PGCE “punch the air” days, and worse.

About this time last year I was revelling in the joy of my first ever taught lesson. That lesson was exciting, a bit crazy and lots of fun. It went as well as could be expected… no, really, I was treated to some mentor feedback containing the words “the best first lesson I have ever seen”. Today I call that a “punch the air” day. But.. trust me, teacher training got much harder after that, and included one lesson I will never forget.

I had asked the students (year 8) to complete a task in Excel and print it out, forgetting that a full print would be 6 pages. Each. Times 30. And I asked them to start printing with 5 minutes left. And there were no names on the printouts.

So, as my mentor sat watching and yes, quietly laughing, at me trying to organise a queue for the printer… I realised…  Teaching is a rollercoaster. Some days you’re up there, in control, conducting an orchestra of kids, all making progress. Other days nothing will work and the music will sound awful. That day I went home feeling pretty down, and wondered if I’d have “kicked my dog” if I owned one, I felt so bad (trust me I’d never really do this 🙂 )

Don’t worry if you have a “kick the dog” day. Know that you tried your best. Reflect, get advice, change things, fix it for next time. The only bad teacher is the teacher that repeats mistakes, the teacher that doesn’t reflect, refuses advice, rejects growth. Be the teacher that reflects on every experience, learns from their mentor and other teachers and changes things up for the next lesson.

I’m now an NQT (yay!) in a great school with loads of support. But I remember that first placement fondly. I’m greatly indebted to both my first mentor and my tutor for this reason… they both knew I was not the finished article, not by a long chalk. However, they also knew that I could be a decent teacher, given half a chance and the right support. And they did what was necessary, gave me the advice, encouragement, coaching, and crucially, the criticism needed to progress as a student teacher.

So if you’re on PGCE now I say this. Be that crazy, exciting teacher. Enjoy your first lesson and many more. Try everything, especially whatever excites you. And be ready for feedback. Listen to feedback, take criticism. And reflect on it. Remember, your tutor and mentor are already good teachers and know what works, but they do understand you’re an individual and have great ideas. So they are trying to bring out the best teacher that exists within you. Be passionate but humble.

And be prepared for “kick the dog” days, but get through them by saving up memories of “punch the air” days. Write a blog, keep a scrapbook, write a diary. Make a social media group for your course or of similar student teachers and chat there., and celebrate successes on it. Call your friends or your Mum if you’ve had a good day. Mark it on the calendar. Because you’ll need the memories of the “punch the air” days to get you through the “kick the dog” days.

Teaching is a rollercoaster, exciting, a bit crazy and lots of fun. Like you.





By mraharrisoncs

Freelance consultant, teacher and author, professional development lead for the NCCE, CAS Master Teacher, Computer Science lecturer.

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