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Really hate my PGCE

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by MiruMe, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    Hello everyone,

    So this is a huge shocker and definitely not something any of you have ever heard before. *sarcasm*

    I really, really, REALLY hate my PGCE. I loathe every second of it. Well, not every second, there are a few occasional ‘good’ seconds that I try to cling to but they’re too few to matter.

    I have done some teaching and mentoring outside the school system and I absolutely loved it, hence the PGCE. But my god. The crushing conformity of schools (or at least my placement school) is absolutely killing me. The impossibility of actually doing anything creative. They show us all these lovely activities/teaching methodologies at uni and none of them are in any way realistically applicable in a school environment. Not just in my placement but also in the schools of my colleagues that I’ve spoken to about this.

    The workload and expectations are absolutely shattering and I feel I get very little support. My mentor certainly does not care as long as I do not bother her. I feel like I am doing my very best but it’s never enough, I barely sleep but all I get a reluctant acknowledgement of some good bits I’ve done and then a loooooong list of everything I’ve done ‘wrong’ along with the expectation to always get it right from then on. Some of the feedback I get implies I should have just magically known what to do and what is even wrong with me.

    I keep getting told by my uni tutor that I shouldn’t worry about not always getting things right, that it’s normal at this stage, but that’s not the reality of it when I’m in my school.

    I was told to prepare a medium term scheme of work without being shown or explained how to do it beforehand, surprise surprise it’s no good. The teacher who asked me to do it said my mentor would go over it with me, my mentor said the other teacher would do it, in the end nobody did but the fault is still mine for trying and failing.

    So yeah, apart from the crushing, suffocating conformity of the system, I am also overwhelmed by the hypocrisy of it. The teachers are free to tell me exactly what they think of my teaching and then discuss it among themselves, but god forbid I talk back or discuss *their teaching* with my fellow trainees. The general expectation is to be as little bother as possible, keep my mouth shut and just magically know what to do. They are allowed to cancel or reschedule meetings, fail to meet deadlines we had agreed on and ignore my emails, but god forbid I so much as breathe out of turn.

    This hierarchy, this expectation to always ‘know my place’, which is clearly at the bottom of the food-chain, is disheartening to say the least. In every office I have ever worked in I’d have taken this sort of attitude to the management and reported it as bullying, except this seems to be the norm in schools.

    I have left the office to try and dedicate my life to something meaningful but feel I am pouring all my time and efforts into a system that doesn’t appreciate it and never will, and that I could lay my life down but it would hardly matter to anyone. Also I have come to realise you must be a specific type of person to thrive in the school environment and I am just not that person, nor do I ever want be. All of this, but especially the waste of my time and effort, just makes me angry. I really want to quit, but I can’t until I have found a job, and this close to Christmas it’s a tough gig.

    The actual teaching’s fine. It’s just that it’s barely 10% of the job.

    Sorry for the long rant. To summarise how I feel, I pray somebody calls me tomorrow and gives me a job and I can just leave this hell behind and forget it ever happened.
    pepper5 and enyliram like this.
  2. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    Have you spoken to your university mentor about how you’re feeling?

    It is a difficult position to be in, as a trainee you’re not the class teacher, not a ‘proper’ member of the dept and not a colleague that the other staff have known for more than a month or two, and also you’re not as familiar with how things run, politics, the needs of the dept and pressures on it. All of which impacts how you feel within the dept and how you experience interactions, and how your presence is perceived.

    It isn’t easy, I’m at the same stage as you. My teaching style is certainly very different to my mentor’s although I know we share our aims for the kids’ learning and understanding. I’m making sure that I hang on to what makes me individual, as we all should, and putting my own stamp on lessons.

    The mentoring and observing process can be difficult, saying you did abc well but xyz could be improved isn’t bullying, that’s the job of the observer to help you to see from the outside what could be done better in your lessons and what went well. That really is their job, you have to remind yourself when you receive feedback that it’s not being negative it’s helping you to develop.

    Are you on your own in the school as a trainee? There are a couple of addditional other trainees in my dept, from a different uni, and that helps in terms of sharing ideas and having a sounding board, but most importantly in getting to know the department and school, helping to understand what makes your colleagues tick.

    The way that you describe your experience, not being allowed to ‘talk back’ for example, it sounds as though you’ve assumed a child parent relationship with your mentor, which is likely to be making things a lot harder for you and htem. It’s a discussion between two colleagues and approaching it like that may make a huge difference.
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. CareerchangeBloke

    CareerchangeBloke New commenter

    I really really hated my PGCE too, but I quite like my teaching job. The money is abysmal though, but it feels there's more of a career path here than what I was doing before so hopefully in a few years I'll be able to afford to stop eating beans.

    The PGCE is a horrible experience for most people, and is a lot of the reason that there is a teaching shortage. Many NQTs simply have nothing left in the tank for another difficult year after qualifying. Sadly, a lot of teachers seem to forget this when they have a student themselves.

    If I were you I would ask to change placements rather than just quit before the end of the term.
    MiruMe and agathamorse like this.
  4. marrowf

    marrowf New commenter

    I have nearly written this post so many times, but everything that’s happening is what I expected so I’m trying to stick it out. I think from reading your post if you want to stay you need to try to work out what you are ‘feeling’ vs what is ‘happening’. So you can try to find something to control and change.
    I nearly started applying for jobs after half term too so I totally empathise, My school and mentor are great (sorry!) and i still feel a lot of what you say - plus how awful are the working conditions once you qualify?!

    Sending lots of non PGCE related positive thoughts your way (sorry for totally unhelpful post) X
    agathamorse and MiruMe like this.
  5. MissGeorgi

    MissGeorgi Occasional commenter

    You could end up in a much different school after qualifying. I did! Schools are quite different.
    Don’t think about the double standards. Qualified staff, with a proven track record, will always been treated differently. Get over it :) You will be there soon, if you choose. It’s a profession with a set qualifying path.
    Tell the other staff that you could really use a bit more positivity as a confidence boost. It’s a fair point :)
    agathamorse likes this.
  6. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    This summarises the last 20 years of my life.

    Do you want to feel like this for decades? If not, I suggest you leave. I also wish I's never fallen into the trap. I have wanted to leave since I started. The longer you leave it the harder it is.
    Shedman, agathamorse and MiruMe like this.
  7. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    Yes I have spoken to my uni mentor. The advice has been to hold it out.

    I never implied feedback is bullying - it is a necessary evil. I referred to the general attitude in the department - that I’m a nobody there and should know my place.

    You are right, I have fallen into a child parent relationship with them but it was very hard not to when I am constantly being condescended to. Now there seems no way out as I’ve let them do it for so long.
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  8. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    A few other trainees not having a good time asked to change and were denied. To be honest if I am to stick this out, I much prefer the devil I know. At least here I know the kids already. In a new school I’d have to win them all over again.

    You are very right. The PGCE is a horrible experience for almost everyone. How I wish I could travel back in time and slap myself silly before I clicked submit on that UCAS application.
    Shedman, agathamorse and Corvuscorax like this.
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    How I wish I could super impose this onto those criminal teacher training recruitment ads " every lesson shapes a life"
    Shedman, agathamorse and MiruMe like this.
  10. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    This is increasingly an issue. The schools are not creating space for the trainee to develop. And indeed it’s not opinion, but policy that schools should create a space. Gibb has written explicitly - we are developing teachers who can teach in any school in England. Thus a school has to be sure that if they are involved in teacher education they are developing a trainee, not rail reading them into a single way of teaching. Your uni sounds like it is doing the right thing - it’s showing you a range of approaches. The fault will be at mentor level here. They must be understanding what it means to be a mentor and the requirements - not just making it up or indeed seeing you as an employee of the school to mould.

    There are still many schools which allow you autonomy but they are decreasing in number. And you are right, this affects retention and recruitment.
  11. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    How can the fault be at the mentor level, when typically becoming a mentor involves nothing more than receiving an email that you are doing ti, to be added to the rest of the work load.
    agathamorse, bonxie and MiruMe like this.
  12. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    I am thinking of finishing the PGCE because quitting looks bad on a CV and because I cannot afford to not quit. But after that, never again.

    Sending lots of love your way too. 20 years is tough. Can you get out?
    agathamorse likes this.
  13. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    Haha. Seeing the ads over the summer I used to feel a little proud despite myself, thinking I’m on my way to do a bit of good in this world, probably not a lot but you know what Tesco says, every little counts.

    Drove past one of the ads just yesterday and it made me want to puke. Lies, wicked lies.
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  14. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    I feel harshly judged, looked down on and condescended to in the school. The expectation seems to be, if I do bother them for advice, I must understand it at once and always apply it going forward and if I don’t, they get frustrated, judge me even harsher and condescend even more. I get it that they are overworked and exhausted but surely a little bit of humanity is not too much to ask. Not even proper development of me as a trainee - just humanity. I mean, they’ve been through the PGCE themselves, they know the hell I am in. That’s what gets me the most.

    I did not know they are not getting paid. This actually explains a lot. I still expect humanity from them, though. If they can’t give me proper development due to all of us being stuck in a hellish quagmire, at least we can all still be human to each other. They don’t seem to share this opinion.
    agathamorse likes this.
  15. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Ok. So a correction - the school will be paid. Sometimes the mentors receive money as well, but the school is being paid for hosting the trainee. In doing so, they sign a partnership contract which sets out the expectations. We undertook research and around two thirds of mentors volunteer and one third are 'asked', as @Corvuscorax says. We get more problems with asked mentors than volunteers naturally.
    However, you have bought this training. The mentor, school and provider are service providers. If standards aren’t not good enough then you must articulate this shortfall in standards through the formal mechanisms. Don’t be afraid to be a pain. I’ve no issue with trainees who are experiencing a short fall in standard of provisions and who raise concerns. I will move them to another school if the school can’t deliver the standards agreed in the partnership contract.

    If you are SD or SCITT then you have fewer safeguards. what type of course are you on? Even on a uni course you have to kick sometimes.
    MathMan1, agathamorse and MiruMe like this.
  16. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    I’m core, with a uni tutor and everything. I laid out my concerns very early on and my tutor said I have to hold out for my second placement, this may just not be the school for me. I said if the things I’m hearing from other trainees in other schools are anything to go by, my concerns are not a matter of this one school but rather a profession-wide problem. At which point she seemed lost but said to stick it out anyway, as the PGCE is a useful paper to have.

    Two trainees got out in our third week of placements. I remember thinking they were chickens at the time, but oh how time and experience have changed my perspective. Those two immeasurably wise human beings that escaped just in time.
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  17. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    There are national standards for itt mentors. Perhaps talk to your uni tutor and link the issues you are having against the relevant standards and ask them to do something to help address those issues.
    MiruMe, MrMedia and agathamorse like this.
  18. Tinyreader

    Tinyreader New commenter

    This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m going to post anyway!

    Yes, the pgce is tough. It needs to be. You are joining a difficult profession. You have a mentor who is extremely busy with the their own classes but has been chosen for a reason - probably because they are good at what they do and you can learn a lot from them!

    I found my pgce challenging, but the next 2 years were harder without the levels of guidance and support that you get in that first year

    I have now mentored several student teachers. The best have been proactive, respond well to constructive criticism and always thanked me for my time after meetings.

    Remember that you are learning from experts. Yes, we need good mentors to continue developing new teachers, but for that to happen we need good, strong trainees who recognise that they have a lot to learn! The simple fact is, that you have to prove yourself in any job.

    These lovely activities you spoke about, are achievable. It’s likely that you need to develop your basic teaching skills first before you are able to deliver them effectively.
    agathamorse and JustineLG like this.
  19. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Aye, your tutor knows they aren’t in a good place. Push it, say you want a new placement. They can’t fail you if it’s the placement and not you.
    agathamorse and MiruMe like this.
  20. MiruMe

    MiruMe New commenter

    This course has made me doubt reality to such an extent where I no longer know what is real, and whether it is perhaps just me. I don’t want to complain and make a big deal in case it’s all my fault. Perhaps I am doing things wrong. I share openly with other trainees how I feel and a lot of them feel the same way, plus all my friends who have done a PGCE unanimously urged me not to do it if I want to stay sane, so I know what I feel is valid since a lot of people feel the same, and I know a lot of it is the system’s/this particular school’s fault, but some of it is my fault. Currently I am trying to figure out just how much lies with me and whether I am still passionate enough to tackle it. But with every day I lose a little more of my drive. At one point last week my observing teacher had to leave the room urgently, leaving me alone with the kids for the rest of the lesson. After a brief moment of panic - she didn’t say why she’s going or if she’s coming back - I suddenly felt such joy and freedom and really enjoyed the rest of the lesson, and I think the kids did too.

    This is the joy I went into teaching for. Unfortunately, it is being killed off little by little with every observation, every unreasonable expectation, every condescension, to an extent where I no longer care and just want to leave.
    agathamorse likes this.

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