I read this article today in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/jul/13/teaching-challenging-profession-career-teacher and found myself nodding in agreement by the end.
When I made the decision to teach lots of people asked me why I chose the route I chose, that is the PGCE route rather than just launching myself into teaching qualification and training-less, especially as I wanted to teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (LLS) where in some areas the need for a qualification is not necessary, although this is a very wishy washy area lately.
Even colleagues questioned the necessity of having an academic qualification and even of having a degree in specialist subject. I’m not the sort of person who likes to defend my decisions. I’m old enough and wise enough to have made so many mistakes that when I make a decision I put a lot of thought and research into it and even then I leave myself with options. So my choice to study for a PGCE was well grounded and well thought out.
Did I struggle with the paperwork towards the end? Yes. Did it at times all seem repetitive? Yes. Did I ultimately see the point of everything I learned, of the paperwork and of the hammering home of the need to reflect constantly and to build and work on a solid ILP? You can bet I did.
I was sure of my subject, I knew I had read extensively throughout my degree, I’m a natural reader, I read anything and everything and absorb information very quickly. I might not regurgitate it into learning outcome specific blocks of text but that’s because I’m a broad thinker and the confines of a BA spec are not conducive to broad thinking and development of ideas in the way my brain works. Not being able to pull a point to pieces and having to move on to the next point to meat LO’s isn’t my style but I did well to restrict myself and all of the reading never went to waste it all went into the memory bank. Coupled with my industry experience of management of people, processes, strategic planning, marketing, budgetary management and business administration I felt equipped to teach business to young people or to any people who maybe knew less than I did or who had a desire to learn in a theoretical way.
So that subject specialist knowledge wasn’t a problem for me.
I was confident in my high level of literacy and numeracy, of my appreciation of equality and diversity issues, of the need to embed employability having worked in employment and training advisory services in the past and also aware of my keenness to embrace the use of IT in all aspects of my life, of my understanding of sustainability and the need to filter that through into teaching.
So all of that added extra teaching and learning was not a problem for me.
I have presented for years, in front of small groups, large groups, conferences, on topics I’m not too familiar with and on subjects I’m fully conversant with, to people who were hearing a concept for the first time to professionals who were waiting to tear me apart with questioning and demonstrations of their expertise as soon as I finished. I’d been trained in presenting years ago. I had developed and delivered training for years, I’d been trained in the facilitation of groups which also stood me in good stead for delivering information.
So standing up in front of a group, structuring a lesson per say in terms of having a logical flow, the pace, the tone, confidence were not a problem for me.So why was I studying a teaching qualification? Why did I need to do it? That was the question I was asked so often. It was almost like people felt I was wasting my time.
The reason I studied a teaching qualification was that I had never taught a lesson to a group of students before on anything. This was new ground for me. I didn’t want to do as the guy in the article and so many others have done and go in blind. I wanted to understand how to do the things a teacher does properly so that I understood how to make things go well and how to avoid things going wrong or to at least know what to do to put things that were going wrong right again.
Also make no mistake, teaching is not presenting, they are two very different and distinct disciplines. I’ve seen teachers who present their knowledge and it is not teaching, it’s uncomfortable and ineffective. Studying a degree means you have to present knowledge as part of your assessment and to go straight from that presentation of information arena into a teaching arena means that the potential for presenting to take the place of teaching simply because it’s what the individual is used to is quite high in my experience and opinion. I think in my early days I perhaps presented to some extent but study on my PGCE soon knocked that out of me and the teacher emerged.
I wanted to be the best teacher I could be and how could I do that if I didn’t know what a good teacher was or what a good teacher does? How could I manage a classroom full of teenagers if I didn’t know how to? If I didn’t understand the characters, the dynamic, how adult learners absorb information and how they engage in learning? I could draw on my own experience of good teachers of course, I’ve been fortunate to have had a few in my time but I wanted to understand why I thought they were good teachers and to figure out how to replicate the things they did for myself.
I didn’t want to make it up as I went along, I wanted to feel informed and I wanted to feel supported as I started out on my journey. I didn’t want to just use the opportunity to falter, fail, let people down and use my first year of teaching to meet my own personal agenda, I wanted to have successful students who felt they’d had good quality teaching from me, it wasn’t just about me it was about them and also it was about my placement mentors and colleagues. I didn’t want to be a burden on them, I wanted to bring something to the department with me and add something not just take.
I wanted to learn about teaching and apply that learning and I wanted to experience teaching and make sense of that experience through reflection and relation to theory and that was how I chose to develop myself as a teacher and that was why I chose to study a teaching qualification and be trained as a teacher before I officially became one.
If someone like me, mature, confident, able and used to dealing with young people and older people alike felt the need to study a teaching qualification before I became a teacher then perhaps someone less equipped might need to consider that too.
At the end of it all did I regret my decision? No. I still feel that it was the best route for myself, it prepared me well and equipped me with so many skills I would maybe never have learned or which would have taken me years to learn. I would have adopted coping mechanisms to get me through, like the guy in the article did, but ultimately they would perhaps see me crumble under the stress as he did. It was better to learn how to cope and factor in coping mechanisms BEFORE I was a teacher rather than while I was a teacher.
I undoubtedly made the right decision… for me and if sharing how I arrived at my decision to select my route into teaching helps anyone reading this who isn’t sure then that’s great and having read the Guardian article reassures me that I did the right thing.