a centenary
of Learning

  • 25
  • by Matthew Clemas
  • graduated
  • studied PGCE English
  • from UK

From my experience in youth work I found I really got a lot out of the pastoral side of relating to teenagers.

I went to Lancaster University and did English literature. I then spent a summer doing TEFL. So teaching English to foreign students who came to England and then from that I spent four years doing church based youth work on a full-time basis. Then through that I came to Bristol.

I really enjoyed English at university. I really enjoyed the teaching side of it I did that summer. Then through my experience in youth work I found that I really got a lot out of the pastoral side of relating to teenagers and it was really just a combination of those two together really. I really enjoy English and I really enjoy working with teenagers, and so teaching became the obvious thing to do.

So, I looked at a few different courses and I think Bristol in terms of location, in terms of the quality it had been judged to be – that was the place I wanted to study. I enjoyed the university side, in terms of all the theories and being taught how to teach and learning about learning. But I really enjoyed getting into the classrooms and actually being able to put across some of these ideas. To see how some big overarching theory of education actually relates to a year nine pupil.

I think a lot of it is making the students see value in what they’re producing. There can be a danger that they don’t really see any point in doing English and they are never going to get a C - so what’s the point in what you’re doing? But actually helping them value their work, whether that’s through presenting it to their peers or giving them lots of critical feedback. If you are praising somebody for something you appraise them as a person. You say ‘I’m really happy with you for what you have produced’. Whereas if you’re trying to pick someone up on something, you’d make a separation between what you are criticising and them as a person. So you wouldn’t say ‘I think you’re really bad at English’ but you would put it in the context of: ‘I really like you, I think you are a really good person to have in the classroom, but when you do this, this has a negative effect on the class or on your work’.

The University has been really helpful in terms of helping me through the interview process with schools and tutoring me through the kinds of things to expect. So I have a job I am going to now in Bradford-upon-Avon. I think what it has really taught me is there is always going to be stuff to learn about teaching and I never want to get to the stage where I feel like I’ve made it because there is always going to be the next class. I can have this amazing year ten lesson and then that’s finished after an hour and a quarter and then I have year eight who will come with a completely different set of issues and needs. I think just learning to deal with classes on a class by class basis but also starting to think about how my role as a teacher – how do I want it to develop? And so, thinking about what I have done in my previous job and youth work, what kind of skills I have learnt there, that I can both bring into the classroom but also in terms of career development think what parts of school life (because there is so many different paths you can take as a teacher), what kind of roles do I think I could play a large hand in?

One of the really nice things actually I think about the whole process is seeing that not that many people actually want to become head teachers. It is not as if there is this big race to the top but it is actually finding what your path is going to be. What do you think you can bring to the career? What gaps in schools do you think your impact can be a part of filling?