I studied A Level Maths whilst at school and my undergraduate degree, from the University of Nottingham, was in Economics. I applied for the Mathematics Secondary PGCE because Maths was my favourite subject at school and, despite having a degree in Economics, it was the subject I felt most eager and inspired to teach.
The balance of school and university-based time on the Bristol PGCE was spot on. I started with two weeks in a primary school, which confirmed my decision to teach at secondary level. But, more importantly, it enabled me to understand the level at which pupils arrived in Year 7. The school placements were very hands on. I was at Burnham-on-Sea and Gordano schools – both large schools. Gordano were superb.
This was followed by a large block of university work, focusing on mathematics teaching and other, wider issue. This was hard work but rewarding. I found some of the A Level concepts difficult, but was ably supported by my peers. Enjoyable projects included making 3D work (mine was kindly described as ‘robust’) and creating an enormous game of 4 in a row, combined with order of operations questions, for a local school. Stuart Guant was my excellent partner in crime for this. For the game, we taped the floor into a giant board grid – 8 by 8 spaces each measuring about a metre across. Pupils then had to solve Countdown style BIDMAS problems in order to move to adjacent squares. If they made it from one side of the board to the other they won. This was met with enthusiasm and no little skill when solving the problems – however there were a few tears when pupils had used the operations in the wrong order! I was also asked, along with four or five others, to return to Bristol the following September to give a talk to the new students. This was an enjoyable honour.
Undoubtedly, Jan Winter was my biggest inspiration at the Graduate School of Education. She and Laurinda Brown were an outstanding team; they planned everything meticulously and demonstrated excellent teaching practice in all they did. The manner in which they ran the PGCE Maths course was so utterly professional and organised, that it has certainly taught me how to best motivate those with whom you’re working. Jan’s clear style of feedback was efficient and helpful and I have since followed it when marking coursework in school.
After leaving Bristol, my first job was as a Maths teacher at King’s School, Gloucester. The preparation offered by Bristol undoubtedly helped me to secure this role. Having taught there for three years, I felt it was time for a change – I wanted to remain in an independent day school, but fancied one that was larger and would hopefully offer more opportunities for promotion. I worked at King’s School, Worcester for two years before applying for the role of House Tutor. In this position, I am responsible for looking after five members of staff and 100 pupils from Years 9 - 13. I am also teaching a wide variety of A Level and Further Maths modules. I have enjoyed writing UCAS references, running House camps and competitions and taking on regular assemblies. The school have been very supportive in enabling me to attend courses with the aim of developing my style of management. My next step will be to seek experience abroad and then apply for Senior Management Team roles, preferably with a pastoral remit.
I was very proud to complete the Teaching Advanced Mathematics course (as offered by the exam board Mathematics for Engineering and Industry). This gave me some Masters credits. I am proud to be the youngest House Tutor at King’s Worcester. I am enjoying my current managerial role and really like being able to influence children’s lives in an organisational sense – I feel it plays to my strengths. Perhaps such bossiness was noted by others during my PGCE!
Work hard, stay relaxed and keep things in perspective. Your lesson won’t be any better for staying up until the early hours planning. Don’t worry if you have a bad day – just learn from it.