I studied the PGCE course at the University of Bristol in 1997-98. The course was, I remember, intensively demanding and satisfying in equal measure. I feel that I got to know myself as a person and as a professional during that time. The most important values that I took away with me were the fact that as a teacher you never stop learning, the importance of collaboration and the need to remain critical about one’s performance.
I valued Elisabeth Lazarus, Ian Gathercole and especially Terry Atkinson, for their infectious energy and their knowledge. One of the most important drives for me that year was the desire to please Terry as my tutor. I still remember the first time he came to visit, after I had delivered a very poorly timed lesson and I cried inconsolably; to the dismay of Terry who looked a bit uncomfortable with the whole situation. I was disappointed with myself, of course, but I was mostly disappointed about having let Terry down. His words at the time: “you will make an excellent teacher, Carmen” often resonated in my mind throughout that year and gave me encouragement.
I made very good friends during the course. It is often understood that you get close to people in times of struggle. I am still close to these friends today and the majority have remained in education, although in very different settings, so conversations are always interesting when we meet up.
Following the PGCE I went on to complete a Master’s at a different institution but I feel that I was not as positively stimulated and enthused during that course. I was keen to get back to teaching, which I did straight after completing the masters: I missed the action!
I loved being a secondary Modern Foreign Languages teacher; it is not an easy profession but it certainly is rewarding. After a few years in teaching, having tried management positions at different levels, I was ready for the next challenge - kids!
It was after having my first son, whilst looking for a more child-friendly post, that I applied for the position of part-time PGCE tutor, working alongside Elisabeth Lazarus and Allison Bolster at the University of Bristol’s Graduate School of Education. Walking down the same corridors and teaching in the same location was terribly exciting. I felt however a great sense of responsibility: I needed to enthuse and support PGCE students in the same way that my tutor had done for me. I had some big shoes to fill!
I love my job. I work with the most supportive and understanding of colleagues in an institution that I respect. What else could anyone ask for?