What to expect in week one of a PGCE

I’m writing this on Sunday evening, tomorrow is my actual course introduction so I’m not an expert by any means but my plan, and hope is to be able to find the time each week to sit down and gather my thoughts as I take on this PCGE year and train to become a teacher. If you have only just found my blog then welcome, I’m a single mum to a four year old who by sheer alignment of the planets is also starting school this week in reception.

I like many people lost my job in the midst of the pandemic, despite this I actually quite enjoyed lockdown. Being stuck at home and having the stress of the corporate career lifted meant that I suddenly had the time to do lots of things which I enjoy – from baking to crafts and redecorating my entire house (twice over). In fact blogging was also added to that long list of hobbies and so here we are. Back in December I had the realisation that I wanted to change my career entirely and it made complete sense for me to head back to University and train to teach Design and Technology.

Week one for me began officially last Monday, but the Friday beforehand I enrolled (online) and got an email about an ISE: Initial School Experience, along with a booklet to print off and complete during this first week.

I read the booklet and thought I understood the tasks and then I arrived in school on Monday and almost instantly forgot everything. With so many new faces to meet and a huge school to find my bearings in I was slightly overwhelmed but I just went with the flow of things. I met the staff in the department, who were busy putting the finishing touches to notice boards and resources and so I tried my best to pitch in and help out. I had plenty of time to chat whilst mixing up some fabric dye. Only a couple of the year groups were in school so it was fairly quiet, and I managed to ease in gently on my first day.

One thing I did notice is that I was introduced to all of my teacher colleagues by first name and then of course I had to clarify their second names before lessons later on in the week. In fact there was so much information I was glad to have my notebook and pen to scribble into during lessons when I was observing. Being the first week there was also lots of opportunity for me to learn about the dynamics of the school. I feel as though I understand the uniform policy, school behaviour policy and all sorts of other policy’s. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I said “wow things have changed since I was at school!”

PowerPoint presentations instead of a blackboard is new to me, as is a “hands down” policy with seating plans for every class and teachers directed to engage all students with interaction during lesson time. Homework set online is also a novel concept – I remember frantically scribbling down questions and details in my planner using tiny hand writing so that I could get down all the details and hauling huge textbooks around with me – now pupils have everything they need online.

Luckily I had the opportunity to shadow a wonderful mentor who helped set me up a timetable for the week which would help me cover all of the written tasks and spend time across the department. My host school covers all aspects of the Design and Technology curriculum: food, textiles and product, from year seven Key Stage Three, right up to A level. It was confirmed that I will be spending my first placement after a October half term in the same school and so I made a note of the exam boards and relevant information so that I can try to find the time to brush up on my knowledge.

I spent most of Monday evening talking to friends about the day and sharing my excitement and then I remembered to read my booklet and double check exactly what I was supposed to be observing in school. I had five tasks … plus a bonus challenge to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on learning, which fortunately came up in conversation a lot. I started to think of questions I wanted to ask and read a couple of chapters from the reading list books which helped me figure out a good way to make notes during observation of classes.

Tuesday morning I got myself in to a year group assembly and a fire drill and suddenly the nostalgia kicked in. I’d forgotten what it was like to sit silently in a hall and finding myself in the position of teacher instead of pupil felt so strange. I couldn’t help but feel emotional and inspired when a video clip of a Michelle Obama speech was played to motivate the pupils at the start of their term. I started to think about the way in which the teachers I was observing were engaging their pupils and made mental notes to save up quotes for future reference.

Moving between classrooms and navigating the layout of the school was a huge challenge but I managed to get myself everywhere I was supposed to be on time. I even found new year sevens asking me for directions so even though inside I felt like a fish completely out of water, it made me feel better to know that the pupils thought I knew what I was doing. In classrooms pupils started to ask me questions too, at first I wasn’t sure if I should just be silently observing, but eye contact and a gentle nod from my mentor teachers gave me the all clear to engage with pupils and I found this most beneficial to my experience.

I really enjoyed lunch, hidden behind the department, there’s an external door which leads to a secret garden, partially tended by the technician. I sat outdoors in the September sunshine with my new colleagues to eat my packed lunch (I’m still trying to eat healthily) With apple trees and rhubarb growing, and a huge stash of wooden pallets saved for a man upcoming project , and even a nest of foxes living under a storage container this outdoor space is the kind of space prospective Design and Technology teachers like me dream of, (I’ve already planted an imaginary herb garden, and thought of the best recipe for blackberry and apple pie) – the possibilities ahead are mind blowing. Of course this daydreaming and getting ahead of myself lasted only half an hour because back to back lessons commenced for the rest of the day. I did end up making toffee apples this weekend at home though.

I got to see my fair share of uniform policy violations last week and so made a mental note of these as part of my written task to observe behaviour management. I was also interested in seeing the differences between the classroom approach with year sevens in their first ever DT lessons in comparison to pupils who have chosen the subject as a GCSE option and are starting their course – in terms of expectations and structure of the lessons there was so much for me to write about, just the way in which pupils enter the classroom, get their equipment out and sit ready for lessons is poles apart.

After each day in school I made sure to go though my written tasks booklet and complete as much as I could as I went along. So many new things happened every day that I think it’s important to get myself in to this good habit so that I don’t end up forgetting any important relevant details. I also found myself sitting in the car park an hour early each day, re-reading chapters of my textbook and gathering my thoughts before school. The environment is so busy and the school day flies by so quickly that making this time and space and time for myself is going to be vital.

I’ve just finished spell checking my workbook and have emailed it across to my tutor for tomorrow’s deadline. I’ve also noticed that I have access to my full course online so I’ve had a bit of a look through – I have a calendar which is so busy it’s scary and seeing so much detail right now I feel a little overwhelmed. With my life timetabled up until next Summer I feel as though I’m going to look back at this blog post and feel like I’ve blinked and it’s flown by. Tomorrow morning Is my first whole course lecture. It’s online but I’ll have more of an idea of exactly what is required (I hope) in terms of written assessments and course assignments to complete.

I’m going to be spending the next eight weeks or so in University before heading back to school again, and I’ll share what I get up to along the way.

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