10 reasons why I would recommend the PGCE course.

Before I did my post graduate certificate in education, many people said it would be ‘the worse year of your life’. Strangely it wasn’t. Now that it’s over people ask me would I recommend the course? And yes, I would. Here’s why…

1. It’s quick. With a PGCE you are a qualified teacher (if all goes well) in less than a year. Usually, 9months. I personally couldn’t imagine doing a 4 year course, I liked the fact that I was still passionate and excited about teaching at the end of the course.

2. Bursaries are available. Studying is hard financially as it is and every little really does help. At the moment there are some great bursaries available for people choosing to do a PGCE. Up to £20,000 for someone with a 1st training to be a maths teacher and also help for parents or people with dependants.

3. Life experience. The majority of the people on my course had life experience. Only two people had come straight from university. For me, I love the fact that I have ‘had a life’ before teaching. That I have travelled, lived all over the country and had my fun. I know that I wouldn’t have been as passionate and energetic about teaching if I’d gone straight into it at 21.

4. Fellow Students. This may not be the same for everyone- but I was lucky enough to have a truly fantastic group on my course. We really are friends for life. I would not have been able to get through the year without them. (Plus, they made for a great social life).

5.Diverse placements. If the university have a good placements office you’ll get much more diverse placements than my friends on the 4yr course seemed to get. I was in a brand new, multi million pound outstanding Special Needs school; a Church of England school in a very deprived area and a school with 82% EAL. I loved every single placement.

6. Two degrees. Having a PGCE means that you will have two qualifications that are essentially equivalent to having two degrees. A teaching one and the original degree. This makes you stand out to employers and means that you are ‘bringing more to the table’ in jobs.

7. Employability. PGCE qualifications are still highly regarded by all employers, not just Head teachers. I know people that have gone into other careers thanks to their PGCE. Working for CBBC, High positions in the police and mentoring.

8. Up to date training. The fact that the course is less than a year means that your training is fresh. Education is changing so fast that things that were in place last year have completely gone 12 months later. At least with the PGCE you know that nothing has changed.

9. It’s intense. This is actually a good thing. With the PGCE you literally hit the ground running so you have experience of what it is really like as a teacher. My friends on the 4yr course said that they felt they were not ready for teaching and didn’t know what a typical working day was like. Sometimes they were only in twice a week for an hr. With the PGCE it’s 24/7 from day one.

10. Prior teaching experience. To get onto the PGCE course you need prior experience. For most people that experience comes in the form of being a teaching assistant. I believe that having TA experience adds another, positive layer to teachers. We know what it’s like to cut out 30 homework sheets and stick them in books, we have worked from the bottom and know how we like to be communicated with and how we didn’t. I can always tell if a teacher has had TA experience. They tend to be that much nicer…

The financial drought until 30th September (Pay day!)

So, yay! I’m going to be getting a salary. A salary. I will actually have the same amount of money coming into my account at the same time every month. Every month. And if Gove doesn’t stick his oar in, it will only go up every year. Wow! Never in my life have I had a salary. I cannot express how excited I am about this prospect. Having been self employed in the past I never knew how much was coming in each month, I didn’t get paid for holidays and some months, I didn’t even have any income at all. So I am almost bouncing off the walls with excitement about my NQT salary. Almost.

That is because it is now July and I do not get this salary until the end of September. I will not have any money coming in until 30th of September 2013 at 00:00hrs. Since finishing university I have been working full time in my school. I’ve been meeting my new class, getting to know the staff, going to meetings, school trips and getting to grips with the school’s planning and marking policy. My time going in has been worth it’s weight in gold. I am confident now about September, feel a little bit more at ease and have gotten over all that awkward meeting new people and I even feel comfortable and at home in the staff room. The only problem is…. I’m not being paid. Other people on my course are going into their school and being paid. ‘Isn’t it great! We’re going to get paid in july and August!.’ Well, yes, it’s great for you… but not so great for me.

When I got my job the head teacher said it would be ‘fabulous’ if I could come in when my course had finished, ‘I might be able to pay you, which will be good.’ Yes, yes it would. Except when i started, money was never mentioned. At the end of my first day I spoke with the other two NQTs and asked them if they were being paid. They weren’t. ‘Are you going to ask to be paid?’ I had asked. Their astonished faces told me other wise. Of course not! We were lucky to have a job! So, not wanting to be the greedy, money grabbing NQT I didn’t say anything. Schools are bitchy places and I didn’t want people to discuss me higher up even though it is my right.

The annoying thing is that I gave up a very lucrative job for the whole of July. A self employed job that would have been more than my month’s teacher salary. I am literally out of pocket. So now I have to live on beans on toast, sell things on Ebay (old PGCE books) and convince my friends that a gossip in the park is way better than going out for a meal and cocktail. ‘Come on- let’s make the most of the hot weather. We don’t know how long it will last!”

After a PGCE you are tired. You deserve a rest, you don’t want to work behind a bar or in a shop for the six weeks holidays. But needs must. Except, there aren’t many places that want to take on a worker for 4 weeks who has to have a few days off in the week to ‘sort of my classroom.’ Believe me I’ve looked.

So for now, everything has to stop. Buying clothes (sob), buying those new heels (louder sob!) and going on that much needed holiday. I have my last bursary to cover three months of rent, bills, car insurance.

I wonder if I can still get that maintenance grant, thingy? I really need to read through all that boring student finance paper work….

Fashion problems for a new teacher.

200019728-001Well, I have nearly been at my school a week and I am pleased to say that I am becoming more confident and comfortable with the school every day. What I have noticed however, is the issue of clothes. Before I started the school and during my time on placement, I bought lots of work wear. I like to dress smart- I am a teacher after all now- but more importantly, I like to have that definite separation between work wear and non-work wear. I like to get dressed at a weekend and feel like ‘me’. I don’t like to wear my best clothes to work, or go to a bar with my friends and wear a dress that I wore to school last week. I think you feel different when you have ‘work’ clothes and ‘normal’ clothes. Plus, I want to look different when I’m not in work!

My clothes have been suitable in all my previous schools. I felt like a proper adult finally. My heels clop when I walk. And it felt great putting jeans and leggings on at the weekend. My new clothes, however, are not suitable for my new job. It is casual central. But more annoyingly than that- it is fashion central. The females are all young (and pretty) and on my first day I felt like a frumpy office worker in my smart black trousers, ballet pumps and shirt. The females were swanning around in outfits that I would have worn going to a fancy restaurant with the girls. There were leopard print fitted midi dresses, bright flowing maxi dresses and out fits put together from next month’s Vogue. Never have I felt so uncomfortable or out of date in my work clothes before. I’m a teacher, I shouldn’t be worrying about my outfit, but as a female, unfortunately we are judged by other females by the way we dress.

The other problem is the casualness of the staff. Jeans isn’t unusual, one teacher was wearing trainers today (trendy, fashionable, not-for-the-gym ones no less) and with the absolute boiling weather this week, I have seen two TAs in towelling shorts- and yes they were short. While one girl wears outfits similar to what I wore when I went on holiday to Ibiza. Don’t get me wrong, the outfits are not unprofessional. They look good, there are no cleavages or bra straps on show and even the shorts look great with smart loafers and high neck blouses. They are just so casual and trendy and now when I look at all my dark shift dresses from Next, I realise I need to reassess my wardrobe. Especially in this hot weather.

I wore a new maxi dress yesterday that I had bought as a going out skirt. I fitted in with everyone else, but I couldn’t help feeling as though the shine had been taken off the skirt as it had crossed over to ‘work wear.’ So I wore a lovely, linen dress from Per Una today. I felt a little over dressed at first. All the other teachers commented on the dress, but I felt better for it and will definitely stick to a more watered down version of my work clothes. My sister said if I wore my shift dresses from now then everyone would just know that it was my style and it wouldn’t be an issue when I start in September. My mum said I shouldn’t lower my standards, and just because everyone was dressing casual, I should still dress in my usual smart attire. My dad said ‘haven’t you got more important things to worry about, than your bloody wardrobe?’

He’s got a point.

My ‘first’ day at my new school.

So I had my first day at my new school and it was daunting. After the initial anti climax/ what have I done?/ I’ve made a mistake feeling that I got at the staff meeting, it was such a great relief to realise that I had fun and I am back to being excited about starting my teaching career in September.

My class is big (28)- a few are leaving thankfully. 28 sounds so much better than 30 though. My class are lovely, behaviour seems really good, from what I’ve seen over two days. But there are going to be other challenges. For example, 26 out of 28 pupils are EAL. And of the EAL children most of them speak little English, they are young and only hear and speak English in the hours that they are in school- which is going to be a personal challenge for me. With that comes the new challenge of learning about a culture that is the complete opposite to mine, but I am just going to embrace it.

Luckily, the staff are great. Really, really friendly. I can already see that this won’t just be a workplace, but I will be a big part of the whole school life. The staff room was a little daunting, but once the ice was broken it was fine. The staff are all young, most started as NQTs and are on for their second year, so there should be lots of advice and help. I’m not going to count my chickens too soon, but I am really pleased with the vibe from the school- and bonus- it only takes 15mins in the car!

Staff Training at the new job

So, yesterday, I had my first day at my new school as there was a whole day staff training on successful planning for next year. I was pretty nervous as I had never visited the school. I came. Went for the interview. Then left. I hadn’t even seen the hall, so everything was going to be new to me.

I started off by wearing the completely wrong outfit. I thought I would play it safe with black smart trousers and a blouse. The head greeted me wearing jeans and a t shirt and the other new NQTs were wearing leggings. I was so over dressed! All the other staff were wearing jeans too- but I’m sure I would’ve felt worse if it had been the other way around and I was underdressed.

Anyway, the day was SO OVERWHELMING I sat there thinking. I am NEVER going to be able to do this. What have I done?! I found out that I will be having a class of 30. Thirty?! I know that unfortunately, 30 is the norm, but I was hoping and praying that I would be lucky. It didn’t help that my good friend contacted me to say she’s got a class of 21. I spoke to the teacher leaving the class that I will have who told me ‘it’s hard. It’s stressful. There’s always something to do. And the EAL children really are EAL- they don’t know a word of English.’ Great.

The staff seemed nice, there was one teacher with a didn’t get a good vibe from, she’s very loud, over powering and loves the sound of her own voice. She was very intimidating, but I hope that was just because I don’t know her. The other two NQTs were nice, one is with me in KS2 and the other one in the foundation stage was a lot more confident, she was laughing and joking with ‘loud, over powering’ girl. But luckily, the other teacher who is in the other class in my year, is absolutely lovely, she is a lot older than me, but we seemed to hit it off straight away and she took me to lunch with her. We are planning together, which is a God send, and I’ll have to go in next week to finish next year’s planning, but I started to feel more confident as the day went on.

The whole day was just so overwhelming that I was slightly down hearted when I left. I was so excited about starting in September, but after yesterday I just thought ‘Will I be able to teach 30 children? Will I be confident enough to join in conversations in the classroom? How come the confident NQT was laughing and joking in the Head’s office as I left?’

But after a good night’s sleep and a clear head (and speaking to everyone else on my course who said their first day’s were like mine) I feel more confident and I’m back to feeling excited again about starting in September. From next week i’m going to go in three days a week just to get my head around things, so hopefully that will make things easier (not harder, fingers crossed) for September.