Sunday, 19 June 2016

Top Tips for a PGCE

Hello! I'm guessing that if you're reading this you're about to start, or are thinking of starting, a PGCE. If you're not, I'll just warn you that this might not be the most entertaining post to read, you weirdo!
PGCE Primary KS1 Placement Experience

I've just completed a PGCE in primary education, and I'm currently waiting on some marks back from assessments before I gain my qualified teacher status. The job hunt is on and I'm feeling very sick with nerves at the idea of my NQT year. Before I started the PGCE back in September 2015, I was constantly Googling questions about the PGCE and stalking the forums on The Student Room. As a course rep, I've been asked to speak to future PGCE students at the pre-course day and this has caused me to think of some advice. I thought I would compile a little list of tips that might be helpful to anyone thinking of studying a PGCE.

1. Don't read the PGCE thread on The Student Room.
DON'T DO THIS! I was religiously reading this thread where students currently on the PGCE would write about their experiences. They were all negative experiences and everyone sounded like they were having the worst year of their lives. It made me feel so nervous for the course and I honestly believed I would drop out by Christmas. I even told my boyfriend that we'd probably break up by the end of the course! Obviously, these people were only posting because they were having bad times. The people who were managing on the course had no reason to post, because they didn't need help! It's very important to remember that. But more important to stay away.

2. Make friends with the people on your course.
This is so important. Nobody understands the pressure of a PGCE except teachers who've done the course, your course leader/tutors and your fellow students. Boyfriend complaining that you're spending too long planning on an evening? Whinge to your course mates. Teacher changed the planning last minute and needs it sent by 7pm that evening? Ask your course mates for lesson ideas. Nervous about an observation? Ask your course mates for tips! Need to get drunk on a Saturday evening? Get your course mates out! They really are a valuable support network and understand what you're going through completely. I made a really great group of friends and I just know I wouldn't have gotten through the course without them.

3. Stay on top of your targets.
Nobody wants to be in the position of writing out three weeks' worth of targets before your link tutor comes to look at your placement files. Trust me, I've been there and it wasn't ideal. I had so much else I wanted to focus on, but I needed to make sure all my targets were there. They seem like a pain, but they are actually helpful and continue on to your NQT year - so they need to get done! Think about what you want to develop in your practice - behaviour management? Use of talk partners? Get them in your targets!

4. Develop your subject knowledge as you go.
As you're on a one year course, your seminars and lectures won't cover everything you need to know. Sentence types? Fronted adverbials? You're going to have to learn them on your own! Long division? Might not get covered at university! Seminars are there to teach you HOW to teach these things, not what to teach. But what you shouldn't be doing is revising the whole curriculum in your PGCE year. When you're on placement, find out the planning for that term. Oh, you're teaching direct speech, story writing, Vikings and multiplication? Revise those as and when you need to.

5. Keep in touch with your academic/university link tutor.
This might differ depending on your university, but at Sheffield Hallam we had an academic tutor for the university side of things, and a university link tutor for the school-based training side of the course. Within my group of friends, we did have a few issues with our course (nothing too bad, though!), and always our advice to each other was to consult our tutors to see what they said. My link tutor was fantastic, and really gave me loads of support when I needed it. My academic tutor was the course leader (so thankful for that) and she was OUTSTANDING. She'd reply to emails within the hour - even when she was away! They're there for a reason - don't suffer in silence!

6. Get stuck in with your placements from the first day.
This is something I wish I'd done. We had two long placements - one in KS1 and one in KS2. I wish I'd got stuck in a bit more from the beginning of the placement instead of stepping back and getting through the first few weeks. Get the teachers on your side, ask them for advice and most importantly: tell your mentor/school-based tutor what you need! Policies, class list, pupil targets, assessments, signatures, weekly review meetings etc. Make sure they understand what they need to do so you're not getting it all done in your last week!

7. Evidence, evidence, evidence.
I think your evidence varies from university to university. You will need to collect evidence to show you're achieving the teachers' standards. Not heard of those yet? You will! They're basically 8 sentences that describe a teacher's job. You'll be assessed against these throughout your teaching career, so you've got plenty of time to get to know them. In your file you will need to prove you're achieving these. At SHU, it's pretty relaxed in terms of physical evidence but I've seen a few universities asking for files and files of the stuff. All I needed to do was collect work and assessments from three focus children in my class. Start collecting evidence from the first day!

8. Most importantly: don't compare yourself to anyone else.
In my group of friends, most of them finished with a 1 or 1* overall. I'm so proud of them and they've worked so hard to achieve these grades. I finished with a 2 overall and I can't help but compare myself to them. The truth is, we've all had different placements and experiences. The grades are decided by your school-based tutor so it's very subjective. I need to focus on the progress that I've made and the experiences I've had. You never know what grade you'd get if you were at a different school. We've all worked incredibly hard and have made it to the end.

I really hope these tips help you. If you've got any to add, leave them in the comments. If you've still got any questions, leave them below or you can find me on Twitter @rachaelamyreads

Rachael Amy

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  1. Just stumbled across your blog post and you've made me feel so much better about starting my PGCE in September! I am so so excited but had read so much negativity in the Student Room that I was beginning to wonder whether I was going to survive! A big thank you for sharing your experiences and big congratulations on completing yours! x

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for sharing some useful tips for PGCE and congratulations on completing your PGCE. I might sound bit daft but I was just wondering how and what kinds of targets are set for your development at the earlier stages of your PGCE. I have just finished my two weeks of placement one week involving being in different classrooms for observations and the other week being in a year 1 classroom. I found it really hard to set targets for my development during this placement and would like to set some realistic targets in my next placement. I hope you could shed some light on this. Thank you. Hope to hear from you soon. Cheers! Dil


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