PGDE Secondary Education - Business EducationNicole O'Rafferty, UK

Tell us a bit about your background...
Hi! My name is Nicole and I've just recently graduated from the PGDE in Business Education at Strathclyde. Living in Hamilton, I'm a fully qualified dance teacher, Munro bagger and most importantly... lover of all things business! After crashing Higher Business in sixth year of high school, I realised how much I loved marketing in particular (I'm now a total self-confessed marketing geek) and this led me on to graduating from Strathclyde in 2017 with a First Class Degree in Marketing & Business Enterprise. I worked in social media marketing for a year, before deciding to take the plunge and apply to become a teacher in 2019!

What inspired you to be a teacher?
It may sound cheesy... but I think I have always been destined to become a teacher! I come from a family full of them (even my mum is a teacher!, and was always told by others how well they thought I'd suit the profession. I used to love playing 'classrooms' when I was younger and pretending to be a teacher, so I think the passion for teaching has always been with me from a young age. At age 15, I started helping out at my local dance school as an assistant dance teacher and knew I wanted to pursue teaching full time, not just as a weekend hobby. There is no better feeling than the one which comes from helping a child to grow, develop and knowing you made that little bit of difference! 

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were younger?
I had two - one from primary, Mr Rimmer (who was amazing but also terrifying!), and from secondary, my computing teacher Miss Johnston. Both of which I love bumping in to and having a catch-up with; both completely different teachers with different personalities, strategies and teaching styles, but equally amazing. I think when you can remember a teacher clearly, and the way you felt in their classroom, it means they must be special. Those two definitely were to me! Their support, knowledge and genuine interest in me as their pupil is something I have kept with me to this day, and probably always will!

Why did you choose to study PGDE at the University of Strathclyde?
Having studied here for my Undergraduate degree, I knew the University had an outstanding reputation and was well aware of their vast range of support, facilities, and opportunities they offer students. It was my first choice when applying for the PGDE, as I had a great 4 years here previously and knew their reputation for Education was equally as impressive as their reputation for business. 

Did you seek any support during the application process?
Luckily, one of my close friends from my undergraduate degree was undertaking the PGDE here at Strathclyde as I was applying. She gave me brutal honesty about how difficult it was, what to expect, but also how much I would love it! She encouraged me to apply, and just to be myself. Advice which must have worked!

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
The highlight of the PGDE at Strathclyde for me has been the amazing people I have met on the course, and the support and networks I have managed to build around me. The staff and tutors on the course, particularly my business PGDE tutor, Claire Kennedy, has been so supportive and enthusiastic that it really made the whole experience 10 times easier! They also told us on day 1 that we'd make friends for life on the PGDE course, and they weren't wrong! I have made so many new friends; we've laughed, cried and shared our stresses together, all pulling one another through the hard times and cheering one another on during the best times. 

Tell us about your experience on placement...
I honestly LOVED being on placement. I much preferred being the teacher in a classroom than I did being in a classroom as a student. Both my placements were luckily close to my home, and I made amazing memories in both. Both placement schools were completely different experiences and in different areas. However, there were challenges in both which I was able to learn and grow from. 

The best thing about placement is the advice and wisdom you learn from the other teachers in the department - I'll be honest, I had no idea how to be a 'good teacher' when I started, and within days I had learned so many tips and tricks and began developing my own style and ideas, having gained inspiration from those around me.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
It may seem scary, and it is a big decision to make... but so worth it! Prepare for a difficult year, but with the level of support you'll get from your tutors and friends, you'll be sorted!

What have been your main challenges at university/in placement, and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges for me was time management, and juggling university/placement with my personal life. It's so easy during an intense course like the PGDE to forget that you also need time for yourself! Work hard, put in the hours... but make time for yourself too! Do things you love, look after yourself and don't work yourself in to the ground. 

What do you think of the support available during your course?
The support from the University is great - not only from the tutors you'll form close relationships with, but even those who are a bit more 'behind the scenes'. They're more than happy to help with any questions you have about placement, assignments, classes... never be afraid to ask!

What are your ambitions for the future?
For me, my biggest ambition is to grow and develop and to become the best teacher I can be. Excitingly, I actually 'ticked the box' to go anywhere for my probation year, and have been allocated to Dumfries and Galloway council. Too far to commute, I'll have to move out (for the first time ever - scary!) and make a new, exciting life down South come August. I can't wait - if you're considering ticking the box, do it! I'm so glad I did. Therefore, one of my main ambitions is to make the most of the adventure of probation year in a new town, with new people and new surroundings. As mentioned, I have my two favourite teachers from school who helped mould me in to the person I am today. If I can be one of 'those teachers' for even one pupil I teach, then I've made it!