I survived…

…well, you get the picture.  I’ve learnt a lot this year, not all of it relevant though.  I’ve learnt things from safeguarding training (really important) to being taught that I shouldn’t touch the kids or that the “n word” is racist (important, but I think I already had gathered that).

I’d be lying if I said I was happy now though.  One of my fears unfortunately came true and I have no job.  I tried, and tried and tried.  I had so many times where I came home and just wanted to scream “WHY WILL NO ONE EMPLOY ME?!”.  I will admit, last few weeks of my PGCE I was ready to throw in my teaching towel to the arena of education.  I had begun looking for telesales jobs.  BUT in my first two days off I began to realise my mistake.  I love teaching and I’m not gonna let this go to waste.  Yes, I may struggle for cash for a bit but I AM going to be a teacher like I am trained to.  I know given the chance I would spend hours planning, do extra curricular clubs and use as many new tricks as I could.  I just need a school to buy into my ethos and let me in.

I’ve got an informal chat with a school on Monday for a term supply contract.  Competition is stiff, but I’m giving it all I’ve got.  Besides that I’ve signed up for a supply agency or two, and will do even more leg work in the next few days.  I hope to keep this blog going and hopefully tell my story of finding a job.  I know at the moment I would love an inspirational story, let’s hope this turns into an inspirational story for one future unemployed NQT….

….Oh and one final thing…I was told before the PGCE that Teachers is closer to a real school scenario than waterloo road is.  Besides an incident of a potential gunman on the run leading to the evacuation of a school at 4:30pm, this is certainly true.  I met everyone of the staff on teachers in both schools (by the way, there’s more Jennys than Susans…if you meet a Susan and she is your mentor…you won’t get any better, I know I didn’t)

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Never speak too soon

I have recently just finished the final real block of university weeks on my placement.  Well, I shouldn’t have taken the attitude of it being a holiday.  To be honest after weeks in school, flogging my guts out and trying to learn new tricks to entertain the pupils…I thought university would be a welcome break.  Not really.

     Admittedly it was nice to have 10am starts at a short drive away, but I forgotten how difficult it can be to have to do so much group work in front of people the same age and same sort of ability range.  Moreover, it can be incredibly embarrassing.  I will admit, I can’t argue with my fellow students.  As a child I was very shy, meaning I still can’t comfortably dispute things with some groups of people.  Hence, sometimes my ideas would just get (quite rudely/abruptly sometimes) shot out the water.  I am getting more assertive, but it is still something I need to work on.  With kids and other teachers, it really isn’t a problem though.

    Besides the feeling uncomfortable and inadequate around other students, I had the issues of inclusion to attack.  The uni weeks made it very clear just how difficult it is to cope with EAL (English as an additional language), SEN (special educational needs) and G&T (Double G&T please…oh wait, I meant gifted and talented) as well as making sure homophobia, racism and sexism are not prevalent. 

    So basically a teacher has to have everyone on their mind.  Important, but tricky…oh so tricky.

   My next school is much different to my last.  Most of my classes have at least 3 EAL learners,  so my focus will have to be much more different.  The staff have less formal attitude, and the building is brand new.  So, here’s to my next placement phase…

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Changing perspectives

Back in university this week, I must admit a lot of it I’ve not found too good.  I’m already looking forward to my next placement.  I even miss lesson planning, because it is a fun challenge wondering how to make my lesson as exciting as possible.

But yesterday on the other hand, is a different story…

Yesterday we took a trip to Beth Shalom Holocaust memorial centre.  It of course is an inauthentic site, as it is in Nottingham.  I must admit, if there is anything I’m a specialist in for history it is the Holocaust.  I did my dissertation in history on Anti semitic propaganda in the third reich, my history module was on Nazi occupation (featuring Nazi resettlement policies, concentration and work camps).  So beforehand I thought that the centre could teach me nothing else I needed to know about the information children need to get on the Holocaust.  I was wrong.

From yesterday I learnt a lot about effectively teaching the Holocaust.  The museum is based around the Jewish 6 million who perished in the Holocaust; which admittedly is only roughly half the number of people who died.  So where’s the representation of these other 5-6 million?  Gypsies, black people, disabled people, criminals, communists, intellectuals, PoWs…all seemed to received very little or not representation.  This made me think about what picture of the Holocaust needs to be presented to children.  Do we just say it was the murder of the Jews for an easy life, or do we discuss the many prejudices the Nazis had which resulted in 5-6 million others dying?  This is vital in my opinion, as it ma be able to help them with diversity today.  Hopefully they will develop tolerance of everyone, not just Jews.

Another main point, was the exhibitions in the museum.  There was an exhibition of a stone with the 7 death camp names on it.  Fair enough, a lot of people died there in mechanised killing.  BUT what about the forced labour camps?  My grandfather was one of the first to liberate Belsen which was a forced labour camp.  Sadly my grandfather passed away some time back, but I still remember what he told my family about the horror and death there.  Surely there needs to be more of a memorial to those who perished through work too?

The museum in general though (besides that stone) played down the image of the holocaust being death camp killings.  It mentioned the Einsatzgruppen (which I think personally is important but complicated to teach school children.  They must understand the holocaust was a process or even a “twisted road”).  It focused on the dislocation, death in places such as the ghettos and the experiences these people (admittedly the Jews in this case) faced.  After hearing a Holocaust survivor speak, I realised something important.  When I heard the term “Holocaust survivor” I automatically assumed he had been to a death camp and survived his days there.  But no, he in fact was resettled several times but was saved.  My own preconceptions linked Holocaust and being deported to a camp.  Of course not every Jew in Europe did; this is a viewpoint I had never seen before.  It is important to teach pupils this and get rid of the idea of just systematic killing but bring in themes like fear, persecution, relocation, splitting of families etc.

I could go on further more but I want to make just one further point.  We were shown a video on Darfur, something which I admit to having little knowledge about.  After this video I felt so moved and realised; genocide has happened before but it is still happening.  A lot of children won’t realise this and it is important to link the holocaust to the modern-day.  It is not just a one-off in history, it is a repeating event which does not need to happen.  I want to raise awareness of this.

So to cut a long story short, I’ve really had to reconsider how I’d teach the Holocaust.  THIS is what the PGCE is about

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Placement (nearly) over

One day, one lesson left…

How do I feel?  Truly indescribable.  Obviously I feel incredibly accomplished.  I’ve taught quite a few full lessons and developed a good rapport with students.  Also quite sad, as classes have slowly said goodbye, told me they’ll miss me and even applauded me at the end I know fully well I’ll miss them.  I feel sad I’ll probably not get to know how each individual will get on and didn’t have time to learn their stories.

But a key point; I’ll miss my incredible mentor.  My mentor has supported me throughout this placement and gave me the sort of feedback and encouragement that anyone could ever want.  She sparked me on to keep going and give it my all.  I only hope my next mentor will be the same.

As my mentor pointed out; I’ve come a long way.  In October teaching my first lesson I was overcome with nerves.  I could not do half the stuff I do now.  Now, I am coming to grips with what is happening.

I know the last few weeks I started to get really down, and one class does still bring me down (they’re my only class tomorrow) but I realise that’s what part of being a teacher is.  I’m rapidly learning behaviour control with them and hope tomorrow will be no exception.

What’s next?  Well a few weeks back at university, doing essays etc.  Then it’s onto my final placement.  I have a few plans there such as class blogs/wikis, movie making, historic learning games and hopefully teaching a bit of R.E./Geography

Over the next few weeks I hope to post more, with random reflections and memories of my time in my first school.  Hopefully this will fill you in as my blog was pretty empty from that section.

If I had to conclude with one lesson I’ve learnt from my PGCE year thus far it would be;

No matter how tough the going is, no matter how rubbish you feel; picking yourself back up and carrying on is just as important as teaching an amazing lesson.

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I highly recommend exercise and looking out the window

I’m sure you remember (or can see from my last post) that it’s starting to get tough on the PGCE.  Recently I have not felt greatly happy or strong.  On Friday (despite having a good day) I was counting down the hours until the weekend.  It’s now Sunday and I am beginning to feel a lot better.  I went to the gym today, which I think really helped clear my mind.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of my observation, and that I’m not doubting my abilities as a potential teacher, or even that I’m not worried about getting a job.  I am still worried about all these things.  But, I feel excited to be planning lessons again and enjoying a challenge. 

Also I have enjoyed looking out of my apartment window in the light.  Sounds daft, but it is amazing what some daylight can do.  This has also picked up my spirits.  I’m starting to realise that hopefully soon when the nights get shorter, my spirits will lift even more.

I feel motivated by an assembly I was in with my form on Friday too.  Their head of year gave a story, and explained that no matter what happens, what obscures the vision of your goals, you have to keep going and trying.  You never know how far away you are from your goal, so it is important to keep the amount of effort up.  This really hit home for me.  July seems like a lifetime away, I cannot see my graduation from the PGCE.  September seems even further away, I cannot see me in my own classroom teaching.  But, I have to keep going and putting in all the effort I can, afterall July will probably whizz round and a job may jump out at me when I least expect it.

I hope my spirits keep lifting like they have begun to.

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The Down Days

Back to school tomorrow and to be honest; I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to it.

I may as well be honest, after all I know I just wish I could find out if many other people feel like this.  I definitely feel at a low right now.  I was told at the start of the PGCE it is a roller coaster of emotions, but I didn’t expect anything this extreme.  I am wondering my suitability for the course, but I don’t know if this is natural.  Now Christmas has come and gone, I feel nervous about my lesson observations and wonder if I am cut out for this.

Don’t get me wrong though, teaching is something which I love doing.  I’m passionate about standing in front of a class of pupils, trying to get them to engage with history and understand “the point”.  At the moment, I just feel so worn out and sick of being watched though.

Speaking of observations, I had my first not so positive observation before Christmas, this is a warning to any PGCE students after me; it does hurt, and feels crushing.  I thought I would let it run off my back, but instead I ended up bursting into tears in front of my tutor and the teacher observing me.  Yes, the teacher observing me was (and is known for being) abrupt but it was more the fact I felt I’d let down the class that made me cry.  My first lesson back is with that same teacher and class.  I will admit I’ve put more effort into planning this lesson; but I still feel so scared it won’t be enough to even get a single good remark.

One plus point though; the bad observation has given me a metaphorical kick up the bum.  I have realised towards Christmas my lesson planning and creativity tailed off (in my defense I was unwell from the end of November, and still haven’t recovered) but I have been working to rectify this.  With only a few weeks left in my school, I aim to be as enthusiastic and creative as possible. 

So in a few weeks time my 2nd placement will be over, I shall not be at the school again unless by some miracle I get a job there.  I am looking forward to being back at my university, with my course mates and a much shorter drive each day.  I hope my passion and determination come back fully before my next placement.

Whoever said the PGCE will be emotional was not lying.

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Those amazing practice changing weeks

Another month or so has passed since my last PGCE update, I guess that shows how busy I am!  This week is the last week of my initial placement phase, thus the transition from part time placement to full time.  I knew I’d enjoy my PGCE and it would change me, but I hadn’t prepared myself to feel like this…

Firstly my preconceptions into history teaching have completely changed.  I must admit, upon gaining my course place and the first few weeks I had the age old opinion that history is taught best with books, sources and interesting stories.  I thought history and ICT had a minimal link; usually presentations and research.  I am feeling completely different now.  I know that to be quite frank teaching with books, sources and yes, even interesting stories would not only bore me but the kids too.  I am no longer satisfied with being a teacher who is didactic but want to grasp their imaginations using drama, technology, literacy etc.  Most importantly; I know the importance of taking a change (I have done a drama activity and although it has taken a lot more time than planned, it has really helped the pupils).

Second, I now believe I fully understand that history does have underlying purposes.  In my undergraduate degree (Educational studies and history), I gained the impression history could not be used as a social tool; it’s just history.  Now I’ve formulated my own beliefs about history teaching and how what I teach (and how) may have implications for the pupils I’m teaching.

My reflective practice is much sharper than I imagined too.  I find myself frequently reflecting and wanting to act upon reflections.  That reflective teaching module I did in level 2 of my undergrad degree has really paid off!  I do not ever want to get into the habit of not being a reflective practitioner, as I believe that will be the key to me ultimately being the best I can be.

As for me enjoying my PGCE…that’s an understatement.  I wake up every morning feeling excited (admittedly apprehensive), go to bed every night feeling I’ve achieved something (admittedly I also feel very tired) and am constantly thinking about lesson plans etc.  This course and career is something I love and get excited about. 

The conversion to educator has begun….

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