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What do you wish you'd known at the beginning of your PGCE year?

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by gailrobinson, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. There's a really lovely thread on the GTP forum where a trainee who has just finished their GTP year shares their thoughts and advice on the kind of stuff that would have liked to have known during their GTP year have a read of Sparkley84's thread here.
    This set me to thinking is there something similar we could do for PGCE students. Could trainees about to go into their NQT year offer advice to those doing their PGCE?
    What's the one bit of advice that you would have really made your PGCE course easier? Post your thoughts here. We've got a batch of books to give away for the best advice.
    Best wishes
  2. There's a really lovely thread on the GTP forum where a trainee who has just finished their GTP year shares their thoughts and advice on the kind of stuff that would have liked to have known during their GTP year have a read of Sparkley84's thread here.
    This set me to thinking is there something similar we could do for PGCE students. Could trainees about to go into their NQT year offer advice to those doing their PGCE?
    What's the one bit of advice that you would have really made your PGCE course easier? Post your thoughts here. We've got a batch of books to give away for the best advice.
    Best wishes
  3. Make the most of the lessons you observe - you are unlikely to get to view to so many different styles & subjects again. Make notes of what you see / learn.
    Copy & plaigairise any good practice, lesson plans or tricks that you see other teachers use.
    Try to see a really bad lesson or teacher. This sounds strange, but the most useful lesson I ever saw was AWFUL even before it started. I learned more by watching that poor beleagured teacher in action and the response of her class than I believed possible. The school will generally know the 'bad' teachers & will steer you away from them but, you never know your luck!
    For Science PGCE: Always try out the experiment BEFORE the lesson.
    Do not let on that you are a trainee teacher or student. Say something like '... I am working in the department for the next 2 months.'
    Make yourself useful: If an extra pair of hands is needed, offer to help. You will endear yourself to your colleagues and you may even learn something.
    Get & keep copies of the resources you use & think you may ever need.
    Learn how all the ICT / whiteboard resources work. It will help in interviews for your next job.
    Be nice to people! (obvious but sometimes difficult)
    Don't take it personally if you are ignored in the Staff room.
    Read all the notices in the staff room - you can learn a lot about the school, other staff & pupils.
    Do not play witty pranks on other members of staff .... or the pupils.
  4. Don't reinvent the wheel!
    You feel under pressure to create the worlds most amazing lessons from scratch all the time. If someone has created something good and you can use it DO!!
    Get resources from TES and adapt them to suit your classes needs rather than starting from scratch. Ask people in your department and on your course if they have anything on a particular topic which they wouldn't mind sharing and offer them your work in return.
    As a group of 4 on my PGCE, we were all teaching the same GCSE spec so we took a topic each, created the resources for it then shared what we had, just changing small details to suit our classes. All the resources, 1/4 of the time spent.
    It will make your life so much easier!!!
  5. Yea, help each other on your course. On my PGCE course we all had different strengths so we would give one another ideas for lessons and help with planning. If you help others then they wil help you.
    Also when it comes to teaching time, be really tight on your behaviour management, people who were on my course had a tough time because they tried to be the 'cool' student. Make your expectations clear and stick to them!
  6. I agree about helping each other out. On my PGCE course we had a database going at the start of each placement with all of our topics in, so that if any of us were feeling completely braindead or lacking interview lesson ideas, we knew exactly who else to contact for help, lesson plans and resources. Since qualifying, we've set up a shared space online where we've all uploaded our lessons and resources under different topics and we all regularly dip into it and ammend stuff, knowing that they've been created by our friends.
    My PGCE group also knew the importance of socialising - I know this sounds very 'Student' of me, but we quickly realised how easy it was to get completely drowned in assignments, lesson plans and paper work so we'd regularly all meet up whilst in uni and whilst on placement, for food or a night out and have a strict 'no school talk' policy. We had a real support network going on, which ended up being fantastic when you wanted to whinge about how horrible that class were, or how stressed out you were but you wanted to keep that eager, fresh face on in school.
    Use each other, and you'll make good friends too. It'll make a tough year a lot easier!

  7. bozbear

    bozbear New commenter

    Your to do list will always be full - You cant do it all!
    • You will probably never complete everything on your to do list! As you complete things things will get added and it will never be finished - dont worry life is the same as an nqt and teacher!
    • Apply for jobs early - everyone applies at the end and yu wil feel better with a job going in to your final placement
    • Dont forget your family! Make sure that you spend time with your family and children. Still do those things you normally do together at the weekend and when not on placement work ahead but make sure that you have the extra time with the kids!
    • It is a job so dont let it overtake you completely - you need a balance
    Most importantly dont forget you are a trainee - if your feedback isnt perfect dont worry you will probably not be outstanding on day 1 or on the final day of your last placement! Yu pobably wont be outstanding after 20 years)
    You might not like all your placement schools but dont let it be known - bite the bullet and play the game - make a mental note that schools like this are not the types of schools you would like to work in. They dont suit your style

    It takes all sorts! [​IMG]
  8. 1) The most important thing that somebody could have told me was, teaching is nothing like you PGCE year!
    When you are finally allowed to get on with teaching you learn so much more. When somebody leaves you alone in a classroom and forces you to actually teach, deal with behaviour and set homework all by yourself and realise you are fine.
    2) If you are confident in what you are teaching the kids will follow
    If the students believe in you, you lessons will flow, you find it easy to build relationships with different classes and you will not have to deal with behavioural issues
  9. Definately watch the bad teachers, you learn so much more than watching the best ones all the time.

    Secondly try to watch your fellow student teachers teaching as they will be making exactly the same mistakes as you. Get them to watch you as well, I helped out the other students by sitting with the more difficult pupils helping as an LSA.

    Finally try to try out something new everyday, so it could be a peer assessment task eg. groups swap their posters and pupils have to write 2 stars and a wish on a post it note on another group's poster (two good things and one thing to improve). Or if your classes work badly in groups you could get them to reflect on how they should work as a group and what they will do about it next time, I got my year 8 class to write and sign a contract of how they were going to contribute to the group. Teacher's Toolkit by Paul Ginnis is perfect for this.

    Do all of these in the PGCE year so you have situations you can use when you go for interviews. It's also good to do it now as it doesn't matter that much if you mess up and you can evaluate on how to improve.
  10. Hi, I just wanted to ask you for some advice! I am on a PGCE primary course, currently on my first teaching practice. I take the time to plan interesting lessons and can be quite imaginative, but as soon as I get to the front of the class my confidence disappears. This has become 'a cause for concern' and I would appreciate any tips you could give me.
    Thanks! [​IMG]
  11. As a fellow PGCE student I get nervous too, but I find it helps to remember that they are only children! They might be noisy or uninitentionally disruptive and excitable, but very few children of that age will set out to purposely undermine you. I also try to think back to my primary school days. I can remember great teachers and the odd fantastic lesson, but so many years on I cannot remember anything specific details. The reason I do this is to reassure myself that it is "the big picture" that really counts: Amazing teachers cannot possibly be amazing all of the time. They have shaky starts or ideas that don't teach well so it is unrealistic to expect too much of yourself. Don't beat yourself up if something doesn't pan out - it won't affect the children in years to come and it is more likely the lessons we learn out of any bad experiences that will make us better teachers (besides we're students, we're undergoing a learning process - no one can possibly expect perfection of us). Finally, my last tip is "fake it". People tell me that they can't believe I get nervous because I always apparently appear supremely confident, but that is because I don't allow it to show (easier said than done I know, but dress to impress, be prepared, bear in mind all of the above and it is possible to pull off!) Good luck!
  12. Hi
    thanks for this - I am on a D&T PGCE and finding the whole thing very tough. I am quite good at planning but then forget some of what I need to do during the lesson. I am not good at keeping low chat out of my lessons. The kids talk when I am trying to speak and take a while to be quiet.
    Great stuff on here - thanks again!

  13. I am a primary PGCE student currently in my first placmement - and this is my first post :)
    Forgetting stuff in your plan when teaching it.
    I forget things in my plan while in front of the kids too :eek:) I'm finding that having a good powerpoint presentation (only 3-6 slides) helps and also using objects in lessons - e.g. egg boxes with ping pong balls in them for a pictogram lesson.
    My top tip for other PGCE-ers is to spend time in as many OTHER CLASSROOMS as you can in your placement.
    It can be a great emotional break from the intensitity of your usual classroom and teacher, where I (and some of my fellow students) can get a bit paranoid and anxious, just becasue so much is riding on their opinion and observations of you. Also, your usual teacher may not be the perfect match for you - e.g. I'm a friendly and emotionally open woman in a class with a somewhat formal and emotionally distant male teacher. He is supportive but his personal style sometimes leaves me feeling isolated.
    Also, make yourself note all signs of positivity and confidence in you. For example, I was lent to another class to help (to genuinely help, not act like a TA); I observed a science lesson in the morning and taught it to a group in the afternoon. The (lady) teacher was genuinely positive and grateful for my help. Also, my teacher has told me he wants me to return to a lesson that was a bit of a car crash for me last week; he will not be there and so must be confident that I will manage OK (?!! - paranoia...).
    Titian73 (also my twitter name)
  14. I also struggle to remember everything on my plan as I tend to be too detailed anyway. The advice I was given which helps me was to write post it notes and stick them on to my plan. Glancing at simple bullet points like: hand out homework, turn to page 5 activity 2, etc. ensures you don't lose track.
    I also struggle with time management so I write time limits down as well and tell the pupils they have 10 minutes to do x or I write a time so when I glance at my watch I can see that I need to move on at this point.
    If they talk over you, abandon your lesson plan however tight the time is and refuse to carry on until you have their full attention. I find standing in silence and waiting helps. It does mean allowing for flexibility in your lesson plans so have an activity in reserve which you can use but if behaviour management means it falls by the way side then you can drop it. Take the time to manage your class, how to behave is just as important to learn as your LOs. All this by the way I need to work on too- you are not alone.
  15. Remember that no matter how fantastically well your observed lesson went, your mentor MUST give you something to improve on. This means that the last thing you hear will be something negative - everytime.
    DON'T worry. Make note of the good things too.
    If you have a really good mentor, they will reinforce the positives after they have told you the negatives.

  16. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    At this stage I wish I'd made more of an effort with differentiation with the beginning. It's not really enough to vaguely think about higher and lower ability levels in lesson plans, so I'll be getting reading ages and CAT scores for all my classes and arranging a meeting with SENCO about the specific needs of the pupils in my classes. Seems obvious now!
  17. I think that the biggest piece of advice I wish someone had told me is that nothing is ever perfect, and even if other students on your course seem to be swimming on by with no problems at all - they are probably lying!!

    1) Remember that powerpoint or worksheet does not have to be perfect - when I realised that it cut my lesson planning time in half!

    2) Fake it til you make it! - you might be feeling like a complete nervous wreck and the kids in the last class really shook your confidence when they wouldn't sit quietly and listen, but you have to walk into the next lesson and pretend that you are great and nothing phases you. I think teaching to some extent is acting - and if you can pull off pretending to be a really confident awesome teacher, one day it will actually become true.

    3) Remember that if it all goes wrong that you are only there for a few weeks and then you will be off to another school with a fresh new start to try it all again! and although it may feel like it takes ages now - it will be one of the quickest years of your life!

    I thoroughly enjoyed my PGCE year, it was hard work but definitely worth it!

  18. I wish that Iknew before I started that (obviously depending on location and subject) it is a very difficult time to get a teaching job in the UK. I have heard stories of over 200 people going for one job. I know a few NQTs that are really struggling to find regular work too. Don't leave it to apply for a job in September like I did.
  19. I am now 8 weeks into my cert ed/PGCE for the lifelong learning sector, I just wanted to agree with all this and other things.
    Observe every session that you possible can, enjoy being a student/tutor its going to be the only time you get to be in this situation.
    Enjoy the journey no matter how winding the road is.
  20. What a great idea,wish I had something like this before I started my PGCE!
    Have to reinforce, the hardest thng I found was being confident teaching a class, Ive always been nervous so that was the first thing I had to deal with -You need to fake it if you dont have it yet,and beleive me over time it comes. The more and more you get up in front of a class the more comfortable you will get and soon it wont phase you (After a year of supply work I rarely get nervous in front of new classes anymore!)
    - Dont obsess over getting lessons perfect, as they rarely turn out the way you plan them! Sometimes its the lessons that arent strictly following plans I found were my best as I wasnt attached to step by step and instead went with the flow!
    - Watch as many lessons as you can.. good bad,different subjects and try and take it all in. Ask your teacher/school if you can sit in on other classes and maybe even help in them or teach them. My biggest regret was not always using the opportunities I had to watch practice and help build on my weaker areas.
    - Take all your feedback and run with it, not all feedback is going to be good but its the stuff you can work on that will help you become a better teacher
    -Online resources are amazing! Talk to other coursemates and share anything you find as this stuff is gold when your out of ideas and need inspiration. Also if you see a resource you like, get a photocopy and start creating a folder of topics/ideas.. I did this on my pgce and still use it now.
    -Try and be as organised as possible as this will help you out later when you need to sort out files for your mentor and course.


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