In this post I’ll be sharing my PGCE journey, for anyone who isn’t aware this stands for Post Graduate Certificate in Education; your passport to becoming a teacher. This post is for anyone who is thinking about teaching, particularly 14-19/ post-16 teaching.
I completed the PGCE at Edge Hill University, the first non-denominational teacher training college for women from 1885 until 1959, and in 2005 it was awarded taught degree powers and became Edge Hill University. It is one of the most-reknowned teaching universities in the UK, with a strong primary, secondary and Further Education professional teaching team. I was aware of a few people who had studied their PGCE at Edge Hill and had only heard good words, so knew that was the place I wanted to study at too.
As my course was focussed on teaching young people aged between 14-19 or 16+, my placements and the modules I studied were geared to this age range, however the course itself did not differ hugely to the secondary PGCE. I studied a total of 5 modules, which illustrated the journey of every PGCE student: The Developing Teacher, The Research-Informed Teacher, The Employable Teacher, The Outstanding Teacher and a year long Reflective Teacher module. The module titles are pretty much self-explanatory and when asked for feedback from my tutors about whether the content of each module reflected its title, I said it did, perfectly!
I think, historically, most Further Education/Post-16 PGCE students have wanted to teach either English and/or Maths, or the vocational subjects, such as Catering and Hospitality, Health and Social Care, Engineeeing, Construction, Health and Beauty courses and so on, therefore most placements were geared towards Colleges that offered these courses. However, there has been an increase in Post-16 PGCE students wanting to teach the A-level subjects too, such as Religious Studies/Religion & Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Law…. the list could go on but you get the jist! Some of these subjects are now taught at GCSE level too, so a secondary PGCE could also work, but there are many teachers (myself included) who want to strictly focus on the Post-16 sector.
I was able to start the placement aspect of the course by the end of October. I spent a total of 4 months at a Sixth Form College in Warrington where I shadowed some excellent Religion and Philosophy specialists, as well as planned and delivered my own lessons. Both of my mentors at this College had different teaching styles, one mentor had taught a variety of Philosophy and History at University level in Australia before migrating to the UK where he started to teach in the Further Education sector. My other mentor was previously a secondary school teacher and now in Further Education. I was able to learn key elements from both of their teaching which I have managed to implement in my own lessons.
Throughout the year, I had 8 official observations and several informal observations too, so that I could maximise the amount of feedback I was receiving in order to constantly improve my teaching skills and understanding of the A-level specification. I also completed 30 hours worth of lesson plans, and plenty more paper work! (The PGCE is known for the amount of paperwork student teachers are required to complete).
I began applying for jobs from January onwards, and had lots of interview practice with my tutors and peers at University. In February 2018, I was informed of a fixed-term job, and after speaking with my mentors and university tutors, decided to accept the offer. This was by far one of the best decisions I made, as I was offered a full time contract in June 2018, and started my first official full time role as a lecturer of Religion and Philosophy in July 2018.
It is well-known that the PGCE course can be intense, you are training whilst more or less doing the equivalent (or more!) of a full time job without being paid! However, I can confirm that the PGCE year is NOT what your entire teaching career will be like. If, like me, you are a super organised individual, you may struggle at some points in the year, you will find at some points during the PGCE year that you feel out of your depth, like this is not the career for you, and that it isn’t getting any better. However, I and the 1000s of other teachers in this field can confirm that it does get better.
There were, of course, some not-so-good moments throughout the year – I will be sharing some of these in a future article, as we all know the life of a teacher is most definitely not a walk in the park. However, there are by FAR, more great moments that I cherish. I always try to view the challenging times as lessons that can teach me new approaches to teaching, as well as help build my confidence, resilience and character. I am at the very start of my career, and hope that these challenges will shape my career for me.
So, there it is, my PGCE journey! If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me a message on this post. I would also love to read about your journey and for those who are considering teaching, I hope this post has helped a little!