PGCE blog: getting excited about science again and building up to the first school placement

This is the second posting (read his first one here) 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!

“I am a few weeks into my science PGCE and it has been brilliant, full of positive energy from both the students and the university staff. I’ve been immersed in subject content, teaching policies, schooling structures, teaching resources and lesson ideas – and I haven’t even set foot in a secondary school classroom yet!

My coursemates are a diverse set of individuals of various ages and backgrounds and careers, resulting in a great variety of ideas and opinions on teaching methods. It makes waking up each morning easy when you’re with a set of people who are so enthusiastic.

The best thing about the PGCE so far is that it has reinvigorated my interest in science. I’m noticing science in action everywhere I go, giving me ideas for potential lessons and examples of science in the real world. I’m also interested again in science documentaries. I’ve borrowed the Planet Earth series to increase my knowledge of the natural world so I have examples to draw upon within the classroom.

I have been surprised at the quantity of stuff to learn about before our first placements: the structure of schools, policies put in place to safeguard teachers and pupils, various media and resources in lessons and theories on learning. This is all in addition to the lessons dedicated to increasing our subject knowledge and giving us ideas on how to teach them well.

Our subject lessons are taught are in the style of a classroom lesson, setting us tasks in the same way that we would set them for our own pupils and giving us ideas for our future lessons. The other day, my group was given an extension task to complete whilst the rest of the class finished up – that took me back to my school days!

I’m so inspired at the moment that I dream of every lesson being out of this world, full of trips, experiments and games to get the kids fascinated in science. I hope that the beginning of my placement won’t be too much of a comedown. I know it’s not possible to go outdoors in every lesson to observe science at work, but I hope that each one will have something that will keep my pupils’ thirst for knowledge alive.

Much lunchtime talk between us PGCE students has been speculation about our placement schools. The moment we were told where we’d be, we scoured the internet for OFSTED reports and articles about the schools and their pupils. The placements vary enormously, with some in highly challenging schools in deprived areas and others in the most expensive private schools.

They will all present unique challenges and it’s going to be interesting hearing all the different stories when we’re next back together. As our first day approaches, emotions, excitement and nervous anticipation are building. But whatever the school, it seems that the most common fears are about classroom scenarios where the pupils just refuse to listen to us.

I’d say the first few weeks of the PGCE have been quite overwhelming but it has really helped to be with a group of people who are in the same boat. At the same time, I know that this is the calm before the storm because, despite being really excited to start my placement, very soon I’ll be walking into a situation where I will be the only new person in the room and everybody else will be in familiar surroundings.

The start to my PGCE year has been brilliant and it feels great being on the course. But I reckon the best is yet to come…