Placement, routes in and applications – yet more PGCE advice

I’ve not submitted many applications I must say. I know myself and know that I’m probably much more suited to supply teaching than the constraints of a ‘forever’ job. It’s just the way I am. I don’t like company or office politics and the longer you stick around in any job the more involved in that you become and the more affected by that you become. I much prefer to flit in and out unaffected, doing what I want to do well (that’s teaching nowadays) and getting out before any rot sets in and detracts from my main purpose.

That’s not to say that I couldn’t last a year or two, I could but I know I would start to get itchy feet after 2-3 years.

I like to do a good job of whatever I do, my rule of thumb is “if I had no bills to pay, no mouths dependent on me to feed them would I do this for nothing?” and if the answer is yes,  then I know my heart is in the right place. I would teach for nothing. I have taught for nothing this past year and I put in extra hours, gleefully because I was learning and wanted to learn as much as possible and because I loved what I was doing and wanted to do more and more of it.

I just want to go back a moment and say that when I say as a PGCE student I “taught for nothing” I do of course mean only for no monetary reward, my payment in kind was priceless. I could not afford in a million years to pay for the training I received, indeed money would not buy it. I don’t mean just when I was observing or under observation by qualified, time served teachers either, I of course learned far more when I was in command of the classroom and there was nobody with me, when it was just me and the students.

I really think that if we feel that we are volunteers (I did a post on this a while back) or that we are free labour, or we are working for nothing then we really ought to be rethinking what has motivated us to enter the teaching career in the first place. If we are reluctant to ask or seize opportunities to learn even more because ‘we’re not getting paid for them’ we really do need to have a good long look at ourselves and ask if we are really suited to what is ultimately a service role that is not entirely about us, it is so much more about them.

Of course you have to be mindful of not being taken advantage of but then… you see I don’t think you ever could see it like that. Every opportunity you get to practice, learn, reflect and grow is to your advantage. If it gets too much and starts to detract from your learning experience then think about calming it down. If you feel it is unrealistic as a workload consider those around you who do this full time and consider if you are able to do this full time, perhaps the teaching role is more than you imagined it to be and you are not cut out for it.  Nobody said it is easy to manage, it will be tough but think about your expectations of what being a teacher involves before you make a decision to be one… and when you think you know what it involves increase that behind the scenes workload by at least double.

Getting back to the job application point of this post (at last!) imagine that day when you are asked to cover a colleagues class right after your own class, even though you are not that familiar with the subject, even though you only have ten minutes to prepare, even though you have never met the students before. Imagine you feel that it’s putting on you, taking advantage of free labour so you say no. Fast forward a couple of months to when you are filling in job applications or sitting in front of an interview panel. That box where it asks you to note any relevant achievements, or where it asks you to give examples of where you have faced a challenge, that question where they ask you to relate a particular challenge you overcame… won’t you be kicking yourself if you didn’t have much to say? How much more proud are you going to be to write or talk about the time when you were asked to cover a colleague’s class with only ten minutes to prepare, with subject matter you were not too familiar with, a class you had never met and you managed to deliver a confident lesson and more than that through your questioning and some discussion you were able to ensure that learning took place. Gaining experience is what the placement is about

Think ahead, that’s all I’m saying.

So my tutor said that I should see it as one of my new long term objectives for my ILP (which by the way is a living document, it didn’t die when I handed it in and I’m still working on it and from it and will forever be doing so) that I should seek to gain some experience teaching professional programmes. I’d not thought of that before, FE was where my heart was/is but I thought hey, why not give it a go… what does it mean? I found out what professional programmes are (and like most things realised I already knew of course I just didn’t know they were called that) and then to my surprise there was a vacancy for casual professional programmes tutors advertised at my local college/uni centre.. so I just applied.

But while I was doing that I got to thinking. If I had not done the PGCE and had done the new MBus course (I could have done the final fourth year as an add on to my BA with funding etc available) I could have done that, had a masters level qualification and maybe found a niche to teach in an FE’s HE department without needing the PGCE.

For me, it would perhaps not have been the best route as I really wanted and want to teach in FE if I can ever find a job (they tell you they are easy to come by because the sector has such high turnover but my experience of looking has been inconsistent with that myth) but for someone who wants to teach in HE it would be a much easier route and land you with a masters qual in business too. I can think of some people who would have liked that path if it had been open to them last year and now it is, still open to them this year.

There are so many ways into teaching and into jobs. This is what I’m trying to say. PGCE was without a doubt the right route for me but it might not be the right route for everyone. Working in FE and trying to get some casual/supply hours while searching is right for me, it might not be right for everyone. Think about what you are doing and why and how and keep your focus on the students, don’t let your ambition lose sight of your intent towards them.

 

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