Institute of Education


Q&A with Rhia Gibbs

Rhia took this PGCE to train to become a teacher in the social sciences (class of 2019).

Rhia Gibbs, trainee social sciences teacher

Hi Rhia!

What are your motivations for training to teach?

I have a passion for sociology in general as it is a topic that is so relatable no matter what your social background is. I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career that works around sociology so teaching seemed right. I have a passion for working with young people and feel like their experience in the classroom can make a real impact on their future.

What did you do prior to starting your teacher training programme?

I went into my Social Science PGCE straight after completing my undergraduate Sociology degree programme. I chose the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) because when I told my lecturers on my undergraduate degree programme that I wanted to get into teaching the IOE was recommended as one of the best places to train in London. My sociology teacher studied here and the reputation of the IOE is so great.

How are you finding the experience overall and has there been an element of your programme that has impressed you or been particularly valuable?

The keynote lectures have proved to be very important in helping students to solidify the foundations of teaching and to help prepare you for what to expect before entering the school setting. I felt like this preparation was very helpful, along with the subject studies that I undertook with my course leader.

As a sociology specialist I would usually be expected to teach Psychology, Religious Studies and Citizenship, which can be quite a difficult cross over as the subject areas are quite different. To help with this, subject studies help to develop your practice and push you forward as a teacher. 

Were there any challenges and how have you overcome them?

The workload, the time management and being able to organise yourself. Organisation is the key to succeeding and I learnt that very quickly. The IOE provided a lot of advice on how to best manage your time as you are expected to prepare lessons for 5 to 6 different classes within one week. 

What is it like to train in a London school and how do you think it has benefited you?

I have trained at two contrasting schools in London. At one school the students were quite demanding and the experience can be very stressful if you are not prepared for it, but I feel like a London school opens up opportunities for you to work with such a wide variety of students from all different backgrounds and academic abilities. London schools provide a real vibrancy to teaching that is unlike anywhere else in the world.

How has the programme helped you to prepare for your time in the classroom?

Focussed classroom observations really helped to prepare me for what was to come. The observation lasts for two weeks and during that period you are able to observe the class and students you are going to teach. This was fundamental to my success and enabled me to hit the ground running, as the students were already familiar with my presence in the room. When it came to me teaching them it wasn’t a shock to their system and this helps to reduce behavioural issues. 

Rhia Gibbs

What impact do you think your time at the IOE will have on your future career – and where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

The IOE has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped to bring out the best in me. I haven’t graduated as yet but I have already been offered two jobs in both of the schools that I undertook my placements in. In five years I see myself as a Head of Year in Sociology or Head of Department.  

If you could give advice to someone about to start teacher training, what would it be?

Do a lot of research into the various routes into teaching and make sure you choose a route that is best for you. Get some experience in a school shadowing a teacher for a day so that you are able to get a feel for what it is like in the classroom. Most people think it will be how they remember their own school experience but I can guarantee that it will not be how you imagine. The most important thing of all is that you have a real passion for teaching.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your teacher training experience at the IOE?

My lecturers are really approachable and helpful. They have been very supportive and come out to visit you when you are on your placement. I made some really good friends at the IOE who will be friends for life and it is great to have made friends who are going into the same career and who can share the same experiences with me.