What to expect from the first four weeks | PGCE: Day in the Life

My PGCE training year was, quite possibly, the strangest one on record. With placements paused by March, my training turned into remote learning, using the University of Birmingham’s online resources. Their support was excellent and I’m excited to begin my NQT year next month.

Despite the differences that there will be between my training and yours, I still thought it helpful to chronicle my journey towards QTS, to give you an insight into what a normal training year might look like. Bear in mind that there will be differences between our training years, due to these unprecedented times, but remember that we are all in this together. It’s best to just take every day as it comes.

Here’s what to expect from the first four weeks of a (normal) PGCE training year.

The Morning

Mornings hit me like a real shock to the system. After spending my gap year working 14 hours a week in a library and 8 hours a month freelancing, I was used to rising from bed whenever I pleased.

This routine was quickly quashed.

During the first four weeks, I would wake at 7AM and listen to the news. I’d get out of bed, style my hair and pack the lunch I’d made the night before (you know how much I value meal planning) and ensure I had all of the notepads I’d need for the day ahead (unfortunately, I was yet to switch to OneNote at this point). 

Lunch usually occurred around midday and, because of how hungry I can get, I made sure to tick breakfast off my to-do list last, right before brushing my teeth. While putting something together, I’d brew a kettle to fix up a litre of coffee for the day ahead.

Half eight ticked onto my watch so I set out, spitting toothpaste as I went. It was a short trip to the busy, pre-COVID train. Once, it was so tightly-packed that a woman passed out; hopefully these horror stories are things of the past now. It was ten past nine by the time I made it to the right building, so had five minutes to set-up and catch up with coursemates before the busy day ahead.

We spent the morning discussing pedagogy and discussing various teacher-related activities, such as lesson planning as a group. We were asked to work in such depth that many people would find overwhelming. While it certainly was too much information, to the point where we’d be asked to account for what we’d be doing during every single pupil activity, in hindsight this method was incredibly productive. Thinking about the nitty-gritty details of how a lesson will work gets you as prepared as possible before teaching commences. Thinking in depth how you will differentiate for any ability-type, such as EAL, SEND and HA students, is so beneficial.

Then we broke for lunch.

The Afternoon

The afternoon was filled with typical uni-like lectures instead of seminars. We took notes on whole school issues; on some days, this was about diversity; on others, about pupil premium. We were given a few hours after class to upload our summaries of the learning to a virtual learning space, to show that we’ve fully understood what had been taught.

Finally, after an induction into using the library services that nobody who had been to University once before in the last ten years needed, we were given a few hours to make progress on our first assignment. The assignment concerned History’s place in the curriculum and I really enjoyed writing it, though it would be interesting to hear whether the Black Lives Matters movement-related literature has any impact on the assignments written by this year’s cohort. Before leaving to start our coursework, I vividly remember commenting on the exhausting nature of the long days with a friend, to which my tutor remarked:

‘Just you wait until you’re in school, Josh. You’ll be in for a shock!’ She said, laughing.

Reader, she was right. But ignore the doom-and-gloom you see online; it’s not as tiring as you might think.

The Evening

Uni days officially ended at around 4PM and, I’ve got to say, I was glad they did. These days were so informative and enjoyable, but also information overload at times. There was a lot to take in, so I’m glad that we were given time to process everything.

I caught the train home, grabbed a protein bar and shake, and headed for the gym. As per last year’s New Year’s resolutions, I’m still trying to put on mass and strength, which means consuming more calories, upping my weights and lowering the reps that I lift. After an hour of pumping iron, I showered and went home, pulling a pre-prepared meal out of the freezer and boiling rice to go with it.

It was coming up to 8PM and I was feeling quite tired, so I made lunch for the following day and headed upstairs for some downtime. I attempted to work on my assignment, but sleepiness got the better of me. I was in bed by 10:30PM, ready for another exhausting, informative day.


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