects you need to teach by doing it. You can go online now and start looking at lesson plans for various years, levels, subjects...but they don't make sense until you have to do them yourself. That is when you begin to see how the puzzle fits for teaching. When you organize your portfolio, that is when you begin to see the part of the puzzle that creates you as a teacher.
    There are lots of boxes to tick...the university, the governement, the placement school...all have their own boxes. None of it is set out clearly so you don't always know....just assume you have to do it. The most insignificant things can mean the difference in making it or not making it....the point is you need to do it all and sometimes all at once with a shattered ego, no sleep, and a looming full timetable of irritable kids who hate you for forcing them to do Shakespeare, sixth period on Fridays. You have to look good all the time, don't whinge, never let them see you cry, and forget about family and friends.
    In the end, you turn in your portfolio, make sure everything has been signed along the way, and you get it signed off, maybe get a grade on a final paper, and that is it. It is over. No ceremony, no nifty vellum, scrolled, engraved, frameable document to hang on your wall...no pomp and circumstance....nothing. A few months later, some judging body sends you an A-4 piece of paper....I am still waiting for mine having finished in June..... which officially says that you can now teach as an NQT. For all the hard work and tears, that is it.
    Here is the point. You are doing this for you. The University will give you guidelines and lectures and suggest books, but this is YOUR experience and they don't interfere with it. It becomes what you make of it. You learn what you needto learn and you learn your strengths and weaknesses. You improve or don't improve, that is up to you. In the end however, when you get your first job,everything falls into place and you feel an elation, a sense of accomplishment that is HUGE. It truely is YOUR accomplishment. Your classmates have theirs, you have yours, and it is not the same.

    AND THAT IS HOW THE PGCE PROGRAM IS DONE! So if I suggest any reading at all, read your Shakespeare, know your war poetry, understand what the AQA GCSE for literature demands and know all of that...Read the latest year 7 novels, get a lot of rest and buy lots of folders and labels, and just take the ride as it comes. The twist and turns on this journey will be unique to you.and there is nothing you can really do to prepare for it.Good Luck!
    I, by the way, got a great job starting in September, doing exactly what I want to do, in a fantastic small rural school school, teaching everything I love. The money is great as I am starting above the MPS of 2 ( big surprise ) with a 10,000.00 pound bonus. All the stress and worry in the PGCE program is forgotten and I am now left with great new friends, new business associates, self respect, a great career path with all kinds of advancement opportunities,and I am officially a TEACHER.The year of misery has left me with a whole futureof exciting possibilities...so that is the result. I am glad I did it.I wouldn't want to do it again!
  3. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    Thank you ever so much for this - I have sent you a personal message and was wondering if you have received it?
    How many folders should I expect to buy? Did you have much free time on evenings?
    I wish you all the very best with your new job in September.
    Thank you,
  4. *chuckles and ruefully shakes head*
    Ah, never such innocence...
  5. Nead2604

    Nead2604 New commenter

    Free time in the evenings???? If I remember what that ever was ....

    ...the answer is an absolute, resounding NO!
    Nor the weekends, nor your 'vacation time'....you can say goodbye to free time most likely forever. There is always planning, grading, writing papers or reports, organizing, there is NEVER enough time to do your work and fit in the teaching, the meetings, the after school CPD, twilight sessions, sports events, the Unviersity lectures, their expectations, research, tasks, your evidence....Much of the time you will feel you are getting by, by the skin of your teeth. I would get up at 6 am to organize myself and my lessons for the day, get to school by 8, teach until 3:30, attend what ever is going on after school that day, make it home by 5, eat, start either research, grade papers, create another 4 or more lesson plans, find resources, journal for the evidence, go to bed at 12 or 1 am and do it all again the next day.
    School 'breaks' were for going to Uni for lectures, finish writing my assignments, documentation and record keeping, update the portfolio, prepare more lesson plans....a couple of days off for Christmas or Easter Lunch, then back at it.

    You can expect NO free time for the year.
  6. I've just finished my first year of teaching... it was tough, but not nearly as tough as my PGCE year. My PGCE teacher once compared the level of development and learning you have to do as a PGCE student as the same as a baby in the first 9 months of life. There is so much you have to take on in such a small space of time! Your PGCE has to become your life. You won't have free time. You will be working every weekend and every evening. All I can say is there is light at the end of the tunnel... the actual job of teaching, once you are actually doing it, seems easier in comparison!

    I did my PGCE in English at Keele. The tutors there are so kind and supportive - I would really recommend this institution for that reason. The variety of what we were studying really blew me away - not only was I learning about teaching English, I was learning how to teach Media and Drama as well, not to mention whole school issues. I had a long commute to get to Keele and my days there were long - but I can safely say that I learned far more in my year at Keele than I did in the three years of my degree. It was incredibly intensive!

    The first school placement was a week in a primary school, which I thought would be comparatively easy... it wasn't compulsory to teach on this placement, but I asked if I could teach for an hour with a Y4 class, because I was keen to get going. The feedback I got back from the teacher of that class was devastating! She didn't have one positive thing to say about the lesson I had planned... This was at the very start of my PGCE, before I had had any session on how to teach! I was so upset.

    Thankfully the feedback I got on my secondary placements was far more constructive. You have to develop a thick skin on your PGCE - my teaching was observed pretty much constantly and I had to learn to take criticism in my stride. I found this harder than any of the student behaviour I had to deal with. When you're tired and you've spent a lot of time planning lesson, it's not easy to then have all your mistakes pointed out for you! Of course this is an important part of learning to be a teacher, and I really valued the experience and wisdom of my mentors.

    I'm really proud of my PGCE. There were occasions in the year when I really doubted I had the determination to finish it, but I'm so glad I did! It wasn't just a hard slog - there were really positive things too. We made a music video as part of the Media component of our course, which was such a laugh! We also went to Florence with History PGCE-ers to do a cross-curricular project. I loved the creative writing sessions at Keele - and on the last day of the course I read a poem I had written in Florence to 300 people! It was a hard year but also a very rich year, full of new experiences. And as I say, now I'm doing the job, things have calmed down (a bit!).

    I'd recommend taking a PGCE to anyone who is willing to commit themselves to a really full-on year. Be prepared for lots and lots of paperwork, too (though admittedly I cut corners with this!).

    Good luck!
  7. catherineb87

    catherineb87 New commenter

    I've just finished my PGCE in English this year and can safely say that it has been one of the most challenging, demanding but rewarding years of my life.
    I trained at Leeds Trinity and All Saints, because I'd heard their assignments taught you how to do things like make units of work, create the best lesson plans, look at behaviour management strategies, experiment with ideas etc. Then you got 2 x 2 hour sessions a week of Professional studies, which looked at governement initiatives to do with education, legal and professional responsibilities, pupil needs and differences etc. All in all I found the sessions really useful as I understood a bit more about teaching. You have to pass 33 teaching standards, which sounds terrifying, but isnt really. TASC divide them up so that they are clustered together under a common heading. We had 4 professional cluster headings and 7 subject based ones.
    My year was divided up into three parts.
    Stage 1 was 12 weeks long and consisted entirely of college based training. this involved subject studies sessions which were pretty much evey day and also the Professional studies I mentioned. The professional studies was divided into 4 units (1 for each heading). At the end of each unit, there was a test, which was mostly multiple choice. The professional studies sessions were focused around some of the teaching standards we had to meet, so the tests assessed us against the professional standards. Then we had assignments for the subject based headings, which were pretty straightforward and well explained, that tested us against the other 7 headings.
    Stage 2 was a 16 week placement. This involved you taking your own classes, and completing what was called a Standardized Evidence Base (SEB). This included various assignments that tested you against all 11 headings. It was useful as it helped consolidate knowledge from Stage 1, and also gave you the chance to meet the standards again if you'd missed out slightly in Stage 1. I really liked my placement as I got to see what teaching was like and learned a lot about different strategies, how to conduct my self etc. You had to pass Stage 2 to progress into Stage 3. You only failed if you'd really messed up on the SEB or if there was any professional misconduct.
    Stage 3 was an 8 week placement, where you had to complete the SEB again. To take into account the reduced amount of time, a lot of the assignments were compacted so it involved a written testimony rather than a full on report for example. I walked into my second placement feeling nervous, as it was a totally different school to my first placement, but I needn't have worried. I loved it even more than the old one. I just eased my self into lessons straight away and realised that yes I could do it and was seeing how far I'd progressed. I was then offered a job at the school and I start in September!
    I really enjoyed my course as I liked the fact it tested you 3 times for each standard you had to pass. This gave you the chance to improve each time or to work on something you werent so good at. As long as you passed each of the professional and subject headings twice each, then you passed the PGCE. I found this useful because it gave you that chance to prove to yourself and your college tutors that you could do it more than once. By the end of it, I was absolutely shattered, but I knew I could do it, rather than wondering if I could right at the beginning of the course.
    To prepare for my course, I read a few books on becoming an English Teacher. Try Waterstones and Borders, they're very good for different titles to do with teaching in general and teaching your subject. If you want, I can send you the titles? I've left them at home and can't remember the proper names for them. In fact all I can remember is that one is red, one is blue and one is white haha! There was plenty of time to read and study, as the majority of the subject sessions we had at uni were based on soemthing our tutor gave us.
    I also read up on behaviour management techniques - I recommend Getting The ******* to Behave by Sue Cowley - it's really easy to understand and very useful. There's also a book called The Teacher's Toolkit by Paul Ginnis that shows lots of useful strategiesto use for lessons - I've used loads from there. I also got English for Secondary Teachers by Alison Johnson. This is really useful knowledge and self audit guide that covers various aspects of the subject and lets you test and re-test yourself as often as you like. I found it useful because my degree is in English Literature and I hadn't done Language since GCSE so was undestandably nervous! It gives you the answers and feedback and also provides you with a practical, personal learning plan to maintain your progess. This one is pretty easy to use, so it could easily be done of the summer. I also got Grammar Survival: A Teacher's Toolkit by Geoff Barton, because as I said, the language side was my weaker area. I knew what was wrong with a sentence for example, but struggled with technical names for the errors. I also got Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely to help me with this. I also read lots - try find out what sort of stuff is read in schools these days.
    One book I recommend you get is Teaching Shakespeare by Rex Gibson. He's considered the Don of this subject by the teacher's I've come across and he's got some really good ideas.
    At my school they read Skellig, Millions, Pobbie and Dingam, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Buddy, The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler and a few more I can't remember.
    I also read the TES every week. It comes with a magazine and a job section. It's out every Friday and costs £1.50, which when you see the size of it, is very reasonable. It really helped me in my PGCE interview with questions such as 'Why is Shakespeare still relevant?'. I remembered reading about two Jewish girls at a school in London who refused to sit their SATs Shakespeare paper because they said he was anti-Semitic, even though the paper was on Romeo and Juliet. If you cant store all the papers, maybe keep a folder with clipping or articles that you liked or found interesting.
    In your PGCE year, you will at some point doubt your self as I did and think 'Arrgh I can't do it'. Whatever you do, don't quit, just plough on through and you'll get there I promise. You will have a significantly reduced amount of time to yourself, so make sure you do the work as and wehn you get it, so that you can put aside time for yourself. Mine was usually Friday evenings, Saturday evenings and Sundays. You might not always get to go out with friends or do all the things you usually do as often as you did, but the job and end result is so rewarding that it is so definately worth it.
    Another bit of advice would be to use your tutors at uni and in school for support - that is what they're there for. If you feel a bit rubbish because of a bad lesson or if you're doubting yourself or even if it's a little niggling question - just ask. I'd also share resources with coursemates via email and try meet up with them when and wherever possible.
    Get plenty of folders, lined paper, dividers, plastic wallets, pens (variety of colours) and board pens. This will be useful to organise things so you can easily refer to any information from uni or any documents from placement schools etc. Most schools run a profession development programme for trainees, so it would be a good idea to have a place for that too.
    In some schools, the board pens go walk about, so it's a good idea to have your own. Try www.superstickers.com for things like stampers, stickers etc.
    Check out the IT facilities at your school. Some will have more computers than others, so if your school hasn't got that many, it's a good idea to bring a laptop if you have one.
    Get to know the staff in your school, both within your department and outside it. This will be good in case any jobs open up at your placement school.
    And finally, on your PGCE application and in your job applications - don't be afraid to sell yourself! They're looking to see what you can offer apart from your subject, so if you have a skill or a talent outside your subject, let the people know. I can read, speak and write fluently in Polish, which was particularly useful in the area I live in and at my placement school. I mentioned this, because it was unusual and it's things like this that set you apart. You don't have to be able to speak another language, you just have to be able to sell yourself and show them what you can do.
    Hope this helps! Feel free to message me if you need any extra advice or help.
    Best of luck!
  8. What a brilliant thread this is. Reminded me of how hard, incredibly hard, that year is. Look at it this way - if you can get through this, you can get through almost anything.
    Consider joining NATE too: www.nate.org.uk as the magazines you get will keep you well up to date with what is going on. Well beyond the TES.
    Also a great sign of professionalism and helps you get up the ladder a bit, if that's what you want.
  9. Hi there,
    I too have just completed my PGCE course in English and found it extremely challenging, but rewarding. I had no free time in the evenings because having 2 young children of my own and a home to manage, evenings were the only time I could write my schemes of work and do my planning. My weekends were taken up with planning and marking too.
    I found the PGCE very demanding, particularly when trying to juggle all the assignments and planning with teaching lessons. There didn't seem to be enough hours in the day, but i'm really glad that I did it because I enjoy teaching very much. Every day is different - you get some bad days and some good. For example, you can be feeling really fed up and then all of a sudden, a child will come out with a comment that makes you laugh. I was teaching a year 8 class just recently and I had had a really difficult year 9 class just before it. i was feeling really fed up when all of a sudden, during the reading of 'Goodnight Mr. Tom' a little boy asked ''Miss? Did you wear a gas mask during the war?''. needless to say, I am only 42. [​IMG]
  10. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has replied to this thread and for all the useful advice that has been given. I am going to go through all the posts thoroughly and make a list of all the things I will need to get.
    My offer is conditional on gainin a GCSE Maths at grade C. The thing is I didn't want to do any preparation until I knew for sure that I have secured my place. I have been sent a reading list but what would you recommend I do? Do you think I should read once I have my results on the 27th August?
    I have found all my English degree notes as well as I have piles of material on texts I studied and also from GCSE and A-level.
    Thank you for all your help,
  11. Yeah, in my first year of teaching (aged 23), a Year Seven asked me if I had a brother or sister. Yes, one of each, said I? "And how old is your sister?"
    "So...are you older or younger than her?" [​IMG]
  12. Hi Dalek,
    One of the first lectures we had at the begining of PGCE was on 'teachers and the law'. You could try googling this and see what comes up. It is always handy to read up on these things before you start the course. Also google 'every child matters' because you will have a lecture on that too.
    I finished my PGCE a few months ago so have just been awarded QTS. if there is anything else you would like to know, please feel free to email me.


  13. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I just wanted to say thank you for all the help with this. I have sent an e-mail to you and I received a reply from you this morning. I've replied back and hope that you've received it alright. Any further advice you have would be deeply appreciated.
    I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who has given advice on this topic. I am using all of it and just really hope that I can do my PGCE in September.
    Thank you for everything,
  14. Sorry I have to throw this in there, just to show you the flip side.
    I am now halfway through the seconda placement of my PGCE. I am teaching 15 hours per week, plus running a G&T poetry club, and a gardening club with the year 7's. I am in the middle of an assignment and on top of that turn up to any extra lectures that the uni puts on... and I still have free time. Although alot of people on my course are working 24/7, I am on top o f everything without working after 7pm or Saturdays.
    I don't want you all thinking I am boasting or being a bad example, I just wanted Dalek Teacher to know that every one will have a different experiance, whether your mega busy, or a quick worker (like me) you are going to have an amazing time, the bright spots in the day will outshine the shadows of bad behaviour, difficult concepts, crappy mentors, and the dreaded SLT's!
    Ps In case anyone thinks that I couldn't possibly be fully engaged with the course if I have that much time free, I have 100% attendance, high marks on my assessments, and am consistently delivering outstanding lessons.
  15. Sorry, but "alot"? "Experiance"? "Your" (instead of "you're")?
    I really think you need to sort out your own spelling/skills before you attempt to deliver this subject for a living. Your learners will be relying on you and you will be accountable for their learning. I find it difficult to argue that standards aren't falling in the light of such evidence.
    This isn't a "just having a go" response. I mentor student English teachers and I'm often appalled at the poor standard of grammar and punctuation.

Share This Page