I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog ever since I started my PGCE but juggling family life with the demands of the year seemed pointless. At times during my PGCE I was in pure survival mode, especially during my final placement which I found to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Some people say your NQT year is a worse year than PGCE but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. That isn’t to say the first term and a half with my own class hasn’t been hard, it definitely has but in different and unexpected ways. In fact I’d say I’m only just at a point now where I feel comfortable as a teacher and being known as a teacher. Perhaps it’s because my wife has been a teacher for eight years that I feel like I’m a bit of a pretender, especially having come from a career working in the media! Anyway, whatever it is, during training and the autumn term I struggled with simply ‘being’ a teacher.
I’ll admit I have confidence issues, not whilst teaching a group of children, but just in myself. I constantly worry I am not doing a good job, despite being told to the contrary throughout my training and, now, in my job. I panic when I see my colleagues marking and assessments, that mine aren’t up to scratch. I share a very thin wall with the class next door and I frequently think to myself ‘is my teaching exciting/good enough?’ And yet, whenever I get observed I thrive.
Only once in my fledgling career have I had a disaster lesson observed. It was my first observed lesson on my final placement in an outstanding school. My mentor decided we wouldn’t even file the paperwork and we’d start again the week after once I’d had more chance to observe him. There were tears and I seriously questioned whether I could get through the training. But I did what you have to do in this job. I knuckled down and worked hard. I definitely played it safe for a few weeks, regained my confidence and thankfully absolutely nailed my final observation with the external mentor there. The whole experience was an eye opener in particular about the kind of school I wanted to teach in.
It turned out I got a job in a small village school and I think it suits me down to the ground. I like the feeling of togetherness amongst the small teaching staff. I like the fact that everyday I can have conversations with my Headteacher about certain children in my class and that she knows them as well as (probably better than) I know them. I really have come to cherish the relationship I’ve built up with the other KS2 teacher who I share a wall with. He was new to the school in September too and has been an amazing support, helping me whenever he can. I hope one day I can replicate his kindness to an NQT somewhere down the line. Anyway, I’m sure these things happen in other schools across the country but I know it doesn’t happen in all of them and to me they’re important factors which are prevalent in village schools.
I think the whole autumn term I spent just finding my feet. PGCE training is intense and over quickly. It prepares you well for certain things like planning and knowing the curriculum (or curriculum’s in my cohort’s case) but it really doesn’t prepare you for so many other things.
For example, assessment. I feel like it’s taken a year and a half for me to grasp assessment and how I should be doing it properly. Maybe it’s just me being slow to grasp it but I really feel like something ‘clicked’ about two or three weeks ago! Hey, at least it came eventually,right?!
PGCE doesn’t prepare you for all the responsibility of your own class. It’s the little things like dealing with every tiny incident and argument as you’re the one the children turn to! The pressure of proving progress and being responsible for it in your class – a huge issue, which, during training, doesn’t fall on your shoulders other than in the half dozen observations you go through. And also having parents talk to you about their children and realising that they think you’re an expert in your field already! Within a month of starting my job I had a meeting with one childs Occupational Therapist. Talk about feeling like a fish out of water! PGCE didn’t prepare me for that. It’s a steep learning curve!
However I think the biggest issue which I wasn’t prepared for was suddenly realising that as well as a teacher I’m now also an untrained social worker. I love the children in my class already, I wish them all the best I want them to succeed and reach their potential. I feel the responsibility of that, it hasn’t gone unnoticed, but they’re a tough group. Really tough in fact. It’s been a baptism of fire. My Head, who has worked in a couple of very ‘challenging’ schools, admitted two of the children in my class are two of the hardest children she’s ever encountered. I’ve lost count of the number of lessons and break times where I have spent time chatting to children to try to help them emotionally. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking at times in fact. And PGCE didn’t prepare me for that at all.
But you know what? I still absolutely love my job and I don’t regret entering teaching. Despite the endless to do list, the long hours, the work I have to do at home and all the pressure of performing!
In fact I am starting to feel like I might just belong in this profession.