I completed a BA Hons in History at the University of Bristol (UoB) in 2003. I then began a PGCE in 2006 and continued my MEd until February last year. I originally decided to apply for the PGCE at the UoB because I knew it had an amazing reputation. I really liked the supervisors on the PGCE course and was keen to continue my studies on the MEd. During my undergraduate degree I loved being at university but didn’t always love my academic work. Through postgraduate study I have found a new love for studying which makes me a total nerd and was the reason I wanted to continue. Also, I wanted to stay at the UoB as I wanted to build on some of the ideas I had begun to develop during my PGCE year around the use of ICT.
I chose to study at the UoB as I had thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate degree and have stayed ever since. I knew that the university has good links with local schools and wanted to stay in the city I love. I actually got turned down originally as I applied too late and went for an interview at the University of the West of England and got offered a place. However, the UoB told me that if I waited a year I could have a place on the course the year after. I liked the UoB so much I decided to wait it out.
I still clearly remember the first day of the PGCE course Jayne Prior made us stand along a continuum line of whether we wanted to teach history to teach content or teach skills. I stood firmly on the skills end as at that point I had some idealistic view that skills were the most important thing we could teach to students for their futures. Over the years and especially over my Master’s in Education this view completely changed. I embraced content and came to realise how naive I had been; as history teaching, as with many other subjects, is a careful dichotomy of both content and skills. The insight, experience and encouragement of Kate Hawkey and Jayne Prior over the years have made me the teacher I am today. I see them as my ‘history mums’ but don’t tell them that! They’ve constantly pushed me to strive for better and consider the implications of what I’m doing and how this impacts on my students’ learning.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working at the Graduate School of Education (GSoE). During my PGCE year I have fond memories of debates in the history room or sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee. I also have sadly happy memories of using the library at stupid o’clock in the mornings or evenings to desperately complete my never-ending Master’s dissertation.
Ever since my PGCE year I’ve been involved in the PGCE course. I started off running a workshop for History PGCE students on using ICT in the classroom and I’ve continued this for the last five years. In fact, as the years go on, I’ve become more and more involved. The school in which I have worked, Redland Green, is the test school for running trips in the summer and this year I became a PGCE mentor in my school. It’s also through Kate Hawkey’s guidance that this year I finally had the nerve to set up the Bristol Schools History Forum which is networking history teachers around the city and we just ran our first TeachMeet at the GSoE which was attended by over 70 local practitioners. Creating the Forum has made me extremely proud, since through this I have been able to see the impact of my work in other schools. I am now Key Stage 3 Coordinator for Humanities at Redland Green, a position in which I finally feel happy.
My study at Bristol has immensely influenced my career. The PGCE and MEd are grounded in academic research and instilled in me an ethic of constant reflection. This has hugely improved my practice as I still now leaf through research and constantly question what I could do to improve. I would say to people starting on a teaching career take any and all opportunities offered to you, engage in academic research and share, share, share ideas. Collaboration is the key to successful teaching and learning. This is a great profession filled with passionate and enthusiastic people.