NQT blog: Beginning my second placement and a job offer

This is our latest posting from our student physics teacher (read his last post here) He’s just about to start his second placement.

“My second placement will be in a large mixed inner-city comprehensive. It has a dedicated physics department, so unlike my previous placement, I will be amongst a large group of five other physics teachers and also another physics PGCE student. Also unlike my previous placement, I will be teaching predominantly physics from Y7-Y13. I am looking forward to teaching my specialty subject in greater depth to a greater level. This will be a new challenge for me, and I really hope I get the opportunity to work some cutting edge physics research into my higher level classes.

So I was very excited when, after the pre-placement visit, I saw there was a job advertised in the department. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I agreed with the school’s ethos, I’d seen what new policies and schemes it was driving forward and it ticked so many of my boxes: a good strong aspirational physics department, excellent location for commuting, a strong and experienced leadership team and well-enforced teaching and learning policies and procedures. Even though I hadn’t begun my second placement, I could see this was the school for me.

I drafted a personal statement and asked my university personal tutor to check it. I’m really glad I did because I got some excellent advice as to how to improve it. In particular, I realised that my personal statement was an advert for starting a PGCE rather than showing what I’d learned as a PGCE student.

It worked and I was invited to an interview session at the school. This involved a meeting with all the candidates and the headmaster, who gave us his vision for the school for the next few years and described the many successes of recent years.

This was followed by the most nerve-wracking part of the day – each candidate had to lead a 15 minute mini-lesson. I had been asked to teach diffraction, so I came up with a plan to show a ripple tank experiment involving take-away tubs and tuning forks. Ideally, I would have tried it out a week before the interview, but as I only had three days warning of what my lesson would be, I only tested it the night before, and of course, I couldn’t get reasonable results so I had to plan a new lesson from scratch.

After pulling out most of my hair, I came up with a new idea and went in to the lesson armed with a bundle of colourful pipe cleaners. We spent the 15 minutes making a variety of diagrams using the pipe cleaners and – despite computer problems (typical!) – I managed to pull off a lesson that I hoped would be good enough.

The final part of the day was a panel interview: four senior staff, one candidate and a room that felt like it was getting stuffier by the second. I was quizzed on many aspects of my current teaching pedagogics and also whether I was disappointed by my grades from university (I was not, but the question caught me off guard!).

Luckily, the day must have gone well as the following day I was offered a position at the school! I said yes, with a big smile on my face.

So my placement starts in a week and I have to say that knowing that the school has chosen me, rather than just being placed there randomly, is a nice feeling. At the same time, there is additional pressure associated with it. They seem to have high expectations of me and I’m already being included in departmental emails preparing for the next academic year – including a training weekend in Scotland – which does add to the pressure of the PGCE.

It is a big relief knowing that I have a job for July. Applying and preparing for interview is very time consuming and stressful, so I’m happy to have that done with before it all gets hectic again in school. Hopefully I will continue at the school in July, as long as I pass my PGCE and gain qualified  teacher status (QTS). This is great as I will have a salary over the summer and I should be well-prepared for working in the school as I will have had plenty of experience from my placement.

I should point out that I was the first to get a job on my science PGCE course. Now (mid-Feb), I think one other person has got a job and a few more have begun applying and have had interviews.  Most of the PGCE students I have talked to are looking to get a couple of weeks in their next placement before deciding what types of schools to apply for. We have been told not to panic about job hunting (especially physicists and chemists) as most jobs will start going up in March/April time. The impression I get is that panic time is in May.”