Making the most of my placement experience

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Alumni stories

by Cicely Wiggins (BSc(Hons) PE graduate)

I decided to come to University in August of 2017 after three years away from education after finishing my a-levels. I am a huge fan of all sports and always imagined myself as a PE teacher but never believed it was never going to happen. I had three years of travelling and working mundane entry level jobs after I left school and I didn’t think I would ever take the plunge and start a degree.

As I was late to apply, I had to apply through clearing which meant talking to the admissions team and seeing if I had enough UCAS points, which I did! It was a whirlwind and within four weeks I had decided to go to university, applied for the course, received a unconditional offer, got my student finance organised, quit my full time job and started the course!

I did not know too much about the course when I started as I had not had much time to research the modules, but I was very happy when the lecturers said we would carry out week long placements in different schools in each year of the course to build up confidence and experience for PGCE applications. We were able to organise which schools we wanted to go to, which means you can decide what of school you want to gain experience in. My first year placement was at a local secondary school, where I had a insightful experience, but realised quickly that secondary education was not actually for me! I was able to go to a primary school in second year and loved every second, which confirmed to me my path was changing direction and was headed to primary school teaching! The PE course has allowed me to figure out what I really am good at, and what I actually would like to do as a career. Due to a main focus being on education and teaching, the course prepares me just as well for general primary teaching as it does secondary PE teaching.

There are a few top tips which I have if you are going to be carrying out a placement on your course to get the most out of it, and things I wish I would have known sooner:

  • Make sure both you and the teacher you are going to be working with have a clear idea on what you need to do, and also what you want to get out of the placement! If you don’t explain what your skills are, what you need to improve on, or what you want to help with, you could just end up sitting at the back of the room wondering why you are there or setting up cones/collecting cones for a day (which did happen to me once or twice!).
  • Always ask questions to your placement provider, even if you feel you’re being annoying or asking too many. Teachers who you are shadowing will love that you’re taking an interest, and will want to talk about what they are doing, and maybe even want a second opinion. My current placement provider is amazing at showing me lesson plans, and telling me why they are doing certain things, which always seem to involve theories we have learnt lectures (meaning when you think “when will I ever use this” in lectures, you actually will!)
  • Talk to friends on your course about their placements and how they are getting on. If you placement isn’t going as well as you hoped, It makes you feel better when you know you’re not the only one, as there is always someone who has it worse than you! Or they can just give you advice, or lesson ideas if you need them. When you’re doing your first placement especially, it is always nice to hear different experiences from different schools, and to share funny stories!
  • Always talk to your personal tutor, or lecturer if you need any help with your placement or you think you’re not getting enough out of it. The more experiences you have looks better on PGCE applications, so its best to talk to someone who can help if you have any issues.
  • Enjoy yourself. Try not to be too worried about if you are doing things right or being the perfect teacher. It is all a learning experience, and if you throw yourself in you will 100% have a better time and get the most out of it. In my first placement I was worried to even talk to other teachers, let alone students. If I could go back, I would be a lot more confident in myself and tell myself to be brave, even if I wasn’t feeling it.

Placements, along with amazing continued professional development activities, engaging lecturers, and plenty of help, the course perfectly prepares you for a future in teaching. After all the placements, assessments and presentations, it is all worth it as I have now been accepted to begin a primary teacher PGCE starting in September. I truly believe that having placements within the modules each year allowed me to stand out from other candidates, as I was asked in every interview to impressed and asked about my varied school experiences and how they have shaped my teaching.

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