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What makes the PGCE so hard for everyone?

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by lilmissre, May 23, 2010.

  1. Hello
    I've noticed that when I mention I'm starting my Secondary PGCE this year I get the same response from my friends and the same impression here on TES; Mainly a SIGH followed by
    how horrible the students are
    lesson planning
    and an overwhelming sense of loneliness in the course

    Now I have to be honest, I'm really looking forward to starting my PGCE and the more I read forums on here the more anxious become . I realise I am probably extremely naive when it comes to the ins and outs of the PGCE because all I think about is the end result and having my own class and beginning the rest of my life as a teacher, but I guess I'd like to know what I am getting myself into. Is this PGCE year really THAT difficult? I mean I know there will be ALOT of assignments, but I figured , you have a mentor and a tutor to refer to, a group of stuedents, and the only thing that is making the course difficult is the lack of time to do all that is asked of you, not the level ,or content of what is asked?Is that right?
    I do watch alot of teachers tv , and I remember a teacher advising trainee teachers to not re- invent the wheel and to use resources to help in lesson planning. So why do most students moan about planning lessons?
    With regards to 'horrible' students, I keep telling myself that the neither mentor or placement school are expecting Mr Chips on the first day or 2nd term,and that I will probably be cut a bit of slack if I do come across challenging behaviour and I won't automatically fail, ( as long as I have complied and followed advice and done my best )
    I guess in my mind I write a list of cons and try to turn them to pros to assure myself that all will work out and that it is do-able
    Everybody here will undoubtedly have some really good advice because you have or are battling through this and I would really appreciate it if you could either reassure me that my mental attitude is the right one to have ahead of September, or will I still be in for a shocker?

    What have your experiences been like? What advice would you have given yourself ?


    drjerichi likes this.
  2. I would like to point out that I've noticed quite a few spelling and grammatical errors in my post here and would like to apologise
  3. To be honest, you get the worst of it on here, because everyone rants when we're stressed. I take it you are talking about secondary teaching (from your friends responses!). I teach primary KS! and Foundation, so it's a little different. But here are some of the pros and cons for me personally. By the way I'm on a Mac which is why it takes away all my lovely paragraphs!

    Pros... The children. Planning exciting lessons that they really enjoy, and knowing some of your friends are stuck in a boring office all day! Being able to build up relationships with other teachers, parents and children (i'm on a school based course). Getting to be creative everyday.

    Cons... workload, not so much that there is too much work to handle, but that others don't understand how much work there is, and get frustrated when you don't want to go away for the weekend during teaching practice. Lack of a social life. Here's the biggie for me being primary and in the North West, no jobs. Having to apply and apply during your final placement.

    Hope this helps, even though it is a totally personal view!
  4. Hi just thought i would give you my experiences as im near the end of my secondary PGCE.
    Before I started my PGCE in sept I was told by so many people that it would be the hardest thing of my life. And i was like 'yea yea I know'. But in retrospect I was rather naive. I know this is going to annoy you but however hard you imagine its going to be, times it by 100 and thats actually how hard its going to be. I never thought it would be THIS difficult.
    I dont want to scare you but you asked for other peoples experiences and thats all im giving. Although in theory you will have people to support you, that may or may not be the case once you start. It depends on your school placement etc, teachers (even your mentor) are very busy people and might not have as much time for you as they should.
    In my placement school at least the children are generally horrible. Now im only 22 so only left school a few years ago and I am shocked at how bad things have become. Im having a very difficult time at the moment with my school and even though its near the end I have contemplated walking out and never returning. Its been the same for a lot of people on my course too.
    Planning is so difficult because its time consuming. At the start it would take about 4 hours per lesson (seriously) and even now it takes 1-2 hours per lesson and ive got 18 lessons per week. Add to that assignments, homework marking etc etc. It depends on what resources your school has available but the simple task of putting together a powerpoint/worksheet takes a lot longer than you would think. In this placement I have made pretty much all my own resources which is partly why im up till 1 or 2 oclock everynight.
    Explain to your family and friends that you will probably rarely see them. My mum lives 5 mins away and sometimes i dont even see her once a week, my partner lives with me and also hardly sees me!
    I hope i havent put you off but you wont understand how difficult it is until your doing it yourself - and i dont mean to be patronising.
    Good Luck!
  5. I definitely think the time issue is the problem; the assignments are not particularly difficult (apart from getting the books you need from the library at the same time as everyone else, but that's the same with undergrad degrees too!) and like you say, they are not expecting amazing teachers to pop up out of nowhere - that is what the PGCE is for.

    However, I am an extremely organised person. I had 6 assignments due in within Nov / Dec / Jan / Feb and had them all done by Sept / Oct, utilising the Summer hols (my PGCE course started in April and runs over 4 terms instead of 3) - I also continued working part time until Christmas.

    Since Christmas, I haven't been able to work more than a couple of hours a week elsewhere due to the block placement, and my goodness do they kill you! My first assessed placement was Feb-March this year; it was 5 week, and full time PGCE students got 1/2 day PPA and 1/2 day CPD time. As we were on the flexi course, we also had to be in uni every Friday, so we didn't get any PPA or CPD time. This meant 4 solid days followed by a loooooooong day of lectures; usually I was in school before 7.30am preparing resources, home around 6pm, immediately continued planning / resourcing, ate tea, and back to the laptop until after midnight. Thank god for half term in the middle or I'd have burnt out. As it was I had a cold for the whole time because I wasn't sleeping enough to maintain health!

    There's no way you can reall avoid it. I said I wouldn't let it happen for final placement, but the amount of uni-based paperwork on top of the school's paperwork AND all the basics of planning etc is crippling at times.

    It IS a lot of fun though ;)
  6. Good topic ... im starting a PGCE early years in september and am interested to hear what people have to say! I have quite a few friends doing both primary and secondary PGCE's at the moment and they say the worst thing is the amount of work. Most of them agree its not particularly hard (or they have an interest in either an essay title or a lesson they are planning etc so its not as bad as their undergrad essays where they hated the module but still had to do the work kinda thing) ... its just time consuming and tedious. That said, they still manage an ok social life (im always surprised at how much they go out/have weekends free when i speak to them!), so it must be possible somehow (they are all doing really well, getting high marks on essays and good observations etc!)! I get a totally different picture from this forum so it will be interesting to hear peoples pro's/con's ... im not a huge one for going out out anyway, il be happy if i can have one lie in a week (a sat or sun), and keep a few hours of quality boyfriend/girlfriend time a week :)
  7. Hi,
    The PGCE is hard because not only are you trying to keep up with what is expected from you at Uni which is loads, you are also trying to fit in with what is expected from a number of teachers all of whom will have slightly different ways of doing things and once you have that worked out how to please them you move on to another school which will be totally different again. ie what you have been told you have been doing well and getting right may not be considered so in your next placement.

    Lesson planning takes a ridiculously long time even when not reinventing the wheel but that improves. Some teachers will expect you to make your own resources and you may find that using other peoples resources isn't as simple as you would think as your not in their mind set to guide the pupils through.

    The kids mostly prefer their regular teacher, even if they hated them 5 minutes before you took over. That is more noticeable in the second placement. You have to remember not to take kids comments personally but they will say things that will hurt you. Especially when you put loads of effort in to make it a great lesson and they just don't want to know and refuse to cooperate.

    When the holidays come your teaching colleagues will be putting their feet up (at least for part of the break) and you'll be starting your next assignment. No matter how nice your mentor is you still have to perform to a acceptable level and your constantly observed and at times criticized which can be demoralizing after you have put heart and soul into something.

    That said there are many plus moments but when your tired stressed and under seemingly endless pressure they can be hard to spot.

    Your doing the right thing watching teachers tv etc. get as much curriculum, national strategies resources etc ready and organised to use if you can and you will get slightly ahead of the game. Good luck
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. Hi
    I am doing the GTP and can honestly say that I love it, despite all the hard work. I wanted to answer your question about the planning and why it takes so long if you aren't trying to reinvent the wheel. The answer is that it takes time to find ideal lesson plans that someone else might have done and quite often it needs to be tailored to your own class, as you need to be planning for your particular class. Quite often there is nothing that is quite appropriate, so you need to adjust it, or redoe it. Also your plans have to be so much more detailed than the average lesson plans. It may be two pages long for a single lesson, so you can't just use someone else's plans, although their resources etc might be useful.
    I make a lot of my own resources because the things I find aren't at quite the right level etc, but sometimes something someone else has made are great and can save you loads of time.
    At the beginning the process it so new it just takes a long time, but I have become a lot faster at it now.
    Hope this gives a bit more background.
    Good luck.
    pepper5 and TheGentleman like this.
  9. It is hard because you're learning to do a job which is not exactly what you expected it to be, no matter how much you prepare / get informed in advance.

    I hope you'll be lucky enough to find yourself surrounded by nice, supportive people, unfortunately it is not always so... and they can make your life really miserable...

    I think one of the things that affects the most (except for the planning / work load part which was largely discussed in previous threads) is the constant talking about what you are not doing right: we are all aware we're there to learn the job and that's what will help us improve and become better teachers, but after months and months of "negative" feedback (to any extend), I can assure you it'll affect your confidence and soul...

    But don't worry: if I could do it, you can do it too, especially because it seems you have the right attitude and you're getting ready to face the worse! So good luck and don't worry too much about it now, enjoy the summer and nice weather (till it lasts!!)!
  10. Sorry... the paragraphs disappeared!!
  11. I think my biggest worry about teaching in planning ... partly how long it takes but also as im worried i wont be creative enough to think of so many lessons! I am creative and often think of little ways to help the children i volunteer with learn, but im worried i wont be as creative as other people ... :-( Guess thats something i will overcome as i do placement and have to do lesson plans!
  12. nearly_there

    nearly_there New commenter

    I just wanted to add my bit to this debate because I think a lot of new students read this forum and only see the negative - which is why this forum is here in some respects. However many of us student teacher come through the system and make damn good teachers so something must be going right.
    I did a primary PGCE in 2005/06 and I loved most of it. I think the difference between the good bits and the bad bits ultimately comes down to where you are placed. I had 2 lovely placements to start my PGCE and yes it was hard work but I looked forward to going to school everyday. I had no problem using the resources in the school and everyone at the two schools were helpful and supportive and boosted my confidence. My observations offered me constructive criticism but in a useful way that allowed me to see where I was going to next. I didn't find the assignments particularly taxing except perhaps the timing of some of them which clashed with teaching placements.
    However my final placement was awful. Myself and the other PGCE student ate our lunch in the classroom because we weren't welcome in the staff room. I did my photocopying at the local Spar because I got frowned at for using the school photocopier. We were basically used as unpaid supply teachers with an expectation that we could teach to experienced teacher level with no input from our tutors. I worked til midnight every night including weekends to meet the expectations of the class teacher. My confidence was at an all time low despite still getting ok observations. In the end I was so burned out that I defered the placement and repeated the final placement in a different school. Guess what - the best move I ever made.
    The new school was supportive and welcoming. I passed that placement with flying colours.
    My advice to you would be to
    • Prepare your nearest and dearest that your time will be limited in the next year.
    • Get your assignments out of the way as soon as possible so you can concentrate on your teaching and planning.
    • Take positive constructive critisism well and plan what your targets should be.
    • Be firm with the pupils from the very begining - you are not a student teacher in their eyes. You must be their teacher from the very start - that is the only way they will respect you.
    • BUT above all if you are not comfortable in a particular school, and you feel you are going above and beyond, don't bury your head in the sand and count down the days until half term. Get it all out in the open with your uni, mentor and fellow students. Obviously you can't throw the towel in when it gets a little bit tough but if you dread going into school every single day then something is wrong.
    Good luck and enjoy it. After all this is a career not a jail sentence. If you don't enjoy it then you shouldn't be doing it.
    flick161 likes this.
  13. I was going to reply telling you how difficult it is, because from your post you don't seem to get it. However, I think you've been well and truly filled in by the others, so I'll give you an alternative perspective.

    My first lesson plan took about an hour to make. I have never, in the entire time I've been teaching, spent more than an hour planning one lesson unless I need to make a particularly complex practical resource.

    Two words will make or break your PGCE year:

    Have an assignment? Do it. Do it right now. Do it yesterday. Don't think "oh, i'll do it next week" because next week you'll have something else to do. Do it NOW! Then when everyone else is posting on facebook that they're freaking out and panicked because they don't have time to finish their assignments for uni, you'll have handed it in already.

    2. This is the big one: EFFICIENCY.
    When I see people posting that it takes them hours to plan lessons, I kind of roll my eyes and think... what are you doing to yourself? Why are you doing this to yourself? Why torture yourself? Once you get used to lesson planning, you should be able to knock up a good lesson plan in less than half an hour. Use resources that already exist. Make your resources so that you can easily adapt them to future lessons.

    Don't think that you have to have a paper or electronic resource for everything. Lately I've very much enjoyed my starters and plenaries just being verbal instructions, and letting the kids do all of the work. Saves the environment and my time.

    Use your lunch times. Use every minute you have available at school. Stay until 5 at school if you need to. Arrive a bit early if you need to. I make it my mission to finish EVERYTHING in school. On a good day I can get three lesson plans done in one PPA, so that's another day's lessons planned. In my other PPA I can do all my resources, and add a few touches to my Q standards file. That leaves lunch time and before school for marking stuff. After school I spend time doing personal skills boosters, playing with practical and the like. I leave school at 4:30 and on the average night I don't spend more than half an hour working.

    Because of my determination to be efficient during school hours, I go away every weekend if I want to. Sometimes I can't be bothered to go on holiday though and just want a rest. It's fun though, to just get up and go every weekend if I fancy it. This weekend I had a rest, and now I'm watching Iron Man.

    But if you ignore those two words (Organisation and EFFICIENCY!!!!) you will find yourself in the position that some of my colleagues are in now; three weeks of term time left, assignments not finished, Q file not done, still working until the middle of the night every day, you will find yourself getting stressed.

    And you need your free time. You need the free time because there is ONE thing that you can't solve automatically with organisation and efficiency, and that's BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT. You need to be refreshed and happy so that you can deal with it, otherwise it will really get you down.

    The most important advice my uni tutor ever gave was this, and he gave it to me on interview day:
    "When my students call me, complaining that they were up until 2am making resources, all I can do is shrug and roll my eyes at their ineffiency."

    Harsh, but true. Do whatever you have to to make things easier for yourself. It'll never be easy, but you can make it easier.

  14. Thanks Newstrings, really really useful advice! :)
    pepper5 likes this.
  15. I think I will have to agree completely with NewStrings. I still played football three times a week up until end of April and still enjoyed a normal life outside school. Although I'm a bit different because I could only work best at night so I do most of my work after 8pm, get to school on time in the morning (don't have key to go into any rooms to work) and leave at around 1 hour after school ends.
    I think another important thing you need to learn is how to prioritise your work: Things you need to do straight away, things you can leave till the end of school day or evening.Things you can leave till weekend.

    Make a check list of what you have to daily and weekly and stick to it. For example I always make sure I got all my paper work completed on a Sat afternoon, all my clothes sorted for the following week on a Sunday night. I always go bed at the latest 12am and get up at 7. It becomes habbit and I do it even at weekend. Good habbits will make your life easier.

    I am still guilty of the last minute assignment handing in, the avarage lessons here and there but it is only a minority. The only time I felt I worked really hard was when I got Ofsted came in to watch me teach, assignment deadline and a job interview in a space of 1 week with three successful outcomes. With regard to lesson planning, don't spend more than 1 hour for each lesson. The only lessons I spent more than 1 hour preparing were for my first observation ever, my interview lessons and the lesson when I got observed by Ofsted.

    There are a few things you can prepare to make life easier: read all the books on the reading list during the summer holiday. I did read 1/2 of them but should have read more. Read some of the behaviour management books (especially the ones by Sue Cowley). Prepare your CV and application letter early. It migh seem months away but not many people have jobs at the first interview so you will have to improve you application forms and letter every time you apply. Having looked back at my first few applications, I wouldn't even read them and would bin them straight away. If you leave it till May then your first application might go against someone who has perfect theirs. You can guess which one will get short listed.
    Also try to improve your subject knowledge. People who struggle to plan lesson or have difficulties teaching the subject, are because of weak subject knowledge. Imagine if you go into a classroom, confidently believe that you can teach the topic standing upside down then it will show in your body language, pupils will response much better.

    And lastly, enjoy your PGCE, if you go into school and counting down the days then teaching won't be the job for you.
  16. Nearly there ,Hunken and New Strings, thank you so much for your input and advice. Thanks to everyone who replied here becasue you have really opened my eyes. I'm still very excited for Sept, but with all your tips I'm sure myself and other trainee teachers starting this year will go in at least a little bit prepared and assured so a great big thank you!
    I do want to ask some questions though, Hunken, you mentioned that reading the books on the reading list is a good idea to do before the start of term, Do you recommend buying the books? because I'm a bit worried that come sept I'll realise I don't all the books on the list.
    Also, do your mentors/uni help you write your CV /application form?
    Finally, with the Job prospects as they are,as PGCE students are we supposed to apply for a teaching post in our training subjects or can we apply for any other subject that we have A'Levels in?
    nataliee27 likes this.
  17. I just want to chip in and thank Lilmissre for asking the question as she is almost word for word how I am at the moment. I have been told it will be the worst year of my life and from all the horro stories I have decided it is likley that I will find myslef doing the equivalent a fulltime university course AND doing a full time job at the same time. However, I am literally counting the months till it starts and can't wait to be out of my current job and into teaching.
    And all the comments by the people who have been through it are great as for once they are saying why it is hard as opposed to it's hard. I know my biggest weak point is my organisation, soi know now it is something I am going to have to nai on the head over the summer!
    Thanks guys!
    lmnop likes this.
  18. The awful behaviour was certainly a factor that made the PGCE difficult for me. Add to that a power-crazy *** of a mentor and of course the constantly being outside of your comfort zone, learning a difficult skill on the job in the classroom. The theory in ITT was poor preparation for the real world of the classroom. I was very ill after my PGCE, which I put down to accumulated stress allowed to blow the valve when I had finally finished it and passed. However, I say with my hand on my heart that it is the best thing I have ever done career-wise, so even though the bad times it's worth sticking at it.
    I think one of the real issues that student teachers now face is the lack of available positions to complete your NQT year. The cover supervisor situation has meant that a lot of heads are using them, instead of you, so make sure you voice your protests and create as much of a stink about it before you find yourself in the difficult position of not completing to QTS within the alotted time.
  19. Hmm...3 dots instead of what I wanted to say.
    '...power-crazy <u>baitch</u> of a mentor...'
  20. Sorry I forgot to mention. Only buy the books on the essential reading list. I didn't read anything else apart from those. I bought all of my books from eBay, Amazon and PGCE students who were about to finish the course. Some of them cost less than &pound;1 each if you look for them. I could sell them for a profit now but I am keeping most of them for my MA.
    University helped with my first application but after that I did it mostly myself. The jobseeker forum and Theo were very helpful as well. But you learn along the way and improve after each application/interview.

    With regard to the job market at the moment, although I belive that one you gain QTS you can teach any subjects and age range. With only Chemistry and Physics are shortage subjects, heads have a lot of choices so they would pick the most qualified,
    suitable and able candidates. So if you apply for jobs that you were not trained for, you are up against more suitable people. However I am speaking from a Maths graduate point of view, not sure about other subjects where it is common to do so.

    pepper5 likes this.

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