2018-2019 PGCE student- Ask Me Anything! Watch

SarcAndSpark
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Hey everyone

I've recently finished my PGCE. I know this time last year, I had lots of questions about the process and wasn't sure what to expect, so I thought it would be fun to do an "Ask Me Anything" to help people know a bit of what to expect.

Obviously I won't answer anything that's too identifying, for example I won't name my placement schools or the school where I've got my NQT job!

I did a Secondary PGCE, and my subject was biology. I've been "recommended for QTS" and I got a distinction for the masters elements of the course.

So, ask me anything
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shadowdweller
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What aspects of your PGCE did you find the most challenging?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by shadowdweller)
What aspects of your PGCE did you find the most challenging?
Oooh that's really tough- definitely there were times when the workload was a lot, but I never felt totally overwhelmed like some people.

I think the thing I found really hard was constantly being given feedback/advice by the class teachers, and often this contradicted each other. I also got some "feedback" which I felt crossed the line into being a bit to personal about my characteristics, rather than my teaching which really knocked me. There was definitely a time when I felt like nothing I was doing was good enough, and that really sucked- I was also applying for jobs at the time and getting a lot of rejection from that end.

I also found it quite challenging that on the one side a lot of the stuff we did in uni gave me great ideas about how to excite children about science, but in school there just wasn't the time to use them, and a lot of the time my placement school felt very results focused- I think ultimately there was a bit of a clash of ethos there!

I also found seeing my fellow student teachers dropping out really tough, as well as seeing how some students were unfortunately being let down by the school system.
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
Oooh that's really tough- definitely there were times when the workload was a lot, but I never felt totally overwhelmed like some people.

I think the thing I found really hard was constantly being given feedback/advice by the class teachers, and often this contradicted each other. I also got some "feedback" which I felt crossed the line into being a bit to personal about my characteristics, rather than my teaching which really knocked me. There was definitely a time when I felt like nothing I was doing was good enough, and that really sucked- I was also applying for jobs at the time and getting a lot of rejection from that end.

I also found it quite challenging that on the one side a lot of the stuff we did in uni gave me great ideas about how to excite children about science, but in school there just wasn't the time to use them, and a lot of the time my placement school felt very results focused- I think ultimately there was a bit of a clash of ethos there!

I also found seeing my fellow student teachers dropping out really tough, as well as seeing how some students were unfortunately being let down by the school system.
Thank you for such a detailed response! :hugs:

On the flipside of my previous question, what aspect of it did you find the most rewarding?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by shadowdweller)
Thank you for such a detailed response! :hugs:

On the flipside of my previous question, what aspect of it did you find the most rewarding?
Definitely working with the students on my placement- even though I wasn't in my placement schools for that long, I did feel like I made a bit of a difference to some of the students e.g. increasing their confidence in science. I built some lovely relationships with some of the children I taught, and leaving them made leaving placement really hard!

I especially enjoyed being able to help lower ability students and students with SEN, which I wouldn't necessarily have expected at the start of the year!
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thenextchemist
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I'm going to be starting my PGCE this September!

I'm a bit worried about resources and how to manage them (e.g. what worksheets you should use in certain lessons, practicals being used).
How did you organise your resources when teaching? Did you make most of them yourself? Did the school allow you to borrow worksheets?

Also, what year groups did you teach and how many hours per week did you teach?

Thank you!
Good luck with your NQT year
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by thenextchemist)
I'm going to be starting my PGCE this September!

I'm a bit worried about resources and how to manage them (e.g. what worksheets you should use in certain lessons, practicals being used).
How did you organise your resources when teaching? Did you make most of them yourself? Did the school allow you to borrow worksheets?

Also, what year groups did you teach and how many hours per week did you teach?

Thank you!
Good luck with your NQT year
Good luck for this September!

1) My schools both had pretty decent, well resourced schemes of work for KS4, and varying resources for KS3 (my second school had more for KS3 than my first) and I was allowed to use these as they were or adapt them for my classes. I also made quite a few things myself- but this can be really time consuming, so I tried to avoid it. I also nicked a lot of things from TES- sometimes I adapted them a bit!

In terms of organisation, I usually printed worksheets the day before if I could, and kept them in the staff room, then took them to the teaching room I was using them in at the start of the day- this was my ideal plan anyway! I'm sure you'll find a system that works for you!

Practicals are ordered from the techs about a week in advance(every school will have their own system) and they make sure they're in the right classroom at the right time! I occasionally brought my own resources (e.g. pipe cleaners) if the techs didn't have them.

2) In placement 1, I taught Y7, Y9, Y10 and Y12- I started off teaching just 1 class, and then build this up, taking on a new class each week until I was teaching about 50% of a teacher's timetable by the end of placement- about 12-13 hours a week (I had 50 minute lessons so not exactly hours).

In placement 2, I taught Y7, Y8, Y9, Y10 and Y12. I picked up my classes much more quickly, and was teaching about 65% of an ordinary timetable for most of the spring term. I think this worked out as about 14 hours 1 week, and then 16 hours the other. I went back to the same school for placement 3, but had different classes, and I taught about 50% of a timetable for this placement, and did some other enrichment things, like trips.

I hope this helps!
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thenextchemist
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(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
Good luck for this September!

1) My schools both had pretty decent, well resourced schemes of work for KS4, and varying resources for KS3 (my second school had more for KS3 than my first) and I was allowed to use these as they were or adapt them for my classes. I also made quite a few things myself- but this can be really time consuming, so I tried to avoid it. I also nicked a lot of things from TES- sometimes I adapted them a bit!

In terms of organisation, I usually printed worksheets the day before if I could, and kept them in the staff room, then took them to the teaching room I was using them in at the start of the day- this was my ideal plan anyway! I'm sure you'll find a system that works for you!

Practicals are ordered from the techs about a week in advance(every school will have their own system) and they make sure they're in the right classroom at the right time! I occasionally brought my own resources (e.g. pipe cleaners) if the techs didn't have them.

2) In placement 1, I taught Y7, Y9, Y10 and Y12- I started off teaching just 1 class, and then build this up, taking on a new class each week until I was teaching about 50% of a teacher's timetable by the end of placement- about 12-13 hours a week (I had 50 minute lessons so not exactly hours).

In placement 2, I taught Y7, Y8, Y9, Y10 and Y12. I picked up my classes much more quickly, and was teaching about 65% of an ordinary timetable for most of the spring term. I think this worked out as about 14 hours 1 week, and then 16 hours the other. I went back to the same school for placement 3, but had different classes, and I taught about 50% of a timetable for this placement, and did some other enrichment things, like trips.

I hope this helps!
thanks so much!

this has really helped!
I'm worried about teaching A-level, not so much on the content, but some of the exam questions are really confusing sometimes without a mark scheme!

I assume year 12 was the most easiest to teach in terms of behaviour management.

thank you once again!
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by thenextchemist)
thanks so much!

this has really helped!
I'm worried about teaching A-level, not so much on the content, but some of the exam questions are really confusing sometimes without a mark scheme!

I assume year 12 was the most easiest to teach in terms of behaviour management.

thank you once again!
Don't worry too much about A-level, in general you don't take over these classes in the way you do with lower years. The class teachers will still support you and be able to help you with anything you're not sure on- so if, for example, you say you're not 100% on A-level exam technique, they can advise you, or just let you do the bits you are confident with. Planning my Y12 lessons did take me a lot longer than planning my other lessons, though!

In some ways Y12 are easy to teach, but they can have their own challenges! For example, my first Y12 class were really quiet, and getting people to answer questions was like pulling teeth! In my second class, there were a few students who were really keen, but I had to make sure they didn't dominate all my time and attention- and sometimes students like to test you to make sure you really have the subject knowledge too!

In some ways Y12 were my easiest class to teach, and in some ways, my hardest!
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Random212
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Thank you so much!!

How much experience did you have before PGCE ? You seem like a very confident teacher!

If you dont mind, how did you pay for the course ?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Random212)
Thank you so much!!

How much experience did you have before PGCE ? You seem like a very confident teacher!

If you dont mind, how did you pay for the course ?
I didn't have much experience working in schools before the PGCE, but I did have about 2 years experience working with young people in a non-school setting (I don't want to say exactly what as it's a bit niche). It's not the same but it did help me a bit! I've always been good at faking confidence too! I do think it did help me that I had quite a bit of work/life experience before I started the PGCE.

I paid for the course with a fees loan and used the bursary to fund my living expenses (as well as saving a big chunk of it).
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Random212
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(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
I didn't have much experience working in schools before the PGCE, but I did have about 2 years experience working with young people in a non-school setting (I don't want to say exactly what as it's a bit niche). It's not the same but it did help me a bit! I've always been good at faking confidence too! I do think it did help me that I had quite a bit of work/life experience before I started the PGCE.

I paid for the course with a fees loan and used the bursary to fund my living expenses (as well as saving a big chunk of it).
Oh that's so good! I'm good at faking confidence too lol I was hoping it would continue to work.


Thanks so much! I've heard that it's a really tough busy course. Is it really that bad ? what did your day to day look like ? Being completely honest, did you have any time off or non stressful days ?
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thenextchemist
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When choosing a school to work at, what would you say is the most important aspect to look for?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Random212)
Oh that's so good! I'm good at faking confidence too lol I was hoping it would continue to work.


Thanks so much! I've heard that it's a really tough busy course. Is it really that bad ? what did your day to day look like ? Being completely honest, did you have any time off or non stressful days ?
If you can fake confidence and stay calm under pressure you'll be fine

It is busy, but there are ups and downs in your workload. I found it manageable, but there were some pinch points. In an average week, I tried to keep Saturday or Sunday completely free, but there were some weekends when I worked both days. Obviously you do have the holidays too, although I was interviewing and applying for jobs over my Easter break so not 100% stress free!

It's quite hard to describe an average day as things varied from placement to placement, and day to day depending on my timetable. At my second placement, I usually left the house just before 7, and got back between 5 and 6, with a 30-40 minute commute. I pretty much worked solidly all day at school with a short lunch break (whether teaching, planning, marking or something else) and then I'd usually do at least an hour of something at home too. I'd do about 3-4 hours work on one weekend day. On my first placement I had a longer commute, so I left the house earlier and got home earlier but did more work at home.

It is manageable (most people obviously manage it) but if you start to struggle, uni will often help out with extensions or telling you what to prioritise.
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by thenextchemist)
When choosing a school to work at, what would you say is the most important aspect to look for?
I think it's hard for me to answer this at this stage as I haven't started my NQT year yet and it might all be a terrible mistake.

I had a certain location in mind when I was looking for jobs, and it's an area of the country where getting a teaching job is still a bit competitive- so I basically went with the first school to offer me a job.

When I went for interview, I did feel really comfortable in the school though, so there's that.

I think it is important your ethos matches the school, and you feel comfortable there. I wouldn't choose a really "tough" school for your first school either! In my NQT year I want to learn from an experienced department that's getting good results. I also wanted a school with a clear behaviour policy. There are also a few academy chains (e.g. Harris) that have a reputation for treating staff badly which I avoided.

But although I think I like the school I'm not 100% sure I've got it right!
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Slowbro93
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How did doing the PGCE impact your personal life? Did you find it was tricky to maintain relationships throughout the year?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Slowbro93)
How did doing the PGCE impact your personal life? Did you find it was tricky to maintain relationships throughout the year?
Oooh that's a good question!

I moved to a new city for the PGCE for various reasons, and I did make lots of new friends through the course- but because we were all on the PGCE, we understood the demands on each others time and weren't offended if people were too busy to hang out. I did struggle to keep up with my hobbies during the year, although I know other people who managed this well. I would say I probably prioritised having a social life over hobbies- I'm not sure I could have managed both.

With my non-PGCE friends, I tried my best to stay in touch and saw some of them at Christmas and Easter- I think it helps that we are pretty scattered around the country and I met up with some if they came to the city I was living in.

From the people who were in serious relationships at the start of the PGCE, I think they all survived, but I do know some people's relationships which were long distance/less serious did break down- and I can see that the PGCE could put romantic relationships under a bit of stress. You'd need a reasonably supportive/understanding partner I think.
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Slowbro93
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(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
Oooh that's a good question!

I moved to a new city for the PGCE for various reasons, and I did make lots of new friends through the course- but because we were all on the PGCE, we understood the demands on each others time and weren't offended if people were too busy to hang out. I did struggle to keep up with my hobbies during the year, although I know other people who managed this well. I would say I probably prioritised having a social life over hobbies- I'm not sure I could have managed both.

With my non-PGCE friends, I tried my best to stay in touch and saw some of them at Christmas and Easter- I think it helps that we are pretty scattered around the country and I met up with some if they came to the city I was living in.

From the people who were in serious relationships at the start of the PGCE, I think they all survived, but I do know some people's relationships which were long distance/less serious did break down- and I can see that the PGCE could put romantic relationships under a bit of stress. You'd need a reasonably supportive/understanding partner I think.
Thanks for the insight I've started seeing one but they're about to start a PGCE (and I'm about to start a postdoc). I'm prepared to deal with them being super busy (we're already long distance), I just don't know how busy I guess!
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by Slowbro93)
Thanks for the insight I've started seeing one but they're about to start a PGCE (and I'm about to start a postdoc). I'm prepared to deal with them being super busy (we're already long distance), I just don't know how busy I guess!
I think the advantage of the PGCE is that there will be times when they are less busy (when not on school placement/during holidays) but when they are busy, they may be really busy! I don't know anyone who managed to not do weekend work when on placement, for example.

I think harder than the busy-ness is the emotional strain the PGCE can sometimes put you under. It is a really tough year and I think some of my friends didn't really understand why I was putting myself through it- but I think that can be the same with a PhD or PostDoc?

Hopefully you can empathize with each other and continue to make time for each other- Good Luck!
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Slowbro93
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(Original post by SarcAndSpark)
I think the advantage of the PGCE is that there will be times when they are less busy (when not on school placement/during holidays) but when they are busy, they may be really busy! I don't know anyone who managed to not do weekend work when on placement, for example.

I think harder than the busy-ness is the emotional strain the PGCE can sometimes put you under. It is a really tough year and I think some of my friends didn't really understand why I was putting myself through it- but I think that can be the same with a PhD or PostDoc?

Hopefully you can empathize with each other and continue to make time for each other- Good Luck!
Yep, pretty much. This last year of my PhD (submitting in September) has been some of the toughest points in my life and until I have that secure permanent contract, it will get better but I've been told not by much. So for example, we're seeing each other in a few weeks, but I've had to fit it around writing goals for example. Thankfully, they've been really supportive in understanding the emotional strain I'm going through, which most of my none PhD friends don't get.
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