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Trainee in turmoil!

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by NedTB31, Jan 19, 2017.

  1. NedTB31

    NedTB31 New commenter

    Hi there,

    As the title would suggest, I'm currently a trainee doing a School Direct PGCE and I'm having some issues. I'm really hoping to gain some objective opinions, so thank you in advance to anyone who replies.

    Unfortunately (and not so uncommonly as one who hope), I'm really not enjoying my PGCE. The reasons are many and quite involved, so please bear with me and thank you for your patience.

    I love English, and I love to learn. I have always been very academic and spent the majority of my life being told that I would make a good teacher. This has followed me from a very young child, all the way to the present (I'm 27 now). Up until last year, I was adamant that I most certainly would not be a teacher as I had had quite a bad experience at school despite my love of learning and honestly never wanted to set foot inside a school again. Now I'm sure you're wondering why I started a PGCE at all. Well, here's the honest truth: I needed a career. I know that people say that teaching is a vocation and you need to be 100% committed, but that can't always be true for everyone, and sometimes people just need money to live on. And even though I had my reservations, deep down I knew that everything my teachers and friends had said over the years was right - I would make a good teacher, and I figured, best case scenario I actually really enjoy it and I have a career I enjoy, worst case scenario, I stick it out until I finish my NQT year, maybe teach for a few years in Ireland (since that's where I'm from and I plan on moving back) and get into lecturing in university or research work. Either way I'd come out with a new qualification.

    Well, I underestimated the worst case scenario, because I'm in it now. I started my PGCE in September and it has truly been the hardest four months of my life. I knew it would be difficult, but it should not be as hard to deal with as it has been. My first placement school was a complete disaster: my mentor was inexperienced, only an NQT+1 who didn't even attend the university's mentor training, and for whatever reason, took a dislike to me; the HoD was new and constantly busy; the PCM was new, though she tried her best; and generally I felt that most of the English department viewed me as a nuisance. I was completely thrown in the deep end with nine hours of teaching before the first half-term, plus an hour of 'Administration' where I had to do whatever job the office manager decided to give me, and my free hours for planning were spent chasing up other teachers, or answering the phone, or photocopying for students. I felt completely overwhelmed and when I tried to ask for help, my mentor would make a comment about how little I was currently doing even though I was supposed to only be teaching a maximum of 6 hours by Christmas. I tried my best yet my feedback seemed to get less and less helpful as went along and far more personal. I was slightly unprepared for one lesson, as in I had my resources but had to organise them while the students were reading silently, and suddenly I was told that I was always disorganised and this was added to all my lesson feedback, whether I was prepared or not, as if to have some record of it. Eventually it all got too much and my work was beginning to suffer so I asked my mentor if we could sit down and discuss some things that I was worried about. It just so happened that this took place after my observation by the PCM, which was fine, two birds one stone and all that. By this point I was incredibly anxious and depressed, crying often and walking three miles home every day in the dark to avoid getting the bus filled with students. I thought that I was possibly overreactign and reading too much into everything so when I spoke to my mentor and PCM I brought up the issue of my mental health nad asked if my feedback could possibly be more constructive and less personal, which they agreed is just good practice anyway.

    I thought that was the end of it. Things seemed to get better, my mentor sometimes said things that upset me, but I figured it's hard to change overnight and I felt bad that I had to put everyone in this situation for being so sensitive. My lessons were going well, students seemed to be learning and my feedback was mostly positive. So you can imagine my surprise when I got my Foundation assessement back full of 'Inadequates'. I was completely shocked, I'd been doing well, everyone had said so, now they were saying I hadn't, but they were really proud of me for coming to speak to them, and that that was a really big accomplishment. I realised then that they had been giving me good feedback because I had told them about my metal health, and apparently there had been phone calls and emails back and forth with my university tutor about how I wasn't progressing. I was aware of none of this.

    Now, I'm on a Cause for Concern. I was devasted at first, but feeling hopeful to start over on my next placement and prove that I can do this and that I'm not inadequate. That was until this week. I had a meeting with my tutor and one of the PGCE directors yesterday, and it is clear that all of the responsibility for the failure of my first placement has been put down to my mental health. I've been told that my final placement will now be entended until the end of July instead of finishing in June and it was not so subtley hinted that I can also extend into next year, or 'take a leave of absence' if I need to, because they don't want me to worry about reaching 'good' (which my university demands to pass the year) by the summer because I 'may never reach it'. Yeah, they said that to me.

    I don't know what to do. I was excited for my next placement, but now I'm dreading going in for a meeting tomorrow. How am I supposed to do my best and make it through the rest of this year if the expectation is that I'm going to fail? I feel completely lost. I have never failed anything in my life, and I'm not a quitter. My natural response is to work hard and prove them all wrong, but is that really a good reason to carry on? And at what cost to my mental health? Because as much as I don't want them to use it as the sole reason for wht's gone wrong, I can't deny that I have been suffering. And then there's the financial implications. If I leave now, I'm £4,500 in debt with nothing to show for it. And if i stick it out to the end and get my PGCE, I don't think I could make it through my NQT year. And sure, I could postone it, but unfortunately life is happening at the same time as all this, and I am hoping to go through fertility treatment this year, which I've already put off for a year because of the PGCE and I don't want to have to wait any longer because the chances of it working are only going to get smaller. I also worry how I'm going to manage an NQT year pregnant and finishing off my Masters, which was my original plan, if I can't make it through this year.

    I really don't know what to do. Any advice would be incredibly helpful. Sorry it's an essay, thank you if you stuck all the way through.
  2. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    First of all, if your mental health is suffering you need to go to the Drs and tell them. They will completely understand when you say you're training to be a teacher, and will be able to help you in whatever way is most appropriate.

    Secondly, you've had a rotten time. I can understand the SD side of things being rubbish, but I would have expected uni to be supportive! That's very disappointing to hear. You could speak to your union for advice, and overall there is a procedure for appealing any decision uni makes, as well as a separate body who you can complain to about uni, but to be honest complaining and taking it further would all add more stress. Have uni actually observed you teach then? If it makes you feel any better uni will be desperate for you to pass, because they take a hit on their statistics if you don't - perhaps they are overreacting and putting this extended placement in place now because of this? Maybe you could try to see their offer of a break in the course as them being supportive? They may not have presented this idea to you in a nice way, but it does show that they care about your wellbeing.

    As hard as it seems I think you need to go to your second placement and be friendly and hardworking, and show them you are not the person they'll have read about in the end of placement report from the other school. Hopefully the department and school will be more your cup of tea.

    As for the NQT year and Masters and fertility treatment... sorry, but I think that is not a good idea to do all of those things at once. I am currently an English NQT (due to complete induction at Easter, due to starting the NQT year last year and having an awful time), and for me the problem is marking - depending on which year groups you teach, and how many of them, it can be massive. For example, I have 55 Y7s and 63 Y8s, say you need 10 mins per assessment for marking and filling in the feedback sheet... Y12 I only have 12 students, but it takes me about 30 mins per assessment/mock exam... I also want to do a Masters, via distance learning, but right now I realise that's a ridiculous idea. The NQT year can also be very stressful, so perhaps it's not the best time for fertility treatment?

    For the time being don't think about the NQT year, just focus on getting through the PGCE. Go to your doctor, make a fresh start at placement 2. Post on here for help, or just to vent.
    knitone, NedTB31 and pepper5 like this.
  3. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    You need to see a doctor about your mental health. Don't make decisions in your current state of mind. A few weeks off and an extension to your placement might make the world of difference.

    Doing a Masters, NQT year and fertility treatment/pregnancy all at the same time is not a good idea in my opinion! There's not many things I would say are impossible but you're loading up so many different types of emotional and physical stress all at the same time and I cannot honestly see how you would succeed.

    Good luck with everything. Let us know how you get on.
    NedTB31 and pepper5 like this.
  4. welshwizard

    welshwizard Established commenter Forum guide

    You need to speak with trained counsellors so contact the university support services and arrange an appointment.
    Your decision has to be realistically about the viability of completing the year and longer term whether teaching at secondary level is the best career option for you, reading what you wrote did you just drift into it without really considering other options?
    NedTB31 likes this.
  5. NewToTeachingOldToMaths

    NewToTeachingOldToMaths Lead commenter

    @blueskydreaming always posts excellent advice, and on this thread she has exceeded even her usual high standards. I really cannot add anything to what she has said.
    NedTB31 and pepper5 like this.
  6. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Oh that's so sweet! :D
    pepper5 likes this.
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Second post 5- wise words of advice.
    blueskydreaming likes this.
  8. NedTB31

    NedTB31 New commenter

    Hi there, thanks for all the replies, I didn't realise there would be so many so thank you very much!

    I've now done two weeks in my second placement and I am feeling a lot more positive. Things are not nearly as dire as the seemed when I wrote my first post, but I am always ridiculously anxious the night before I have to do anything and I happened to post this the night before I was due to have a meeting with my new mentor and PCM and wanted to just throw in the towel.

    Thank you for your concern for my well-being and suggesting I see a doctor, but I probably should've made it clearer than I have actually been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and am registered with DSA and everything, which is why I mentioned them using those terms.

    My uni tutor has actually been hugely supportive, I was just feeling a little oversensitive after the impromptu meeting that I'd had with her and one of the course directors as there was a lot of emphasis on the extended placement and my mental health and, because I'm stubborn and an overachiever, I really didn't want that to be the main issue or to feel like that was to blame when in my mind the main problem had been that my first placement school had failed to support or even teach me. After having the meeting at my new placement school and listening to it being explained to other people, I do see now that the extended placement is just standard practice for students who are registered with a disability and that they want me to do my best no matter how long it takes (though I'm hoping it won't be too long).

    I will be starting to teach full lessons next week which is exciting and terrifying, but I do feel a lot more supported and welcomed in this placement so I am quite positive that it should go well. Fingers crossed.

    Thank you again for all your lovely replies and words of wisdom, I really appreciate it.
    knitone likes this.

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