This blog was written by Alice Melly, who graduated from York in English Literature and is now studying for her PGCE in General Primary at Cambridge University.
If you are thinking of applying for a PGCE then have a look at my top tips to applying and attending interview!
Use Careers at the University of York. They are there to make your life after (and during) University as easy as possible. If you’re thinking of going into the teaching profession or education in any capacity, then I would very strongly recommend applying to volunteer with York Students in Schools.
Most institutions awarding a PGCE will require at least one full week in a school. This does not have to be a continuous week, they are aware that you are studying for a degree, but your time in school should add up to a week. A YSIS placement involves 10 half day sessions which, surprisingly enough, adds up to a week!
Try and get as much experience in state schools as you can. Whilst experience in an independent school can be beneficial (I mentioned mine at interview and pointed out the comparisons between that and state schools I’d been in), your experiences on a PGCE will be in state schools – the interviewers will want to know you have a realistic expectation of what you’re letting yourself in for!
You’re born with an ego so use it! Don’t shy away from your strengths and experiences at interview. If you have a passion for anything, whether it’s juggling or sewing then mention it, but try and think beforehand about why this skill will make you a good teacher. Does juggling mean that you are able to focus on a number of things (children!) at once; did your ability to sew come naturally or was it a struggle which you persevered through? You can link these to classroom experiences noting that even now we all experience things that are difficult, and if we find learning new things hard, then you can relate to children in a classroom faced with learning new things every day.
The personal statement needs to be personal and reflective. Mention any and every experience you’ve had with children but remember, don’t just list your life – tell them why babysitting will make you a good teacher, has it helped you understand how to calm children’s anxiety over missing their parents? Just know what to say in anticipation of something you’ve written about being pulled up at interview.
We all need to improve, and you will be asked at interview if you have any weaknesses you think will need to be worked upon during your PGCE. Maybe don’t blurt out ‘MATHS!’ quite as quickly as I did, but be realistic. If you don’t have a clue what ‘phonics’ is then say, if you know that maths sends chills down your spine then say. They don’t want people who are so brazen that they think they’re perfect – believe me when I say that the PGCE is a learning curve, you’ve got to be prepared to admit when you need to improve.
Don’t forget the skills tests! It is likely that you will find these hard, especially if, like me, you hadn’t done maths for 5 years. There are some brilliant books you can buy, websites you can visit and people at Uni who can help you. Just practise before-hand and you will be fine.
If WHEN you get an offer of an interview read through the information. I know that sounds daft but if they say you’ll have to prepare a short speech then make sure you practise and time yourself. It’s likely that your interview will involve a group interview. Don’t panic – every single person at that interview is going through the same emotions that you are! Just stay calm, hold on to your passion and be yourself.
In other words, use Careers, use YSIS, but most importantly, use yourself. It is YOU that the University wants – remember, the world needs teachers and if you’ve made it to the University of York then you are already half way there.
Read Alice’s regular blog about her PGCE experience, visit: http://prizesandpitfallsofapgce.wordpress.com