PGDE Secondary Education - MathematicsAnthony McFadden, UK

Tell us a bit about your background...
I live in Gourock, about half an hour from Glasgow. Last summer, I graduated from Strathclyde with a Masters in Chemical Engineering so I was well acquainted with the campus when I started. As I neared the end of my Masters years I decided to apply for the PGDE and now here I am.

What inspired you to be a teacher?
I was always keen on the idea of being a teacher, it was one of about 30 careers I was considering as I was leaving school. I just wasn't sure if it would be at the start of my career or if I would see what engineering had to offer first. I've had positive experiences from tutoring as well as coaching at football teams and boxing clubs so I had a good feeling that teaching would be a rewarding career.

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were younger?
I was lucky to have a lot of really great teachers so it's hard to choose. Dr McGillen, my physics teacher, was brilliant and inspired me to push myself and pursue science and engineering. My modern studies teacher Mr McMahon had a great sense of humour and loved to get arguments going in his classes which I loved.

Why did you choose to study PGDE at the University of Strathclyde?
A friend who I went through the first four years of my undergraduate with completed the PGDE course last year and told me how much he enjoyed the experience. This coupled with my own experience of the university meant that Strathclyde was my first choice.

Did you seek any support during the application process?
As I say, a friend had recently completed the PGDE so it was helpful to have someone who was familiar with the process when I was applying. I'm still in contact with a teacher who taught me for a while so when I mentioned that I was going to apply he invited me to visit his school and was able to offer advice from a teacher's perspective.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
Having been at the university for so long I have too many memories to recall but from the PGDE year I've enjoyed meeting new people and being able to have a laugh with the lecturers. It's been different from my undergrad and I've enjoyed a lot of the topics discussed in the lectures and seminars like inclusion and anti-racist education.

Tell us about your experience on placement...
I really enjoyed being on placement, much more than I thought I would have. For the first two placements I was at Williamwood High School which was a huge school. The maths department was great and had loads of ideas which I'd never seen before. I was in St Stephen's in Port Glasgow for my last two placements. It was a much smaller school so it was easier to get to know the staff and pupils. Once again the department were brilliant with me and I knew quite a few of the teachers already, the PT in maths even taught me when I was in school! I learned a lot about classroom management and being there for the run up to exams meant that I felt invested in their career.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
I'd say to try to be relaxed, at the start it might seem quite daunting especially if you have been out of university for a while but try not to get bogged down with all the paperwork. Don't get too worried about planning lessons, that'll come with experience. Try to enjoy your time at university and on placement, you'll learn a lot but everyone there, both the lecturers and teachers will be more than happy to help. 

What have been your main challenges at university/in placement, and how have you overcome them?
I was never the most organised student so I've had to up my game in that respect. Getting used to being organised for every lesson was a challenge but I got to grips with it fairly quickly, if you go in unprepared the pupils will sense it right away!

What do you think of the support available during your course?
Everyone on the course was very supportive. The university lecturers are always on hand to offer help for assignments, as well as the odd piece of anecdotal advice for placement. In my experience from placement, the teachers are really supportive and genuinely want to help make you a better teacher. In most cases you'll have a mentor from within the department as well as the tutor from the university so you always know who you can go to if there's anything you need.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I try not to think too far into the future but I definitely have a more positive outlook as a result of deciding to pursue the PGDE.