Posted by: markhowell101 | July 30, 2010

Not Quite There – 10 things I wish I knew before my PGCE and NQT years

Having now got out the other side of my first year proper I thought I would reflect on 10 things I wish I knew at the start of this. Many of them are things which people tried to tell me, but I always find I have to make my own mistakes in order to learn, never have been great at taking the advice of others. So in no particular order

1) Not every lesson has to be perfect – Perhaps not true so much in PGCE as regular observations mean you have to be right on the money all the time. A mentor in my PGCE year told me that the way I planned lessons that year would be unsustainable on a full timetable. I was sure she was wrong, she was not. The hardest thing was accepting early on in my NQT year that sometimes you have to teach lessons knowing that you could plan a more engaging exciting version of it. But in order to have any kind of social life and keep a happy girlfriend you have to take nights off and you have to stop working allowing some time before bed to chill.

2) Don’t reinvent the wheel – Again I was told this by a Uni tutor almost 2 years ago and have only really realised lately how important this is. Throughout PGCE and the early part of NQT year I now realised I made extra work for myself by trying to jazz up lesson plans or school schemes of work that really were absolutely fine. I have learned that the process of improving SOW’s needs to an ongoing thing, do a couple a year rather than attacking all of them and trying to revolutionise geography overnight.

3) Enjoy the ‘buzz’ moments – As any teacher knows the best part of this job is the buzz you get from time to time. Generally these come as a result of hard work and planning engaging lessons where great learning takes place. Initially I took these for granted but have begun to saver and enjoy these times more and more often. I also try to make sure I get one of these a week. Pick an exciting lesson coming up with a good class and spend some time creating something they can really get into. However, the best thing about the buzz moments is that often the best ones are not preconceived.

4) Save some enthusiasm – I well and truly burned out the last term of the year. I went into both years so far with maximum enthusiasm and I have had none left by the end. This may be easier said than done but I will try hard next year not to burn out.

5) Organise a trip – My best school related experiences came from going on the ski trip every year. I half heartedly suggested early on this year that I would like to do one and then just thought oh I will never be able to organise something like that. Thankfully a friend at school kicked me up the backside and we now have 35 kids coming to Italy with us in Feb. Yes, the organisation and paperwork is massive but it really is possible if you get a team around you. I have also had a chance to organise and lead 2 fieldtrips the last 2 years which again requires lots of time but is greatly rewarding.

6) It is normal to be so busy that lesson planning reduces in quality – Speaks for itself really. I went through a phase of feeling bad for my classes that lessons were not as good as I wanted for a while whilst coursework etc was going on. I realised again that there are times when this just happens.

7) You can make an impact – Before starting this I assumed that it would be years before I had any impact on the school I worked at. I was wrong. Being the first out and out geography my school has EVER had has meant I have been able to exact big changes in the subject in 12 months. As a result next year we have an AS running for the first time ever with around 13 students. We also  have 2 classes of geog running at GCSE next year, another first. Both of these steps forward have come about as a result of me changing the profile of the subject in the school and this is greatly rewarding.

8) Sometimes hoops just have to jumped through – I made a big noise in PGCE (as did others on my course) about not just being box tickers. I have found this year sometimes you just have to do these paperwork, admin things and its less hassle doing them than kicking against them.

9) The idea is not to be perfect yet – I spent a lot of time this year and last being disappointed that I was not the teacher I wanted to be. I realised around Easter that that is never going to happen so early. It was a real watershed the moment when I realised that I will be as good as I want to be one day and for now that will have to do.

10) Kids are forgiving (in general) – What I mean by this is you can make mistakes, or try new things in lessons and they may go wrong. Provided you dont do this all the time, the kids will forgive you and you can start again next lesson as if nothing ever happened.


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