I’ve always loved learning and education. History has been my passion since I was very young, and I wanted the chance to not only be immersed in a subject I love every day, but also to encourage young people to enjoy it as much as I do.
The application process was fairly straightforward. You apply through UCAS using one of the assigned codes, depending on the route you want to take; you get essentially the same training regardless of which route you take, so it’s about choosing the route that best suits your needs.
Once my application was sent in, I was called for an interview day where I had to do a basic numeracy and literacy test and teach a 15-minute lesson to a small group of pupils, which was followed by a formal interview. It seemed daunting before I got there, but the staff involved were all very supportive. You also have to take an official literacy and numeracy test, which you have to pass to be accepted onto the course. You get three tries of each, so it’s best to get these done early in the process in case you need to do them again.
Getting in to the classroom
The course was hard work, but I enjoyed it. GITEP is excellent at getting you into the classroom quickly – you only spend three weeks in lectures before you start attending your placement school. That might seem daunting, but teaching really is something you learn practically. You are well guided by your mentor (who is directly in charge of your training in the classroom), training manager (who looks after all the trainees in a school) and subject leader. Your training is split into three placements at two different schools (at least one of which must provide A level experience), and each placement sees an increase in teaching time. This means you slowly build up the workload, which helps to stop you becoming overwhelmed. You will spend a good period of time initially observing lessons, so you can get to know your classes and pick up some tips from more experienced teachers. Once you begin teaching for yourself, classroom teachers will fill out a weekly lesson observation form to highlight things you are doing well, and advise on one or two areas you could try to improve on.
As you complete each placement, you create a Key Evidence File (KEF) with evidence to support your progress and to show that you are meeting the teaching standards set by the government. It sounds like a lot of work, but you put it together across the duration of a placement, so there’s plenty of time to get it done. You also complete three assignments across the year, based on research into teaching styles and your own research conducted in the classroom. These are excellent ways to develop and broaden your teaching style – you’ll never get as much time to research teaching again in your career so make the most of it!
Alongside the school placements, you attend weekly subject pathway sessions with your subject leader, where you will work on subject specific tasks and themes. These are also a great opportunity to share ideas and worries with your other subject trainees. I think I made the best choice for me. My only surprise was how little time was dedicated to lectures, but the course is all the better for it.
If only I knew
I wish I’d known that it’s OK to get things wrong in the classroom. It’s never nice to have someone criticise something you’ve worked hard on, but your PGCE year is about taking risks and trying new things. Sometimes they won’t work, but the only way you learn is through making mistakes and correcting them. It’s about making progress, not being perfect.
Think of training as a job, not as a university course. Be professional, be punctual and remember that you are training around teachers who have a job to do, and pupils who need to learn. If you approach it in an organised, professional way, you’ll be successful.
I still lived at home. I don’t drive, and was lucky with my placements. GITEP and the University of Gloucestershire work very hard to make sure that you aren’t on placement somewhere you cannot reach. However, you have to be prepared to do some travelling.
Best of times, worst of times
I am currently the History KS3 co-ordinator at Pittville School, an 11-16 school in Cheltenham. This year I will also be a History PGCE mentor.
The best thing about being a teacher is having an impact on pupil’s lives. There is nothing better than seeing a young person finally realise their potential in front of you. Sometimes it’s more than academics — in school, teachers are also responsible for the emotional well-being of pupils, and helping someone when they’re having a difficult time is hard, but really rewarding.
The worst thing is that during term time, there will always be something you could be doing. It can be a very demanding job. There is more to teaching than just being in the classroom, and there will always be times when other tasks will get in the way of what you signed up for.
I love teaching because no two days are ever the same. Young people are some of the most free-spirited, imaginative and rewarding people you could ever hope to work with. It beats being stuck in an office!