I had a varied background before coming to the Graduate School of Education. Not overly successful at school, I gained seven GCSEs and only two A-levels to get through clearing to University. That was where I discovered my love of Spanish. Through Liverpool John Moores University, I spent a year in Murcia, Spain and was ecstatic to finally gain a 2:1 in my degree. After University I worked in recruitment and then for an exports company during which I re-sat my French A-level – not an easy task at the age of 25. I passed with good results, which allowed me to get a place on the PGCE at Bristol.
I chose to study for a PGCE because I needed a career direction and teaching became the focus. My wife and various friends all had the fortune to study at Bristol’s Graduate School of Education and their feedback was wholeheartedly positive. The PGCE at Bristol was accessible and was rumoured to be the best course in the country.
I liked the balance between university and school time at Bristol. Time at the university allowed us to prepare and reflect on our experiences whilst school time allowed us to realise everything we had analysed/evaluated/talked about/debated/practised. I hugely valued my two school placements – both incredibly different in their own ways but both well chosen to allow me to grow as a teacher.
Merchant’s Academy has certainly made me the teacher I am today. I remember Bristolians reacting to the name of my second placement, alluding to the fact that this would be ‘tough’. It was tough, but it was so incredibly beneficial to be in an environment where students would not react to standard teaching, I had to think ‘out of the box’ and Carmen Garcia (my PGCE tutor) was with me every step of the way.
My tutors (Elisabeth Lazarus, Carmen Garcia and Allison Bolster) were without a doubt my biggest influences. They taught us how to ‘teach’, without preaching. The experience allowed my cohort to grow as teachers, but also as personalities in our right. There was a clever balance between theory, guidance and trial-and-error learning.
I particularly remember the day the PGCE students took over Year 9 at Bradley Stoke Community School. In retrospect, to think that we taught completely new content to 240 students that we had never met before, in a completely new language, was astounding. It was the ultimate preparation for any teaching job interview. We were ‘fired up’ and hugely treasured the experience. I also cherish the final days at the Graduate School of Education where we made a foreign short film – I still use the actual film and the ideas from the process with students today.
Since leaving Bristol, my career has gone from strength to strength. I got my first job as a languages teacher at a new school. The confidence I gained from my PGCE course has certainly allowed me to seek out opportunities – I have set up a language GCSE and an NVQ (and have become an assessor), I became a Head of House, raised money for the charity Help for Heroes, led a whole school inset and set up trips to France and Spain. I have been involved in Comenius and British Council projects – including France, Germany, Spain and Japan. I have also been heavily involved in data and intervention work.
After working at my first school for three years, I gained my current position as a Head of Faculty at Commonweal School, Swindon, taking over from someone after 28 years. I now line-manage six other teachers and I have a deputy Head of Faculty. The Graduate School of Education changed my life. I now do something that I never would have thought possible five years ago.