Saying goodbye on placement | PGCE: Day in the Life

It might feel like a lifetime away, since you’re currently in the midst of your first placement, but the day where you say goodbye will come before you know it. Worst of all, you won’t be ready for it, if you’re anything like me. I found saying goodbye outrageously hard. It was nearly impossible to tell the students, all of whom I’d come to think of so highly. This was especially weird for me, since I’d never dreamed of training to teach while studying for my undergrad.

Nevertheless, saying goodbye was really, really, hard.

It was also difficult waving a goodbye to the full-time teachers, too, who I’d begun bonding with. They were so supportive, so nice, and deserved more than a simple “see you round”. But what? Should I buy them something? Take them for coffees or pints? And how should I say goodbye to the kids?

There are a lot of options to think about, but you shouldn’t stress while training to teach; I’ve done the thinking for you. Here’s how to say goodbye to placement #1.

What to expect

Firstly: what to expect. The final week will probably still be busy, despite your workload decreasing. I managed to stay productive and got all 16 hours of my final two weeks of lessons planned with a fortnight remaining, giving me time to focus on differentiating them to a greater extent and working on data that needed processing. These were, however, still full lessons; gone are the days of teachers taking it easy in the final fortnight before Christmas.

This meant fully-detailed plans and top-quality lessons, which might be a big ask since you’re probably feeling tired from the nights drawing in and sunrises getting later, but being so close to a well-earned break will be your big focus that gets you through to the end of placement #1. Nevertheless, ticking off all of my tasks from my ‘dailies’ and ‘weeklies’ columns in my Bullet Journal was a reward in itself.

When my lessons were planned, I took part in typical end-of-term activities. These were great; the penultimate day was dedicated to PSHE activities (some schools prefer this format over typical weekly lessons) and a talent show on the final day. Kids performed and were judged by teachers. We were in school until midday, before the entire teaching body retreated into the pub for what I was told was a yearly tradition.

Your school may not have any of these end-of-term perks, or it could have all of those and more! I think a lot of what schools plan for the run-up to Christmas will also depend on coronavirus, so don’t be disappointed if it feels as if you’re missing out.

What about the students?

The first group that I said goodbye didn’t get one addressed to the whole class. In our final lesson, they handed in their motte-and-bailey castles and largely cleared out, with a few remaining to cut into one of them (which was also a cake. We weren’t eating papier mache). It was only at this point that I remembered, That’s right! This is our final lesson, isn’t it? and broke the news to them.

It was a relief to hear that they were gutted. The last thing you want to hear as a trainee is that dreaded sigh of relief after announcing your imminent departure. 

At this point, I had a brainwave. I quieted them down and started monologuing about how important it was for them to get politically active as soon as they’re able to vote. How they needed to do their research and cast their votes, regardless of their beliefs. I told them that the future was in their hands.

“Wow, sir. That was a bit deep,” came a reply, alongside a few giggles. They were 11-year-olds eating cake, so I should have expected it. If you ever make like me and get political, remember the golden rule in the classroom: we can talk about politics, but we can’t indoctrinate students. Point them in the right directions to trustworthy websites and use it as an opportunity to educate them on the likes of Fake News so that their beliefs are informed by facts. Just don’t go telling them how to vote.

I was a little less deep with my other Year 7s. I made the announcement that I’d be leaving, we said goodbye, and that was that.

Or so I thought.

Lo and behold, during breaktime one day, their usual classroom teacher found me working in the History Office and handed a package towards me, indicating that it was from one of our students. I unwrapped the gift and found a pack of highlights, alongside a homemade card calling me their favourite. If they could make a teacher, ‘we’d make you’.

So anyway, that’s the story of how I nearly started crying in the History Office.

And the teachers?

Getting a pint with them all at the pub on the final day of term was grand, but it was a tad impersonal. Everyone was there, so it was difficult speaking with every one of them.

Thankfully, we held a ‘Biscuit Day’ every Friday lunchtime as a department, so I took that as an opportunity to bring in a box of Celebrations for them all. Later on, I bought a four-pack of beers for my subject mentor, since he was the most helpful, dedicated person in the world, especially when planning my very first lesson on placement, and deserved a more personal goodbye.

He later told me, “anything you need, just get in touch. You’ve got my number,” which was just the most reassuring thing to hear. Obviously, he was one of the first people I got in touch with when I secured my job for this year.

There you have it: how to say goodbye to placement #1. How is your teacher training going? Click here to catch up on the other posts in my Initial Teacher Training series.

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