New guest blogger – Physics PGCE Student Teacher in London

This is the first posting from a brave student who is about to start a physics PGCE in London. Having graduated in physics earlier this year, our blogger aims to share his thoughts and experiences with you on a monthly basis – please do add your comments and share your experiences below too!

“Hi all. I’ve got days to go before I embark on my year long journey that is teacher training, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Teaching had always been an ‘if all else fails’ option for me, but a couple of years ago I gave it some genuine thought. I got some full-time work experience in a school after my second year exams and, I know it sounds very cliché, but every day was so different that I never got bored. Each and every day was a great challenge, and although I was tired at the end of every day, I was also so enthused. That was when I applied to do my PGCE.

Everybody told me that getting a physics PGCE place would be a walk in the park. I got rejected from my first choice university. Oops. I was the only physicist in an interview room full of biologists, they still had plenty of physics places to fill, yet they didn’t want me! They sent me an email giving me several areas of improvement for future interviews – my favourite was to increase subject knowledge, which I did think was a little harsh. I kept my chin up and looked forward to my next interview which I made sure I’d be much more prepared for. But then I got a second rejection a week before that interview. This turned out to be an administrative error, which was soon rectified and finally I secured a place.

I’ve been working all summer, so I haven’t particularly prepared for the PGCE yet – being asked to do this blog reminded me that I have a load of stuff I need to do, and I’m very glad I chose to finish my job a week before I start the course. My excitement is building up as I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow PGCE students and I can’t wait to find out what schools I will be working in. I really hope that I get two very different schools to get a better idea of what type of school I would like to teach in later on: maybe a challenging Waterloo Road style place and something more traditional like Hogwarts.

You might think that what I dread most about the coming year would be teaching chemistry or biology as I haven’t done either since GCSE. But believe it or not, I dread teaching KS3 physics the most. During PGCE interviews I realised how difficult it is to explain physics correctly whilst keeping it simple enough for a younger pupil to understand. At university, most concepts are defined by giving an equation – not helpful when trying to explain an alien concept to a year 7 pupil. It is also easy to end up explaining concepts wrongly when trying to simplify, so I think my biggest challenge will be to avoid falling in to this trap.

I don’t know what I will be writing about in my next post about the beginning of my PGCE, but I do know I will have a lot to report. So, I wish everyone who is about to start their teacher training the best of luck – I think we might, at times, need a handful of it.

Tags: , , ,


  1. sandra meunier says:

    It does reassure me a little. I was turned down after my first interview due to “subject knowledge” (i thought I had done quite well :S) – but then I actually graduated in geoscience. I have now been offered a place with the OU on a PGCE +SKE physics.
    good luck for the pgce.

  2. Dileep V. Sathe says:

    As you are going to teach physics PGCE in London, I suggest you to read my Letter to the Editor of Physics Education (bi-monthly of IoP) July 2007, title: “On Josie’s thinking” – because she left physics after learning it for one year. Feel free to contact me, for more discussion, using dvsathe[at]

  3. Ian Young says:

    Always rehearse any practical. Set up beforehand and try it out. Make sure it works.

    Speak to the Technicians, they can be your best friends. Find out how do you set the

    equipment up?

    This is the advixce I give any student or probationer.

  4. David says:

    I would echo Ian, make friends with the technicians very quickly.
    Avoid loudly dicsussing other teachers, or even pupils in the staff room.
    Have a great year, and when the going gets tough feel secure in the knowledge that after your NQT year it will often feel better!

    If you have already worked out that degree level explanations will not work for KS3 – you are heading in the right direction.


  5. Jim Titmuss says:

    I speak as a PGCE (physics) student who happens to have 4 years as a lab. tech. I know I have much to learn about teaching but from the technicians point of view :
    Always seek advice. Never reject advice out of hand just because you think you know better – if you can’t justify and explain why you don’t want to something a particular way when you’ve asked for advice you will likely alienate them – even just saying “I’d just like to see how it works out doing it this way” should help as it says that you value their advice.
    Trial experiments, when you have the technicians on your side they will give you the stuff, show you how to use it and give you tips on how they’ve seen it used (good and bad, do’s and don’t’s), and if you want them to be really helpful – Don’t trial it when you don’t have enough time to tidy it up.
    Remember these two points.
    1) The more wasteful you are of their time, the less they’ll be willing to do work for your benefit.
    2) The less you treat them as knowledgable adults, the more inclined they’ll be to leave you to your own devices.
    Take this as free advice from a technician.

Leave a Comment