PGDE Secondary Education - Chemistry with ScienceRachael Martin, UK

Tell us a bit about your background…
I was born and raised in Glasgow where I attended Glasgow Catholic primary and secondary schools and attended The University of Glasgow to complete my undergraduate Chemistry degree. I love the city and all it has to offer, and selecting Strathclyde University to do the PGDE course was an easy decision to make, with the campus being right in the heart of the city centre! I absolutely loved school as a pupil and didn't want to leave! I think that combined with my love of working with children was the inspiration to train to become a teacher.

What inspired you to be a teacher?
It sounds silly, but my favourite toy as a kid was my blackboard and chalk, and I absolutely loved playing teachers, so I'd say I was first inspired by my first primary teachers. As a pupil who would do quite well academically, I would help my classmates around exam time and I loved the buzz of helping someone understand a problem/answer a question they'd struggled with on their own. Also, coming from a massive family with lots of cousins much younger than myself helped me to realise I loved interacting with young people. They have so much personality and zest for life that adults seem to lack sometimes and I always knew I wanted to work with children. I can't think of a more satisfying career than one which helps to empower and educate young people from all backgrounds and to help them reach their full potential.

Did you have a favourite teacher when you were younger?
I had a few teachers at secondary school who I thought were brilliant. My chemistry teacher was a real inspiration as she was the one who got me interested in chemistry (my own teaching subject) and she always had the perfect balance of professionalism and rapport with all of us. My economics and geography teachers were also so caring and approachable, but also made the subjects seem so interesting and manageable.

Why did you choose to study PGDE at the University of Strathclyde?
I had offers from both Strathclyde and UWS, but decided to go with Strathclyde because, not only was it in my favourite city, the interview went fantastically and I knew a couple of people who done the course here and had nothing but good things to say about it. I felt at ease during the whole process and knew it was where I wanted to study straight away.

Did you seek any support during the application process?
I spoke to my friend who had done the PGDE Secondary History course at Jordanhill and he gave me some interview tips as I was so nervous beforehand.

What has been the highlight of your time at Strathclyde?
The placements have definitely been the best part about the whole course. Getting to meet all the pupils and build relationships with them have cemented just how important it is for young people to get the best chance in education.

Tell us about your experience on placement…
I have learned through placement that organisation is key! Try to be on top of lesson plans and reflections, but more importantly, make sure you take the time to really think about your lessons and if they are suited to your pupils you have in front of you. University will prepare you for placement, but what works for one class won't work for another so it's important to remember to be flexible with planning. When things get tough try to remember why you're doing this in the first place!

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
If you think you want to become a teacher then go for it! The only way to truly know if it's for you is by trying it. Just make sure you go into the course for the right reasons - I've heard people say they want to become a teacher because of the holidays or hours, but you should only do it if you want to make a difference to young peoples' lives and you have a passion for helping others.

What have been your main challenges at university/in placement, and how have you overcome them?
The main challenges I've found are the placements. While I've enjoyed this aspect the most, it's also definitely the hardest part of university for me! With the amount of lesson planning and resource development I had to do during my second placement, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was also worried I wasn't good at classroom management, but I've realised that this is all part of the learning experience and I have been getting better with time. The tutors and other teachers have been telling me how well I am doing and I need to remember to listen to them! Teaching involves lifelong learning, and there will always be room for improvement and development.

What do you think of the support available during your course?
I think the support throughout the course had been excellent. I am a CCL class rep and the meetings have shown how much the university cares about its students and are always asking for feedback on improving the course.

What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambition for the near future is to pass the course, the probation year and qualify as a chemistry teacher. After that, I'd love to get more involved in pastoral care as I really care about the well-being and mental health of young people.