Nathan completed his PGCE in 2019, on the English (ESOL and Literacy) pathway.
What did you do prior to starting your teacher training programme at IOE?
I completed my Bachelors degree in Sociology at the University of Bristol; completed a CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course and taught in India, Singapore, Sri Lanka before moving to the Netherlands to complete my MSc. Whilst studying for my Masters, I taught English/IELTS to foundation degree students - this experience generated an interest in the Further Education (FE) demographic and motivated me to apply for the PGCE.
What motivates you to teach?
Everyone always remembers their teachers (both good and bad). I get a buzz in the classroom; it is a fulfilling environment where you can share knowledge, whilst learn lot about others - other cultures and other perspectives. This is true of the diversity of the FE sector where people bring a wealth of live experience into the classroom which generates discussion, debate and reflection on areas that extend way beyond the content of the exam syllabus you are training your learners for.
“Teaching in FE means you are working with those who’ve had difficult schooling experiences, or those that found school life difficult, or those who are returning to education to develop their skills for both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.
You, as a teacher, are contributing to bring about positive change to the life of your students, helping them rediscover the joy of learning, learn new skills and help them realise they’re stronger and resilient than they ever thought possible."
Has there been an element of the PGCE that has impressed you or been particularly valuable?
It was refreshing being in a group of fellow trainees who came from very diverse backgrounds with different experiences, but we all shared the same goal and embraced the same journey together. We all had a commitment to social justice through education and would share conversations about the broader context of education, and its interplay with culture and politics.
The PGCE course certainly strengthened my understandings of language acquisition and pedagogy. The lessons were not only theoretical, but also practical, allowing us to try and reflect on different activities. The assignments (although stressful), were based on our classroom experience which enabled us to work more closely with our learners.
The tutors themselves shared their years of experience and were never short of a story. They were approachable and friendly and showed they cared about your own personal development and wellbeing. The training class on PGCE FE English course works well and enables you to work with your fellow colleagues and help each other develop.
What is it like to train to teach in London?
As London is one of the most diverse and creative cities on the planet and this filters into the classroom. In all of my placements, I’ve worked with great groups of learners, heralding from different backgrounds – the diversity of the classroom made teaching in London a challenge, but one where you continually learn - not just about teaching and approaches to integration equality and diversity, but also about broader issues that impact the way we live and think.
London is also a hub for you, as a trainee teacher, to get involved in other things that can help you develop as a teacher, through different workshops and conferences.
How have you found your school/college experience?
My placements were enriching. I had two very strong mentors who helped me to develop as a teacher. I was able to get involved in other areas of college life, and help during special events, such as refugee week and LGBT awareness month.
“You are hit with ups and downs but there come points in the year where things fall into place."
Nothing fully prepares you for the PGCE – it is intense and demands a lot of time. Being organised, efficient with time and strict on yourself to allow ‘off time’ helps you to get the most out of the experience. Also learning to be open to explore and try new things as a teacher. There really is no right or wrong way to teach, you learn more through trying, reflecting and talking with those around you (fellow colleagues, mentors and tutors).
What do you plan to do next?
I have been fortunate to secure a job teaching GCSE English and Functional Skills in a large FE college in North West London. I was also offered other jobs and attended interviews in a number of settings, including a young offenders institute.
When applying for jobs, you realise that the FE sector is so broad and there are an array of opportunities which align to your interests and skills. I also hope to one day be able to mentor future groups of PGCE students.