As some of you may already know, I’m in my final year of university. Alongside learning during a global pandemic, us students have also had to think about what comes after university: jobs are dwindling by the day, and we’re competing against those with years of experience who have lost their jobs. I can say for myself that when I first came into university, I had an idea of what I wanted to ‘become’ when I finish, but it is very safe to say that that idea has changed about five times since.
Teaching has always been on the cards for me: I love being around children, and I truly believe that teaching is one of the most important jobs there is – teachers shape our future through the lessons that they teach children today. If there’s something I really want to do in my life, it is to make a difference: everyone remembers a good teacher – the one that makes them feel like they’re capable of anything, or the one who helped them and wouldn’t give up till they done it. I’ve thought about the joy that would spring up on a child’s face when they finally understood the topic, and I’d even dreamt up a few classroom wall designs to display the classes work (yes, I’d gone that far). I knew that I wanted to be a teacher at some point in my life, and I’d always been told by friends and family that I’d make a good teacher, so I decided to apply.
With the pandemic still in our midst, I thought it would be smart to continue my learning process and apply for a teaching course. Going into this, I had zero idea where to start – I just knew I wanted to train to be in Primary Education. I had heard about a paid position available in which you train within a school whilst learning at the same time (called School Direct), which sounded the most ideal situation for me, but that fell through the window very quickly: whilst teaching is a job that has always in demand, I found out from my university guidance tutor that since the pandemic, with people losing their jobs, many people had switched to teaching, and they had an overwhelming amount more applications than usual. What I also found out is that applications opened in October, so as well as the university placement students having already applied, the salaried option was not on the cards. I had started my search at the end of January to February, and I found myself stressing out at placements either not being available, being too far away, or not with the qualifications I want.
Looking at the Get Into Teaching website, the UCAS website, and the Government website, I found that there was the option to do the same School Direct option with a tuition fee, or go down the university route, in which you study and go to various different schools to train, both of which were a year long. This is where I started to narrow down my choices.
After hours of scrolling through the internet day after day, I found two options that suited me. I knew from the get-go that I would have preferred to study at Roehampton University: they are one of the highest rated initial teacher education providers in the whole of the UK, and it also happens to be where I study at the moment, and I love it there. So, for my choices, I selected the PGCE Primary School Direct route via Roehampton and one of their teaching alliances, and Roehampton’s PGCE Primary route.
Through research, I found that I had to apply through UCAS. In my personal experience, this process was long, slightly complicated and made me the most stressed I had been in a long time. If I’m honest, the amount of effort it took for something that should have been so simple made me feel completely overwhelmed. I’m glad I pushed through those emotions though, and I’m not telling you this to put you off the process, but this was just personally how I found it. The weight off my shoulders I felt once I had submitted was so relieving.
For those who went to university, seeing the ‘Personal Statement’ title and ‘UCAS’ again may be a bit of déjà vu. Once you’ve filled in all the personal details, education and additional information, I would move straight on to this. Those little bits are time consuming, but you want to make sure this statement is perfect. Take advantage of any help you may have around you: I asked my university’s Careers team, and my guidance tutor, both of which were amazing and very kind to look at my work. The statement can be tough, as you need to find a balance between showing personality and showing your skills. Although UCAS ask to show a little personality, one mistake I made in my first draft is writing my statement as too much of a narrative when explaining why I want to be a teacher.
Keep it to the point: show your personality through your experiences – what did you learn from this experience? Why did you choose this degree? How is X experience (academic or not) going to help you in teaching? A great piece of advice my tutor gave me was to start a paragraph with your main point instead of placing it at the end of your paragraph.
Make sure to get these sent out early too! Although my references were very quick to respond, make sure to jot down all the reference information early so you don’t get left waiting around. You need two references, and you will need your references addresses and contact details, then UCAS will send off the form for them to write a reference for you. Make sure to always ask your references’ permission! I used one of my lecturers, who has been teaching me for all 3 years of my course, and my current manager at my place of work. You will also not get to see what they write about you at any point.
I had 3 interviews in total: two for School Direct, and one for the university route. Now, I haven’t done an interview in years, so this was extremely nerve-wracking for me. The interviews are like what you would expect in a job interview, so my main advice is to be prepared. I know my anxiety is lessened when I know more or less what to expect.
I spent the days leading up to the first interview googling any teacher training or teacher interview questions that I could find, jotting them down with my answers on a piece of paper so that I could look at them the night before/morning of. For my School Direct interviews, I also had to prepare a 15-20 minute lesson with different briefs, so I also prepped for that (I was super nervous for this too, especially as I have never taught a lesson in front of anyone in my life, but get ready for it).
You are also expected to take an English and Maths test before the interviews, which are around 15-20 minutes long too. It’s definitely been a while since I done Maths, but I don’t think I done horribly, and being an undergraduate in an English degree, even if I did feel a bit nervous as I’m expected to know it, I found it quite easy. You will be given a question and a written task, which is done before the interview, or in the case of my university interview, during the interview. This is just to test how good your written English is for academic writing.
My university interview and my first School Direct interview was over Zoom, which took the pressure off a little bit, but didn’t make me any less nervous. As the interview was over Zoom, I only had to explain my lesson plan (I created a PowerPoint to go with it just in case), and I got asked two questions from pupils. Once the first interview was out of the way, I felt so much more confident in my ability to go and take on the other interviews, even though they were a week or two later. Although I didn’t pass the first interview, they gave me feedback and actually said I done very well, but a couple of questions I could have performed better on (they told me which questions over the phone). This feedback was extremely useful, and helped me better prepare for my next interviews.
My university interview was a couple hours long: we had a group interview, which over Zoom can be a funny one, the timed written task, and then a slot for your one-to-one interview. The applicants in the group seemed very friendly and inclusive, which elevated my experience more, as I knew what kind of people would be there with me. This I believed was a good interview for the most part, even though I had some connectivity issues throughout.
My last interview (School Direct) was actually in the school, as schools had reopened that week. All the staff were super friendly which helped me feel more comfortable. The school reopening also meant I had to actually go and teach to a class of students, which was nerve-wracking, but I believe I done well. It could have gone better, but as my interviewer said, teaching is all about reflecting on what you could do better each time you teach. I felt very comfortable in this interview and felt it went really well.
So, I got into both my School Direct and my university option! I’m so proud of myself of getting into both, and it made me feel that all the hard work was worth it. I ended up picking School Direct option in the end, just mostly off of a gut feeling.
I’m excited to embark on this new journey, and curious to see where this takes me. I know it will be extremely hard work, as it is essentially learning everything within one year, but it is a new adventure, and a new experience with new people.
I’d love to know if any of you are considering the teacher training route or will consider it now! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.