I had no idea how demanding the PGCE course would be. Silly, in retrospect, there’s a plethora of information on the Web about undertaking a PGCE – The Guardian. It is academically demanding as you are working at postgraduate (Masters) level but fortunately I didn’t find the academic component difficult. It was the professional component that, at times, seemed overwhelming.
Again, perhaps I wasn’t well-prepared in advance but you are assessed against Teacher Standards throughout the placements you undertake. At Sheffield Hallam, this involved two placements: A shorter one in the first term and then a longer one over the second and third terms.
You are not assessed against each standard from day one – it accumulates. The first placement is concerned with behaviour management – basically can you control a class room. As the weeks go by, you then start to focus on other standards such as being able to differentiate effectively.
The academic component of the course requires a couple of essays. My first essay was about what makes an effective computing lesson and then my second essay about differentiation. There’s a lot of reading in the course both to inform practice and support the written work. Indeed, there’s so many book available in the Education section of the library and so much literature available online, it’s worth following course guidelines on recommendations for reading – stick to what the evidence say.
I managed to finish with the highest grade available, a distinction.
My life went completely to the course. I was planning constantly and when I did get a break, I was assessing student work or reflecting on my practice. The course had me reflecting not just on my own schooling, not just on my own styles of learning but my whole character. If I’m honest, barely a single week went by where I didn’t think about quitting. Peers and my course leader pulled me through and in turn, I helped many peers out whose resilience was also starting to wane.
We used to meet for lectures for the first week or two of each team and then on Fridays for our pedagogy seminars, which were nicknamed ‘therapy days’. They were much needed.
I think 17 people started the course in 2018 and just 13 people completed in 2019. Nobody failed but a few did withdraw and mostly early on – teaching is simply not for everyone. Here are the survivors:
Now, the next stage is to look for a role as a newly qualified teacher. Apparently the NQT year is tougher than the PGCE year but I just can’t imagine to be honest. I haven’t fully committed to taking up an NQT post next year but I will have a look around to see what posts are available.