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What you know now that you wish you had know then - PGCE

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by hollyvwheeler, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. I am about to embark on an Early Years Primary PGCE course and am hoping for some pearls of wisdom from NQTs, young teachers, classroom assistants, heads and experienced teachers alike!
    What little bits of advice or tips did you wish you had been given before you began your PGCE?
    Any obvious or not so obvious mistakes one should steer clear of on placement?
    What shows you really care about what you're doing rather than ticking the boxes during observations?

    Any hints, tips or life changing information would be hugely appreciated!
  2. I am about to embark on an Early Years Primary PGCE course and am hoping for some pearls of wisdom from NQTs, young teachers, classroom assistants, heads and experienced teachers alike!
    What little bits of advice or tips did you wish you had been given before you began your PGCE?
    Any obvious or not so obvious mistakes one should steer clear of on placement?
    What shows you really care about what you're doing rather than ticking the boxes during observations?

    Any hints, tips or life changing information would be hugely appreciated!
  3. quietlydetermined

    quietlydetermined New commenter

    1. You will barely ever open those books that you spent allegation money on before the course starts, an if you do need them you can get them from the library for free.

    2. Success on placement depends quite a lot on how well you fit in with the school and staff - make friends!

    3. The year goes incredibly quickly. Stop and appreciate the good bits every now and again!

    I'll come back if I think of any more!
  4. Thats a pretty good start thanks! I had a bit of trouble in my last placement school on my degree becasue i didn't quite fit in... unfortunately as a degree student rather than a student teacher on pgce the teachers didnt want to include me in their 'group' and relegated me to lunching alone in the classroom and getting grumpy with me when i asked questions relating to their teaching techniques and experiences and the TA's at the school didn't want me in their camp because i was a 'teacher'! it was all very confusing and a bit upsetting!

    Any tips on ingratiating oneself into a tricky clique-y school?

    • The year will go ridiculously quickly (I cannot believe I finish tomorrow)
    • As someone else said, you won't need most of the book
    • If you're in a relationship, don't let it go to pot, you will regret it
    • Find out about the evidence your university expects for the Q standards early on and organise yourself
    • Make an effort with all of the staff, particularly resources (this will make all the difference in a cliquey school)
    • Try and go to an after school club that isn't in your subject (less relevant for you but maybe helpful for someone who's doing secondary...) it's a good way to meet other teachers and can make a big difference in your relationships with your students as you see each other in a different setting
    I'm sure there's more!
  5. 1. Don't buy the books until you know they will be helpful. I bought lots and haven't opened 90% of them.
    2. You standards tracker (if it makes no sense now, it will do in September) takes forever to do. Update it weekly and it won't impact on your free time in June. Trust me, you'll need that free time in June for all the other stuff you realise you need to do as you're approaching the finishing line!
    3. Have at least one day off a week. I plan til around 8 most evenings and tend to do work on the weekends, but I make sure I have one day without any work so I can still have a life.
    4. Teaching is relentless. It will take all the time you can give it, so choose how much time you are willing to dedicate to each lesson you plan, piece of work you mark carefully and stick to it!
    5. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. There are amazing resources out there which you can tweek and adapt for your own lessons. It's ok to use them, you don't have to do everything from scratch!
    Best of luck, it's a fab job!
  6. 1. Ingratiating yourself into tricky schools? Bake! [​IMG] Whilst I was always lucky enough to get friendly welcoming schools, I always found a lemon drizzle loaf a great ice-breaker in all the schools I did placement in (when delivered with a pre-emptive apology for forgetting anyone's name!).
    2. Don't be soft on the kids hoping they'll like you more and be good for you. I always worried that I was too strict but having witnessed a friend fall apart after she failed to set high behavioural expectations and enforce them from the word 'go', I'm glad I am strict now! A supply teacher once gave me the advice that I should teach them the rules first and they'd respond better later... then you can get out the 'fun' you.
    3. I also wholeheartedly agree with the books thing! I got almost all the books I needed from the uni library. Even the ones I bought for good ideas for activities I forgot about when push came to shove! The only books I used were the Learning Matters Knowledge and Understanding books (English, Science and Maths) for my subject knowledge portfolios.
    4. Get your QTS skills tests out of the way as soon as possible. I did mine early in the course when the workload was light to avoid having to worry about them later when I had lesson plans coming out of my ears!
    5. It's also worth being aware of how you are introduced to children and parents on placement. as it can impact the level of respect/courtesy you receive. I've heard horror stories of students on placement being introduced as 'visitors'/'helpers' etc rather than 'teachers'- it is the role you'll be expected to fill whilst you're there, so start on the right foot by making sure that's how you're seen. I always brought it up tactfully when starting new placements after seeing it done to a very young student teacher and seeing how much it knocked her confidence. No-one ever objected to me asking.
  7. mickymilan

    mickymilan New commenter

    All part of the learning process of course; I naively thought that being easy going and 'giving them an inch' would mean they would be good in return. Of course they took a mile and I've spent the last few weeks trying to get them back. I've done what my HOD suggested and have now got a nasty side [​IMG]
  8. quietlydetermined

    quietlydetermined New commenter

    To add to this, be aware that being a bit strict does not mean they won't like you! I have a really good relationship with the kids in my class but it is based in the fact that they know my expectations and where the boundaries are because I have made that clear to them from the very beginning. Be consistent in everything you do - don't say for example that when you count down to 1 you want everyone quiet and looking at you unless you have a reward/sanction system for those who choose to and not to do as you ask - otherwise they very quickly won't be doing it! My kids know I will give table points to tables who are all quiet and looking at me when I get to 1 and that I will give reminders and warnings to children who are not.

    Also, perfect the deadly stare now! It will serve you well [​IMG]
  9. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    I would say that while your fellow trainees both on your course and elsewhere are a hugely useful support network, just remember that there is no single PGCE experience. Every course is different, every school is different, every mentor is different. So don't worry if others seem to be doing much better - or perhaps much worse! - than you. Focus on what you need to do to improve you practice and you'll get there.
  10. This is such a good point. I am so excited about starting my PGCE in September that I distract myself from my boring desk job by stalking social networking sites like this and getting myself obsessed with the variety of things that I might come up against. Really, it's just going to be suck it and see and try to enjoy as much of it as possible.
  11. Helena Handbasket

    Helena Handbasket New commenter

    Don't spend longer working on a lesson than it takes to teach it!

    At the start of the PGCE everything will take ages because it is new but by Easter (ish) if you are spending 2 hours making a 50 minute lesson you are taking too long. The kids won't suffer if everything on the whiteboard isn't animated and if you are not being observed that lesson a couple of worksheets won't do them any harm.
    I am on my NQT year and have just given my liveliest (sp?) class some worksheets and they actually sat in silence and worked through them.
  12. Don't (always) believe the rumours about your placement school...
    ...I was told that my second school was going to be dreadful, kids were a nightmare, department was badly resourced etc - turned out to be my favourite of the 3 placements I've done! Everyone works well with different things, and what worked or didn't work for the student before you may be completely different to what you're looking for in a school, so go in with an open mind.
    Kids are very forgiving...
    ...if you get asked a question that you don't know the answer too, admit it. Either tell them that you aren't sure, but you'll find out, or use it as a learning point within the lesson, and let the class help you to find out
  13. FILE FILE FILE - I became a bit 'it'll be alright - no one checks' and guess what - they checked!!! I then spent two horrible days over my Easter sorting out my file which had no order or timeline!!!
    Also - parts of your PGCE will be horrible, you will want to cry and you will have the 'I don't want to do this anymore/ I'm not cut out for this' but you will get through it! My second placement I thought I was failing - turns out that the school has crazy high standards and made me push myself to the extreme (with me thinking at least once a day - I'm quitting!) - with a final grading of very good!!! So don't get hung up if you don't hear any 'positives' for a while - it usually means you have cracked them and your mentor is pushing you try different things.
    Oh and don't spend all weekend planning - you'll spend most of the week doing it (and no matter what your uni tutor says about "you don't need to plan till 1am etc - you will end up doing, you get used to zero sleep just so you can have a full weekend off from doing any school work), so on a fri or sat night go out and find the bottom of vodka bottle!!!
    Oh and internet shopping/ facebook becomes a saviour (but makes planning go on so much longer) - pretty much like when you do uni essays - distractions and all that!
    Good luck and sorry for the ramblings!

  14. Like you, I'll be starting my course too - thanks for posing the question I myself was wondering the same thing!!!

    I hope that all goes well for you, throughout the year - maybe I'll see you again (here) and we can exchange some experiences.

    Have a good evening.
  15. katnoodle

    katnoodle New commenter

    This is very true! Definitely worth remembering when you get a few weeks in. I felt like this on my complementary placement but it was the same case of being pushed to do even better.
  16. hi hollywheeler,
    Can I please ask where you're doing your Early Years Primary PGCE course? I want to start the same course for next September so any advice on interviews, work placement etc will be very much appreciated!
    Thanks alot!

  17. Hey - loads of good advice here. I was like you last year, trying to get every crumb of advice, but it really is a personal 'journey' (to coin an over-used X factor-esque phrase). My main advice would be:
    1. Be efficient - use your time in school productively. Its tempting to spend free periods chatting to other STs (and there is an important place for that), but try and get stuff done rather than procrastinating and needing to work late into the evening.
    2. Let yourself be creative and even take risks. Ask your mentor's advice so that are bought into the idea if it goes wrong, but its this year you'll have the time and opportunity to do it.
    3. Be a magpie at looking and saving (with their permission) other people's ideas. Everyone has their strengths and you can pick up stuff you wouldn't have thought of, and of course saving you time.
    4. If you are struggling PIPE UP EARLY. Don't leave it to fester and also don't be scare of talking to your Uni if you aren't getting the support you need of there is a personality clash (very common) with your mentor. Your uni is there is help!
    5. Try and stay healthy. Especially your voice. I lost mine in December. Go to voice care workshops at Uni. Main advice is keep sipping water, don't become shouty through habit and don't use medicated throat sweets as they help the pain but can lead to a loss of voice.
    Finally, and this will feel early but lodge it now...
    6. Getting a job has been the biggest challenge for most people this year. Get yourself sorted early. (i.e. over Christmas). Be vigilent with keeping an eye on TES (set up an email alert). Apply for jobs as early as you can (my first was in early January). You might not get it, but interview experience is invaluable and a lot of people leave it. I got my job on my fourth attempt and I needed that experience. It wont feel like it earlier in the course, but getting a job should be as big a priority as anything else next year, especially in a competitive climate. Use the 'Jobseekers' thread on here next year to help you.
    Good luck and ENJOY!!!!
  18. Do remember that when you get given advice, it is always in the interests of your professional development and improving teaching and learning; it isn't necessarily because the class teacher or your mentor "has crazy high standards". Give it a go, see if it works and remember, teaching is always about trying new things.
    Most of all, enjoy it. Highs, lows, exhausting, exhilarating....but amazing.

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