On a night out with some friends from my PGCE course this week, we got talking about all the things that we’ve experienced this year that were completely unexpected, things that we wish someone had warned us about, and things that we think future trainee teachers should know. So, in the spirit of giving, here is our contribution to PGCE students of the future…
1. You will want to quit at least once. Probably in November, possibly in January and definitely in February. It’s a rite of passage, but don’t worry – if we all made it, you can too! In the immortal words of Dory, “just keep swimming”. We promise it gets easier.
2. You will experience every emotion humanly possible. Even some you didn’t know existed. When X-Factor contestants talk about “their journey” or the “emotional rollercoaster” they’ve been on, they’ve clearly never done teacher training. PGCE should actually stand for “Probably Gonna Cry Every day” …Just make sure you wait until you’re out of the classroom!
3. There’s more paperwork than teaching. And just when you think you’re done with paperwork, they’ll hit you with some more paperwork. Our advice: do it as you go along. Yes, it’s a faff, but it’s preferable to making up an entire years worth of mentor meetings in June when you have deadlines to be worrying about.
4. Many a relationship has failed due to the pressures of a PGCE course. It’s very hard not to become completely self-absorbed during your PGCE year – it’s a survival instinct. And unless you have a very patient and understanding partner, it’s likely they’ll start to get fed up with your inability to talk about anything but teaching and constantly being too tired for sex. Don’t even think about long distance or starting something new, and if by some miracle you do survive the year, be sure to treat them to a holiday somewhere nice to say thank you – I’m sure they will have earned it.
5. You need to make time for things other than teaching. Even when you have more work to do than you can even process, you need to take at least one evening off a week and think about something else. Your work is never done as a teacher – there’s always something extra you could do – and without some semblance of work/life balance you’ll burn out by Christmas.
6. Your coursemates will become like your family. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I don’t think I’d have made it through this year without them! Whether it’s a day in uni, texting, Facebook or a trip to the pub, they are the people that will understand exactly what you’re going through. They will let you talk about nothing but school, they will empathise with your essay stressing, and they will let you know that you’re not the only one on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Thanks guys!
7. Ready meals will become your best friend. At the end of a 12 hour working day, when you still have three lessons to plan for tomorrow, it’s unlikely you’ll have the time or energy to cook a gourmet meal. Now is not the time to be a food snob – a ready meal is better than no meal. And if you’re lucky enough to be in a school that offers a decent lunch, take full advantage!
8. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. From how much sleep you need to just how patient you really are, it’s a learning curve. Embrace it – knowing about yourself means knowing what works for you as a teacher, and will help you in the long term.
Overall, the main message is: It’s tough, but it’s worth it. You’ll work hard, be more tired than you ever thought possible, and yearn for that day in June when you no longer have to wake up at 6 every day, but when that day finally rolls around, you’ll feel like your arm has been chopped off. It’s a love/hate thing: I’m very thankful I never have to experience this year again, but I’m also super glad I stuck it out. Bring it on, NQT!