What made you decide to undertake the course?
The seeds to re-train as a teacher were planted a long time ago and I had been feeling my career in Entertainment Management was coming to an end (working until the early hours of the morning is a young man's game!). I had worked alongside disadvantaged children and young people in both play and residential settings for nearly 10 years, which seemed a natural step into the PGCE Primary Pathway course.
What were your expectations of the course and did you feel they were being met?
I had developed an understanding that Primary school teaching had become a lot more complex in recent years, so I was anticipating a broad curriculum of study throughout the course. I was looking forward to learning my craft well by submersing myself into both the up-to-date theoretical aspects of child development and best teaching practice. To compliment this I was expecting to have the space to practise and apply this knowledge in a class/school environment. Having completed the course, I felt that the University's academic staff were committed to creating and executing a structured programme of study that was balanced and thorough. It was a course that was responsive to both the students' experience and current educational issues.
What particular aspect(s) of your course did you enjoy?
On being interviewed for the course I was encouraged by both the organisation behind the process and admired the way in which Plymouth University aspired to be an institution that promoted the development of free thinking teachers; ones who would question and reflect. This sentiment was soundly realised throughout the course with plenty of time devoted to informal and structured group discussions, where we enjoyed the space to share the many new and intense experiences that arose from stretching oneself across many disciplines.
I also liked the way the department put an emphasis reflective practice and how it was woven throughout every aspect of the course. This provided us with a useful diagnostic tool with which to address the positive things we were achieving and needing to sing more loudly about, or the things that required some honest rethinking.
Where are you now?
I am now a proud and happy teacher of a class of 12 children, teaching a KS3 year group a KS2 curriculum in an SEN school in North London. The children have a range of complex needs and moderate learning difficulties and they have stacks of character with which they engage their learning day. The school is alert yet relaxed, focusing on pastoral care and a broad and tailored curriculum. I have a freedom within my practice and within each teaching day to approach learning activities with creativity that, I feel, is uncommon to most Primary school teachers.
The wheels squeak a little sometimes, but are firmly on the NQT wagon and frequently lubricated thanks to the support of my LSAs, other teaching staff and school mentors. It seems funny that after all my amassed experience within SEN settings over the years, I hadn't seen this path more clearly and if it were not for a 'Paulo Coelho' type moment over the summer holidays, I would most likely not be here writing to you now!
What advice would you give to somebody who was considering studying an education course?
Have an honest conversation with yourself about the motives that drive your intent. Teaching is demanding and a discipline that is undertaken on an ever moving plane, so ask yourself, ‘Am I going to find reward in the long hours, the adaptation and the teaching environment?’.
Give yourself a head start. Dip your toe in the water and sign up as a class volunteer in schools across several age ranges. You will probably be required to do this before enrolling on a course anyhow, but it'll help you find your bearings when making important choices along the line. As a male, I benefitted greatly from working alongside both female and male teachers, as we have different ways of going about things. I found it good to ‘see’ myself teaching in as many different lights as possible.
Speaking of the PGCE course- have no illusions. It is intense, but massively rewarding! If you are thinking about undertaking this course you will probably be well aware of this commitment of resources anyhow and are already thinking through giving a year of your life to something that I feel, is ultimately bigger than yourself.
Overall, I guess becoming a teacher is a little like becoming a parent, in that you might never feel ready for that leap, even after years of study. So, take a breath, be prepared to be stripped bare, analysed and observed. You will be sure to cultivate a great sense of humour, get to know yourself better and will emerge more a master of your constituent parts and confident of your abilities. I have loved the stimulation, challenges and personal growth that training to work in education has provided. Also, being a little older than the average graduate I have felt grounded in the challenges that have come my way, so think of any advancing years as an asset!