PGDE Secondary Education - EnglishConnor Niven, UK

Tell us a bit about your background…
I was born and raised in Ayrshire. It was during my third year at secondary school when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. After leaving secondary school I went straight to university, but I was far too immature at 17 to do the work needed to get a degree. So I ended up dropping out of my English Literature degree after my second year and going into the world of work. I worked for two years and decided it was time to restart my education but this time I did it through Open University. After three years of intensive full time study while working full time I finally graduated with my English Literature degree with honours. It felt great to be one step closer to becoming a teacher.

What inspired you to be a teacher?
Being anything other than a teacher hasn’t been an option for me. My inspiration for being a teacher came from my own teacher who taught me my Standard Grade English. Her passion for English and teaching was inspiring and ignited my desire to study English further and then mirror her amazing teaching style in my future career. The thing about teaching is that you really need to want to teach and have a love for your subject. The kids you teach pick up on this. When they have a teacher who really wants to be there, like mine did, it can create a huge change in their life and I want to help contribute to that change.

Why did you choose to study PGDE at the University of Strathclyde?
There has always been a sense of prestige around doing a PGDE at the University of Strathclyde. They are not shy about the fact Strathclyde is the most in-demand for teaching and the teachers they produce enter the profession with all the knowledge and skills needed to do the job well. Since being a teacher is such an important job, I wanted to give myself the best start possible and thought that studying at the University of Strathclyde would be a good foundation for the rest of my career.

Did you seek any support during the application process? Please tell us about this.
Before applying for the course I had done two years of work experience at a local school, going in for one full day a week. I asked the teachers at this school to support me with my personal statement and also give me my reference. This work experience proved invaluable to helping me with my application because I already had an idea of, not only the rewarding side of teaching, but also the many challenges that teachers face on a daily basis. On top if this, I also contacted the University to make sure that they would accept a degree from the Open University. One of the tutors here then called me back and discussed the course in detail which was extremely helpful for me making my decision to study at the University of Strathclyde.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
The people. Being on campus is hard work: we need to learn a lot in a very short period of time. The support network of peers that result from the course is so important. The PGDE is not easy: it can often feel like you are struggling but being able to chat, laugh with and get to know others going through the experience is needed to help you through it.

Tell us about your experience on placement…
Placement is the most valuable part of PGDE. I have been fortunate in being placed at two very supportive schools. The staff have been extremely helpful in with their feedback on my teaching as well as getting me used to the less glamorous side of teaching: paperwork. One of the most important thing about being on placement is not being scared to make mistakes. I have learned in equal measures what goes well and what really does not work and working out the things that fail is just as important as discovering what works.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
This course is not easy but do not let this discourage you – keep pushing forward. It is also important to not forget to take some personal time to relax and de-stress. The PGDE can be overwhelming but as long as things are organised and you take some time out for yourself, it is achievable and very rewarding.

What have been your main challenges at university/in placement, and how have you overcome them?
The PGDE really drops you in at the deep end on placement. I remember having a particularly challenging class on my first placement with a lot of behavioural issues. This shook me but the support on placement from my mentor and the other teachers was extremely helpful and they taught me exactly how to manage behaviour. When looking at the start and end of that placement, the change in the class and the change in how I was with them is stark. Taking on the advice and feedback really helped me overcome all challenges I have faced both in and outside of the classroom.

What do you think of the support available during your course?
Personally, I have found the support from the English tutors extremely helpful. Any time I have questions or concerns about the course and how I am doing they have responded to me very quickly with some great information. The English tutors go out their way to make sure that we are all doing well and that we are doing the best for us.

What are your ambitions for the future?
Just now I am excited about getting into a school and having my own classes in my own classroom and really honing my practice. I want to be the best teacher I can be. Long term? Who knows. There are so many options for movement in teaching form going into pastoral care to being in a managerial role. If I do move into any of these areas, it will be a long time from now.