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Teaching out of specialism in placement

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by clairp27, Jan 17, 2018.

  1. clairp27

    clairp27 New commenter

    I have just completed my first teaching placement and absolutely loved it. My subject is biology and I am so passionate about it and feel that this comes across in my teaching. I developed excellent relationships with the students and really excelled.
    Then I started my second placement, in another school in special measures, however Uni said it didn’t count as the school changed to an academy Jan 1st so the Ofsted doesn’t count anymore.
    Besides that, I have been told I will only be teaching physics in this placement as I am meant to be a science teacher not a biology teacher. This has completely put me off teaching now as I do not understand physics, I haven’t done it myself in over 30 years and I have no interest in the subject at all. How can I possibly be enthusiastic and motivate the students in a subject I loathe and can’t get my head around myself.
    I understand as a biology student I need to be able to teach chemistry and physics, although I don’t get that as all 3 are completely different, but having no biology at all to teach in this placement has made me doubt that I want to teach now. I am devestated as I loved my first placement, but this one has completely changed how I feel. It is so unfair on the kids as I know I cannot give them what they deserve, but if I try and plod along I could end up with requires improvement and failing my course and I do not want to risk that. I’ve spoke to my mentor who said in this school we do not have a specialism we teach everything. Uni won’t change my placement.
    It seems ludicrous as teaching biology I thrived and I absolutely loved it, and the thrill I got made all the hard work worthwhile, but now I dread going in each day.
    Does anyone have any advice ?
    Thank you
     
  2. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    You knew before starting teacher training that you would be expected to teach all 3 subjects, so if you are not willing to do that you should not have started the PGCE. It would not be financially feasible for most schools to employ separate teachers for each of these three subjects, so unless you end up working in a private school you are not likely to find a job that requires you to only teach Biology. I understand that it must be very hard for you to only teach physics every day, but it is not forever - this placement is only a few weeks of your life - so try to think of it as a learning experience. Your training provider may have given you this placement on purpose, in order to boost your physics teaching, as you have already shown yourself to be capable of teaching biology; or they may not have any other schools willing to take you. When you apply for an NQT job you need to be capable of teaching all 3 subjects - it's better to be RI during the PGCE than during your NQT year!

    You can train in an academy that is RI, as long as your department is not one that contributed to that grade - there can be outstanding teaching/departments in RI schools. Look on the ofsted website for a copy of the report if you want to check: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/

    Also, try posting on the Biology message board - ask other teachers how they cope with teaching physics and chemistry.
     
    sabrinakat, pepper5 and clairp27 like this.
  3. clairp27

    clairp27 New commenter

    Thank you for your reply. I actually wasn’t aware I’d have to teach all three sciences when I signed up to the PGCE. I chose PGCE biology, thinking that’s exactly what it would be, and it wasn’t until weeks after I started that I found out we had to teach all three sciences. To me it makes no sense as the subjects are completely different. I absolutely love biology and that comes across in my teaching as I’m so enthusiastic and I love passing on my knowledge and helping the students to do their absolute best. However physics I really struggle with, therefore how can I be passionate about teaching something I don’t understand or enjoy myself. It’s unfair on the students as I won’t be able to give them the best, be able to help them excel, answer their questions etc as in reality they will know more than me.
    In hindsight perhaps knowing what I know now, maybe teaching isn’t for me, as I really have no interest in physics or teaching it. Chemistry I can cope with as I studied it recently so it’s a lot easier for me to learn new topics, and I taught some in my last placement, but physics it a different matter. I just feel it’s a real shame as I was really enjoying this course up until now and thought I was going to love teaching but now I’m having serious doubts.
     
  4. welshwizard

    welshwizard Established commenter Forum guide

    This is a nonsense approach by the university. If you are not comfortable with your placement -complain- The school are obviously ducking Special Measures and the question about their overall suitability should be raised.. Your teaching practices should be about developing your teaching skills not pushing you into any old placement. You are likely to experience teaching of the 3 science areas during your teaching but it is usual for the focus to be on your areas of expertise Biol and Chem. where you have the stronger expertise.
    In many areas you will see jobs advertised as Teacher of Chemistry or Biology or the phrase is often used make a contribution across the department but the bulk of the teaching is still in the areas of expertise.
     
  5. gogogulliver

    gogogulliver New commenter

    It's not unusual for language teachers to be teaching a language that's out of their specialism, which basically means learning it up to GCSE in a year or two, trying to stay a week ahead of the students.

    Have a look at what you have to teach and ask for support to upskill you. Speak to your university about it. It's a fact of teaching that you'll sometimes be out of your comfort zone with what you're teaching.
     
    pepper5 and saluki like this.
  6. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I really symathise, you can't imagine how much. I am a physics specialist with more years of experience than I'd like to count and I found myself in a similar position last term, new job "science" and turned out to be mainly biology.
    It's not a question of competence, you are dead right to call it passion. This job is not easy at the best of times and you need the passion to get you through.
    How long is your placement? Can you stick it out? In a way the school is right and we are all supposed to be teachers of "science" but it's so hard to teach only the science you're not passionate about and not confident in when you have none of the stuff you really like - that's where we get our buzz and our energy from.

    I don't know what the procedures are if you can't complete a placement - hopefully someone else can advise - but just wanted to offer my sympathy and to reassure you that it is no reflection whatsoever on your competence as a teacher. I chose to leave to avoid a complete destruction of my confidence and my desire to teach.

    I could say that teaching physics makes you very employable and that this is a great opportunity to gain experience here but what really matters is the passion you feel for the subject. (I even suspect that the school might be using you to cover up a shortage in physics or the fact that their own staff don'twnat to teach it.....?)

    Good luck whatever you do, I hope you manage to make it work.
     
    pepper5 and clairp27 like this.
  7. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Sorry, for some reason I read 'special measures' as 'requires improvement' in your original post - ignore what I said, I would complain about the placement on that basis.

    If your uni are refusing to move you to a different placement then mention that you're thinking about dropping out - they'll change their minds pretty quickly I think.
     
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I assume that you have O level/GCSE physics. If so, you can swot it up and teach it up to GCSE. My subject had changed dramatically since I left school so I had to swot up in order to teach it.
    Teaching is one long life of being expected to do things that you (think) can't do.
    However, it doesn't sound a great school and I would ask the Uni if you could have a different placement. You are paying about 9k for this experience. The school is getting some help with their workload and you aren't being paid to do any of this. Many professions are paid whilst training, not a lot, but something. To a certain extent you are a customer and deserve better value for money.
     
    pepper5 and clairp27 like this.
  9. clairp27

    clairp27 New commenter

    I dont have any qualification in physics. I didn't even do an O'Level in it when I was at school, hence the huge panic !
    I am more than happy to learn the subject if that's what is required, but the thought of teaching it when I have only ever had 6 weeks of teaching was really scary.
    I have spoken to my mentor today, and explained everything as I was very stressed and he was really nice and we have come to a compromise where I will be doing some of all three sciences, but only physics for up to year 10, so feeling a little more positive and relieved now. You're right when you said about Uni being unsupportive, as the placement office have been terrible right from day one. My first placement was a month delayed and I ended up finding my own and when I challenged the fact both of my schools have been in special measures, their reply was well they were in special measures until 1st January when they became an academy, however since then there is no official ofsted so they are not technically in special measures now ! I will stick with it though, as if I try to change it I will probably end up with no placement again.
    Thank you for all of your replies, I am very grateful.
     
    pepper5 and saluki like this.
  10. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    That's a shocking response!!!!
     
    pepper5 and clairp27 like this.
  11. clairp27

    clairp27 New commenter

    I know ! However, if I try and get a different placement I will more than likely end up without one for a long time. There are still a lot of students in the position I was in for first placement without one still, and I don't want that to happen again. I missed 4 weeks, and have to make that time up at the end which means I am unlikely to be able to graduate at the same time as everyone else on my course now.
     
    pepper5 likes this.
  12. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Glad your mentor was supportive, and you have reached a compromise. Hope it goes well, and you feel more confident about physics by the end.

    Your uni sound awful!

    Be warned: Choose your NQT school carefully, to avoid more of the same. Unfortunately even asking questions at interview, and being given guarantees, does not mean anything because Head teachers can deploy you as they are fit, and whatever subject you qualify in actually you are qualified to teach all subjects.
     
    ILoveTeaching and pepper5 like this.
  13. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    You will be given the opportunity to give written feedback on your PGCE experience at the end of the course and probably given the opportunity to give written feedback on your placement.
    I gave good/outstanding feedback on my Uni experience and not very good feedback on my placement.
    Your mentor sounds helpful. However, you probably will need to swot up on physics at a later date. You can make this one of your targets for development at the end of the year. this will show that you are a reflective teacher who is keen to improve their performance.
     
    sabrinakat and pepper5 like this.
  14. ILoveTeaching

    ILoveTeaching New commenter

    I have been asked to teach outside of my subject area (maths) in every school I have every worked in. I hate it!

    'You are a teacher...not a maths teacher' is the usual line.

    I even had to leave one job at a school that I liked because of it.

    I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it happens a lot and if you are not prepared to do it then the career of teaching might not be for you.

    I know of some colleagues that have avoided it, but it all appears to be luck and 'right place right time' as far as I can tell.

    :(
     
  15. ILoveTeaching

    ILoveTeaching New commenter

    My latest school said the following in the job advert...

    'All our maths teachers teach exclusively maths!'

    Despite that, people in my department including myself have been asked to teach a variety of non maths subjects.

    Apparently the wording of the job advert was 'irrelevant' when I asked about the matter.

    :(
     
  16. Schifoan

    Schifoan New commenter

    It's not unusual for PGCE MFL students to teach languages that are out of their specialism! I know a fair few...
     
  17. CandysDog

    CandysDog Occasional commenter

    Regarding the special measures thing. For state schools, the Ofsted inspector rules whether the school can take student teachers/NQTs or not. This will be in the report. Having a look at your school’s report may help your argument. It might not. I know of a school that was given an award for its support of new teachers and then placed in special measures (which it definitely didn’t deserve). It is still allowed student teachers and has many happy ones.

    Because academies can do what they like, the Ofsted inspector can only make a recommendation, not a ruling.

    Your situation, as your university has identified, is slightly different. The old state school was put into special measures, but it ceased to exist on 31st December. Legally, the academy is a new school, so it has no Ofsted rating at all.

    It’s still the same school, really, of course. It just goes to show how ridiculous the academies-as-a-silver-bullet attitude is.
     
  18. CandysDog

    CandysDog Occasional commenter

    Regarding the special measures thing. For state schools, the Ofsted inspector rules whether the school can take student teachers/NQTs or not. This will be in the report. Having a look at your school’s report may help your argument. It might not. I know of a school that was given an award for its support of new teachers and then placed in special measures (which it definitely didn’t deserve). It is still allowed student teachers and has many happy ones.

    Because academies can do what they like, the Ofsted inspector can only make a recommendation, not a ruling.

    Your situation, as your university has identified, is slightly different. The old state school was put into special measures, but it ceased to exist on 31st December. Legally, the academy is a new school, so it has no Ofsted rating at all.

    It’s still the same school, really, of course. It just goes to show how ridiculous the academies-as-a-silver-bullet attitude is.
     
  19. bg31rr

    bg31rr New commenter

    I also had a long commute. Whatever you do, make sure you mark at work. You do not want to be carrying books home!
     
  20. oHelzo

    oHelzo Occasional commenter

    If you struggle with physics then your training is giving you exactly what you need to bring up your confidence and skills in those areas. Better now while you are supported than later when you are on your own. Have you discussed with the school that you will need extra support with these topics? I too struggled with physics, but I enjoy learning and saw it as a challenge to relish. It is also helpful that you can empathise with those students struggling with physics and have strategies to support them with it as a result.

    On the special measures front, I was also in a similar situation in my own training. Yes it will be tough but as above there will be pockets of excellence in both your own and other subjects. Also there may well be intensive training and support for permanent staff that you can take advantage of. Nothing will ever seem as bad afterwards. You will learn that if they are not rioting, you are doing a great job. With a quiet class, you will wonder if they are actually engaging with you. You learn a lot else from it, you will come out with great behaviour management skills and, if you can find it within you to have a more positive attitude, a real sense of resilience.

    Good luck, you'll get through!
     
    blueskydreaming likes this.

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