Summertime and the livin' is easy... It may seem hard to believe, but my year as a trainee teacher has officially come to an end! I finished school last Friday - just in time for the heatwave - and am currently sat at my desk with a cup of tea and a fresh trim, having spent the morning reading and sunbathing. If this isn't a holiday, then I don't know what is. This is the first blog post I have put up in approximately 2 months; as you can imagine, life got pretty busy over the course of June and July, but I'm back now and thought a blog post summing up my PGCE experience would be timely. Where to start?
I left you all at the end of February, when life was dark, dreary and I was about to embark on two very different placements. One was my other age phase placement, during which I spent 4 weeks trying to keep a bunch of rowdy Year 6 pupils at bay. My other placement was at a different school, and I was in Year 2. Both of these placements taught me A LOT, and I came back to my main class with a slightly different perspective. Year 6 was challenging. I can't decide whether this placement was the most difficult part of the year, or whether it was the last half term back in my main placement class that was most intense, but either way, it was eventful. The Year 6 class had a lovely teacher who had seen them through half of Year 5 and into Year 6, so they were very much used to her way of teaching. As an outsider, they acted pretty indifferently towards me, and there were only a handful of pupils that I got to know well and who I really enjoyed working with. By this point of my course, I was teaching a fair amount each week, and the pressure was on to collect as much evidence from this placement as possible (I had a bit of a scary moment during which I realised I needed to be a bit more proactive with accumulating stuff to put into my e-portfolio.) I was pretty organised during this time, and threw all my efforts into my observations and taking pictures of pupils' work. The class had a lot of big personalities, and their relationships with one another were not the most wholesome. In short, there was a lot of bickering, some more serious problems relating to social media usage, and one particular day during which I was left alone with them and (somehow) managed to get through a morning of lessons with just the TA to help. This was the first and only point in the year when I was reduced to tears because things Got Too Much, and we had a bit of an incident, but it was dealt with quickly and smoothly. I reflected on it and instead of feeling guilty, realised that this was a perfect example of Trying Something And It Not Working. These moments are great for teacher reflection - not so great in the moment, but you can learn from them after you've had your crushing mental breakdown. After this placement, I sallied off to a different school and met the loveliest bunch of Year 2 children I had ever encountered. What a completely different experience! This transition reminded me that it's good to see different places at work - you can get very comfortable in your own environment and forget that not every workplace is the same. The Year 2 kids were very respectful, very well-behaved and for the most part had positive relationships with one another. The school itself was very cute and laid-back; it was an infant school, which meant it was smaller than most primary schools. Here I got thrown into the world of KS1, and lemme tell you, it was very different! The work may be simpler down in KS1, but as a teacher you've still got things you need to put in place - children are still learning to read fluently, how to be social, the building blocks of mathematics...it's a crucial period of time, in essence. I could no longer just expect the children to get what I was saying and follow my instructions - EVERYTHING had to be explicit and repeated about 300 times. I also had to be conscious of how I was speaking to them and what I was modelling to them (at one point I legitimately convinced half the class that I was born during the Great Fire of London. How far was I supposed to take it before admitting the truth?! These are the dilemmas you are faced with down in the world of 'my name is Poop' and tears after every minor inconvenience.)
Even though the time at my second school was lovely and wholesome, it was also becoming increasingly stressful because...I started to look for a job. Everyone in my cohort was stressing. We still hadn't met each other yet (lol) and were also in the midst of finishing our second assignments (I banged mine out during the Easter holidays so ya girl was cushty. Just call me Miss Organised.) Emotions were running high and I was conflicted about where I wanted to be, however decided that it would be wise to apply for the school I was training at. Luckily, this worked out great for me as I got an interview and then, eventually, a job! Once I had secured the job, and my placements were over, I felt a lot, lot better. I assumed that the most stressful period of time had passed and was quite positive about going back to my main class. Things, however, had changed considerably, including the children, so I was in for a bit of a surprise.
To give you some context, Covid-19 had majorly f*cked up the year (this won't be news to you.) Dealing with multiple bubble closures, isolation from other members of staff and a lack of fun activities was bad enough, but of course the most distressing thing was the impact on the children's learning. They have been, and will continue to be, 'behind.' Some of the teachers at my school are now out of class and are instead carrying out interventions for groups of children. My class teacher and mentor is one of these teachers, so when I came back to my main class at the end of May, there was a new teacher in charge. We worked together up until the end of term, and I don't know what it was, but these were some very tough weeks. The teacher and I had long discussions about how the children's behaviour had changed and what we could do to keep things in the class positive, but we were quickly running out of steam. The tiredness really did kick in - as well as the sense of overwhelm at having nearly finished my course. It had been a long, eventful year. Luckily, just when I thought it wouldn't happen, I got to meet a bunch of people from my teaching cohort. We had the nicest afternoon and went out for drinks in the evening, and I cannot explain how weird it was to see them in real life (it's kind of like bumping into a celebrity on the street. You know it's them but seeing them in the flesh is uncanny and kind of shocking.) I also met the class I'll be having next year, and it really made me feel strange! Transition day is always a bit nerve-wracking - for both pupils and teachers - but my class are absolutely lovely and I think I'll definitely have a good first year with them. Anyway, that's to think about in September.
Right now, I'm enjoying 6 weeks of pure, unadulterated bliss. We may still be in a pandemic, but I am sure as hell going to enjoy myself. How would I sum up the whole experience? Well, I mentioned this in my previous blog post, but I think you definitely get out what you put in. A lot of people told me that it would be the hardest year of my life, and I think it has been the hardest year of my life, but not because I had no social life or was staying up until 3am lesson planning. It was hard because it was new, unchartered territory. It was hard because I had to learn very quickly. I had to adapt to different situations, to different people, to different circumstances, particularly when schools shut. It was hard because there was a lot of paperwork to do that would not have been an issue had I not been a student. It was hard because children are exhausting and demand attention and are vulnerable and you need to keep them safe but also maintain your own mental wellbeing. As a teacher you juggle a lot, and this is quite overwhelming if you haven't worked full-time or in the public sector. Having said that, it was incredibly rewarding and stimulating and I was never, ever bored. I think I threw myself into it, which is what you need to do. I didn't sit around wishing I was somewhere else (except the pub) or wanting to give up because it was too much; it only sort of encouraged me to do... better. Which I guess is a good sign, right? I think I definitely have a lot to give, and I will definitely get a lot out. Aaaaand...what a nice circle back to the beginning of the paragraph. Damn, it's almost like I'm good at writing or something. I would 100% encourage you to go ahead with it if you are considering a PGCE. I also think doing it through a SCITT is the best way to go as you are learning on the job. Maybe I'll do a Q&A video? We shall see.
Watch this space for more teacher-related blog posts...I'm sure I will have many fun, weird and wacky stories to tell you all!