I graduated from Coventry University in 2007 with a 2.1 in Sociology. I decided to study the PGCE in Citizenship as I have always had an interest in teaching and Citizenship was a subject that I found new and exciting. I chose to study at Bristol because the University had such a track record in delivering excellent education in world class facilities. Also, Bristol is such a great city. I was drawn to it easily after the grey skies of Coventry – I remember Bristol being continually sunny!
All of the projects in Citizenship were exciting as it was a new subject then. Trips to London and to Cardiff were arranged and the support from the tutors was outstanding. I mainly enjoyed the placements, which were an opportunity to put our learning into practice. I was on placement, firstly, at the City Academy Bristol. I found it such a diverse school where the staff worked exceptionally hard to deliver brilliant lessons and resources for their students, who sometimes could be hard going. It was my first experience of teaching. I wasn't very organised, but was told that I 'had a presence to hold a class due to my energy.' That is something that I still try to put into my teaching five years down the line. I was inspired by the energy that my placement tutor had – she really wanted to make a difference to those she taught.
My second placement was at the Abbeywood Community School. This was a completely different kettle of fish and one that, at times, could be particularly challenging. I had a Year 8 Citizenship group that was completely out of control, but – after some hard graft and collaborative work with my mentor – I delivered a lesson where I could reward the students rather than dishing out consequences. I think the worst moment was when my trousers split from back to front when I picked something up in the staffroom and I had to hide the huge hole with 2 ring binders as I quickstepped my way to my car!
I would say that my course tutor Antonia Taylor had a significant impact on my development as a teacher. She pushed me at every opportunity to strive to improve and realise my potential. I was only 21 at the time and very assured of myself. She brought me down a peg or two and made me appreciate the opportunities I had by training at Bristol; it is her that I would thank the most.After leaving the Graduate School of Education, I took up a post as Citizenship Co-ordinator at St. Bernadette Catholic Secondary in Bristol. I stayed there for three years, taking up the post of acting head of Year 8. This was very challenging, but highly rewarding. I dealt with a lot of disruptive students and ran lunchtime detentions, sometimes for twenty pupils at a time. The year group was notorious for bad behaviour when I took them on, but, through working collaboratively with my tutors, we turned the year group around and improved their attitude towards learning. By the time I left, they had the best punctuality of any year group in the school! Some of the students were hugely talented and, as a Head of Year, it was always a pleasure to see them doing particularly well in their chosen extra-curricular activity.
From there I left at the end of the academic year 2011 and took up a post teaching English at the RMIT University Campus in Vietnam for six months. Vietnam was rather hectic, but this was not reflected in the students’ attitude towards learning. RMIT Ho Chi Minh City was very organised and efficiently run. Students in general were very respectful, but lacked skills when it came to working in group projects, which sometimes made for very repetitive work.
Since returning, I have been working at Colston Girls' School as a Psychology teacher – an experience that I am thoroughly enjoying. This post offers new challenges – I am teaching in an environment where expectations are high of both students and staff. However, the students have an excellent attitude towards learning; I feel that I am able to showcase my full set of teaching skills and am not just managing behaviour. It is a real pleasure to work in such a high achieving establishment such as Colston's, where students are encouraged to achieve irrespective of their economic background.
Studying at Bristol has taught me to aim high and to believe in my abilities as a teacher. The studies gave me a professional level of training of such a high standard. I am planning to continue in my role as a Psychology Teacher at Colston Girls' School, but would like to return to a pastoral role as a head of year soon.I would advise other postgraduates to be prepared – don’t waste your time in the Students Union as you're no longer an undergraduate! Learn to take constructive criticism but, more importantly, put it into practice. Be creative with your lessons and enjoy training for one of the most enjoyable yet demanding jobs.