Really struggling

(22 Posts)
PamplemousseRouge Thu 20-Oct-16 23:36:18

Hi everyone,

I'm in the middle of a PGCE at the moment and really, really struggling.

I'm doing the School Direct route, which involves being assigned to a specific school and staying with that school for the training year and NQT (newly qualified teacher) year (obviously provided that the first year is passed). PGCE essays and training is provided alongside the time spent in school.

My timetable is quite 'generous', for want of a better word, at the moment. I started off teaching four classes, which came up to around 11 hours a week in total. Now, my timetable is 7 hours a week, as I am no longer teaching one of my classes.

The school is quite tough, and the behaviour is very poor from a lot of pupils. Teeth kissing is very common - obviously, it's not the worst thing in the world i know, but it's part of a general culture of disrespect. The school does have very clear behaviour policies, however the pupils whose behaviour leads to negative consequences either don't attend their detentions or follow-up detentions, or they simply act in a very apathetic way and appear completely disaffected.

I also feel absolutely knackered at the moment - regularly, I'm the last person go leave the school every night at 9pm. My workday officially starts at 8am and ends at 6pm, however because I'm finding that all of my school related work (planning, marking, phone calls home, detentions) and PGCE related work (weekly assignments) is taking so long, one of the maintenance staff members often let's me out at 9 just before he locks up the school. I feel awful for him, because I'm making him stay late as well. The school officially closes at 9 on weekdays, however obviously if no one stays late, the maintenance staff can theoretically go home at a reasonable(!) time.

It's been six weeks since I started and I've cried every night and most mornings. People at the school(staff) have said to me that teaching is like acting. I feel that I haven't got any more energy to give, and totally exhausted. I'm also quite introverted,
I think, which makes having to be constantly buzzing with energy around people exhausting at times!!

I've cried a couple of times in front of my mentor (who I'm also a bit scared of), which was quite unprofessional. It's been difficult to find time to sleep or ear properly. I've just got off the phone to my dad, and told him about the situation. I also feel constantly depressed and stressed, with really bad stomach aches and my heart pounding. I don't find time to eat or sleep properly, and feel sick at the idea of going into school every day.

I had a formal observation on Monday morning from two senior staff members and one of them got up to teach the lesson I was taking. I still don't know exactly why - he got up without any warning, and I stood there (a bit like a lemon!!) while he picked up where I left off totally spontaneously. I've been told that I'll get the feedback from the observation tomorrow. When i explained to one of my PGCE subject mentors (not at my school) what had happened in the observation, he just said very brightly that 'everyone is different' and that I should just wait for the feedback. I've submitted a reflections sheet about how I feel the observation lesson went. On the sheet, I included different strategies about how I could address and improve on my lesson, as I was disappointed with how I handled it and i understand it's a pretty bad sign if the observer just gets up and delivers part of the lesson themselves. It's definitely a brilliant development and learning tool, but it was totally unexpected given that it was a formal observation.

Please help, mumsnet!! Any advice? I feel totally at the end of my tether and jsut absolutely disillusioned with teaching. I know the PGCE is a real struggle. One of my friends did a PGCE in London last year (university based), and she really didn't like it. I also know that it could be hugely rewarding, but after six weeks so far in mt school, i just haven't seen that yet. I promise I'm not a quitter, and that's one of the reasons that's keeping me going so far, but it's the most exhausting thing I've ever done. It's been the most difficult three months I've ever had (I had a training course to prepare me for going into the school in mid August as well). To be honest, following the abysmal observation, I feel I might be sacked before I can leave.

PamplemousseRouge Thu 20-Oct-16 23:39:03

Oh dear sorry for the awful grammar and spelling in my post!! I'm so tired and clearly didn't read it through properly!! Hope it makes sense..!

Pangur2 Fri 21-Oct-16 00:04:19

Are you in a Harris? It sounds like a Harris.

PamplemousseRouge Fri 21-Oct-16 00:07:33

Hi Pangur. Thanks for your reply. I'm not in a Harris Academy, but I did actually apply to them funnily enough. I'm in a very similar type of school.

PamplemousseRouge Fri 21-Oct-16 00:13:00

Anyone else with other advice and support? smile Would be very gratefully received smile

Pangur2 Fri 21-Oct-16 00:17:51

Aaah, thought as much. They can be hard places to work, even later in your career, let alone when you are only learning. But feeling the way you do at the moment is unfortunately quite common. It's bloody hard, no matter what school you are in!
I have to go to bed now, but try to not worry! I bet your observers were exactly the same when they were teacher training!

Pangur2 Fri 21-Oct-16 00:21:23

PS. I know it's hard and easier said than done, but try to go home a bit earlier and have a bit of a rest. I remember being a PGCE/ NQT and trying to get every single tiny thing done. As you get more experience you realise you have to prioritise some tasks, which means other things have to wait.

tiredagaintodayasalways Fri 21-Oct-16 00:32:48

Teaching is hard work, it's the best job in the world but at times it can also be the worst job in the world. I'm 14 years in and I'd like to tell you things get easier but in my experience, they don't really. The challenges are just different, you get quicker at what you have to do and you learn how to cut corners. The behaviour management stuff will come as you gain more experience.

I've seen demands on teachers increase year after year and to be honest, if I knew how the job would turn out and if I could have my time again, would I still have gone into teaching? Possibly not, which makes me feel quite sad because some days I absolutely love it. I love working with the kids, it's all the other stuff that kills it for me at times (often unnecessary stuff!)

Don't give up though! It's daunting at first but you will feel better once you get this year out of the way. My advice would be to spend as much time as you can observing other colleagues, especially those who have been at the school a long time as you will pick up tips for behaviour management. Are there other students in your subject area in other schools with whom you could share/swap resources to cut down on planning time?

You absolutely must look after yourself. If you don't get enough sleep or you are skipping meals, you are going to get ill. If those books don't get marked by the next lesson, what's realistically going to happen? You are only human and you can only do the best you can with the resources and time you have. Don't be afraid to say no to things! I think one of the main problems with the teaching profession is there are not enough people brave enough to say no, that's enough! They take on more and more without giving something up in its place. Just take care and try your best - after all, what else can you do? Good luck!

ItsJustNotRight Fri 21-Oct-16 00:36:51

If it's making you miserable and you're finding it stressful I think you need do do some real soul searching about your reasons to stick with it. Teaching is always hard work and it's not just the lessons, it's the on going paperwork, constant political changes and poor staff relations/management. I know you will potentially find all these issues in any career but I know teachers who are still struggling with these issues after 30+yrs in the job. Yes, it can be rewarding nearly all teachers will say they classroom contact is the best part of the job and why they stick with it but it the other stuff that grinds them down. its not a failure to say that this isn't the job for you and to do something else. If you really want to stick with it then great but you need to believe in yourself. Ask for sensible feedback and the chance to discuss it. Make sure you understand exactly what the issues are that need to be addressed and how to address them. Don't settle for wishy washy feedback ask for specifics, exactly what you did/didn't do. Try and train yourself out of crying, I don't know how but there must be techniques, google it. I know it's really hard to be positive when you feel your whole personality &a ability is made to feel inadequate but you have to learn to deflect that and then act to address the issues raised. There's easier ways to earn a crust than teaching. flowers

firsttimemum15 Fri 21-Oct-16 00:46:26

If you can get through it you can get through anything but it sounds like it isn't for you and maybe you'd be happier doing something else.

I went through something similar trained to do a specific job in a school was good at it had on the job exp. Got the qualification and landed a middle management role in a private school.

It broke me. But that was more the school. I hated it.

I left got another job and haven't looked back. It's less money but the stress and effects on my health were not worth it

MummyToOneGirl Fri 21-Oct-16 01:08:55

I started a PGCE about 16 years ago and felt just like you do. I had a placement at a tough school and found it the hardest thing in the world trying to teach and keep control of 30 or so unruly teenagers. I couldn't believe how rude they were to me. I was working non-stop, going to bed around 1am, not eating, insomnia, crying all the time, had a constant knot in my stomach. I was determined not to give up and see the course through to the end but about half way through, I just knew that teaching wasn't for me and I didn't need to endure the torture any more. I'm not suggesting you give up if teaching is really what you want to do, but if you are that unhappy, then don't just continue with it because you don't want to be a quitter. Teaching is one of the toughest professions and noone could blame you for giving up. Alternatively, you might consider switching to primary instead of secondary. A friend of mine switched from secondary to primary as she hated secondary, and she's much happier as a primary school teacher.

Trifleorbust Fri 21-Oct-16 04:28:11

It is strange that you are working so hard with such a light timetable. Are there very stringent planning requirements? Try to make your planning as 'light touch' as possible and plan a sequence of lessons, not each one as you go. Plan some longer activities for the kids - make sure they are working harder than you are (at least in your plan). With behaviour, record everything. Follow up everything. If a student refuses to attend your detention, take it to your subject lead or their pastoral lead and ask how this will be followed up - you can expect support, you don't have to do everything yourself. With feedback, tell your observer that you are aware that the lesson didn't go well, but your reflections haven't offered an obvious reason why not. Ask why he decided to step in.

OwlinaTree Fri 21-Oct-16 04:57:09

That sounds tough. I remember my PGCE year. The most stressful year ever really. Working till 9/10 at night prepping stuff. Individual lesson plans written for every lesson. Keeping records of how I was meeting all the standards. Horrible school staff treating me like crap. Trying to control the class. All was worth it in the end as 15 years later I still have a career I love, but I still remember how tough that year was.

Only you know if this stress is worth it. Don't give up if you really want to do this job, it will get easier, especially the classroom management as a pp said, it comes with experience.

Obs are horrible any stage of your career, try to take note of the advice they give you and specifically act on the points raised so you can show you are improving. Try to watch other experienced teachers when you can, you can always learn from others.

It honestly will get easier. You are right at the start of the year still, it's a massive learning curve.

Trifleorbust Fri 21-Oct-16 05:00:54

And keep your chin up - this is the hardest year and the hardest term! It gets easier, I promise.

lavenderbongo Fri 21-Oct-16 06:03:21

I did my pgce 18 years ago but still remember feeling exactly like you. Planning get easier as you get more experienced. TES resources also a god send.
I love my job but for the first few years I felt sick every morning on the way to work. But it was those moments you get in class where you connect with a kid and you see the light turn on in their heads as the suddenly understand something, that keeps you going.
Also the feeling that you get when you actually manage to make a difference in someone's life - we all remember that one teacher that influenced us for the better. I hold out hope that might be me one day 😊

If that's not enough to keep you going then teaching may not be for you. It does get better and it is soooo worth it!

Softkitty2 Fri 21-Oct-16 06:32:33

This is something you will be doing possibly for the rest of your working life so think if this is what you really want to do.
Another option is once you qualify, apply for jobs at village schools or small schools, choose your schools location IYSWIM as this can reflect the children going to the school.
Also you can also try private schools once you qualify.

Personally i would finish off the year and get the nqt status and re evaluate from there.

user1472419718 Fri 21-Oct-16 06:38:33

I am someone who struggled through their PGCE year (5 years ago) but scraped a pass thanks to the support of the school. I was in a less supportive school for my NQT year (similar to yours in terms of behaviour) and ended up resigning halfway through the year. I am now in an office job and much happier.

I would wait to say what they say at the feedback. I would be surprised if they fire you now, as my PGCE school gave me the benefit of the doubt, and gave me right up until the last minute to do the final observation, which by the end of my third term was a pass (it was not a pass in term 1).

The PGCE (and NQT) year is a steep learning curve, and you are not expected to be at the same standard when you start in September/October, as in June/July. You have to pass the final observations and be working at that level by the end of the year to pass the PGCE and qualify as a teacher.

However in saying that, if you are really struggling and not making progress, and if you are unhappy, maybe teaching isn’t for you. It isn’t for everyone and it certainly wasn’t for me.

Charmed18 Fri 21-Oct-16 07:06:12

They won't fire you after one poor observation. They will have to how how they have supported you to make improvements if any are needed. Take the half-term to gather yourself and have a real think whether you can make it through the year. What concerns me is that you are expected to your NQT year there too. Really you want to be looking at a different school for that. I found that the school you work in makes a massive difference to how you cope. Some schools are awful and full of bullying management which makes it near impossible to be happy. Definitely agree that you shouldn't be in school til 9 o'clock. Make a daily list and prioritise workload. If something doesn't get done you can show your mentor that you are trying your best. There are only so many hours in the day. Try and use something like the five minute lesson plan on Google to plan your lessons more quickly and then adapt to your school's form. I find doing my own lesson plan much quickly than adapting one off the internet too. (Although they can be good for general inspiration.) Also, have you seen some behavioural management videos on YouTube? Observed some teachers in school with good techniques? Above all remember everyone is in the same boat in first year. Kids will not treat you the same as a member of staff that has taught for 10+ years! Good luck.

Charmed18 Fri 21-Oct-16 07:07:33

*apologies for typos, didn't proof read!

PamplemousseRouge Fri 21-Oct-16 11:15:11

Thank you everyone so far for all of your advice! smile I really appreciate it. If anyone else has anything more to add, I would be hugely grateful too smile

PamplemousseRouge Fri 21-Oct-16 19:49:29

Also if anyone has any tips on organisation and work life balance while teaching or during the PGCE year, I'd be really grateful smile thanks so much!

chickenowner Fri 21-Oct-16 19:58:38

When I was doing my PGCE 18 years ago, we were told by the course leader that if we didn't end up in tears at some point then there was something wrong! Teaching is hard work, and PGCEs involve lots of extra paperwork that you won't have to do once you qualify. I can remember still sitting up filling in lesson evaluation forms at 11pm every night!

However, the job is also hard and you need to be prepared for long hours for the rest of your career.

Incidentally, I think the teacher who took over your lesson was incredibly unprofessional. Unless you were actually putting your pupils in danger it was the wrong thing for them to do. It could only serve to discredit you in front of your class, which won't help you at all.

My advice? Keep going, qualify, and then decide what to do. There are many options open for qualified teachers. I taught overseas for around 10 years and had a fantastic time, and I'm now a highly sought after supply teacher and work part time only. A full time job is not the only future out there for you!

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