Monday, 26 January 2015

A run-through of the application

The application is only the beginning, but this is how you get yourself into the interviews, so you need to shine on paper aswell as in person.  I'm going to give a run through of what I included in mine and how I set it out to give you an idea for when you write yours.

When writing my personal statement I must have tweeked and gone through it about 30 times before actually sending it.  I found it really helpful to take a little time away from it and come back with fresh eyes after an hour or two.  You may see something you didn't before, or find a better way of phrasing something which cuts down the word count (meaning you get an extra couple of pieces in).  I also want to mention that I sent mine off at the beginning of December, applications opened mid October this year so you don't have to be straight in there on the day they open.  You can relax a little (but not too much!) and make sure you have it perfect before you send it on its way.

There are quite a few parts to the application that you need to think through carefully, the main part is the personal statement, but there's also your work history (where you can write 200-250 words for each) which needs to be written carefully as you can slot in a few more relevant skills!

Ok so starting from the top, you've got all of your personal information (fairly straight forward!). Next are these three, smaller sections, where I've added some helpful hints I've picked up along the way.

  • Your Choices: The tip I have here is take care when choosing which order to put them in, because the universities know you've put them as 'choice 2'.  I didn't realise they were in a hierarchy and at one interview the tutor mentioned I had put them as my second choice.  So they do know!
  • Your Qualifications: Straight forward, with the breakdown of your degree I put the titles of every module I did, this will give them an idea of what topics you have done.  Having come from a Textile Design degree I had all of the design modules you might expect but had some they may not have expected.  Photography, Marketing and the History of Art are among some of them.  You may have done some modules that show another skill, so write all of the titles out!  If the titles don't clearly show what the module is about then you could tweek them to give them so they do know.
  • School and Work Experience: This doesn't just have to be about your school and work experience.  I put any voluntary work in here too, so being a leader at GirlGuides and volunteering at a summer school.  I also put about my non school related work experience (waitressing and designing).  There are skills that can be transferable from any job, you just have to think about it.  This section is a good way to build upon what you have written into your personal statement, but whatever you do, DON'T REPEAT YOURSELF!!  You have the perfect opportunity to get a couple of extra skills across here, so think carefully about these sections.
And so we have made it to the main section, the Personal Statement.....

The first paragraph, I kept mine fairly short compared to the other paragraphs and made an impact, this paragraph was about why I wanted to teach.  It's a fantastic place to start and a perfect way to show your passion for the profession.  You'll get asked this at every interview too so a couple of sentences that sum it up perfectly is a good starting point.

My second paragraph I spoke a little about my journey to this point.  I've come from a design background, having done a Textile Design degree I went on to set up my own business as a freelance designer.  Quite different to teaching, but I linked everything back to how it would help me in a teaching career.  It explained what I've been doing (not just sitting around twiddling my thumbs) and the skills I have gained that are transferable.  Think about the skills that will give you an edge, I spoke about my strong IT skills and confidence with new software packages, with ICT being a fairly big change to the new curriculum I felt this would give me a little edge.  This also nicely ran into my more recent experience and me school experience.

The biggest chunk I spoke about my school experience, this is the most important part, however you need to expand upon your experience and show what you've taken from it.  I wrote a bit about my guiding, my volunteering at a summer school (literally a sentence on each) and then the bulk was the school experience.  You need to talk about what you learnt, maybe pick a couple of specific parts and what you learnt, for example a certain way the teacher managed behaviour and why it was effective.  Differentiation and how the teachers dealt with this, or how they included children with special needs, were there certain methods the teacher used?

Next I wrote a sentence or two on the extra events I took part in at the schools I volunteered at and finally a closing paragraph which included my extra curriculars.  You may not think these are important but they show a bit more about you and that you have interests outside of teaching.  I've done my Duke of Edinburgh, kickboxing, drumming and costume designing which will all be useful as a teacher.  Don't leave this information out of your personal statement!

The last section is your references, teachers are incredible busy people, so ask nicely.  I asked one of the teachers I worked with during my experience and she gave me a sparkling reference!  Also, make sure you let them know how much it means to them that they have taken the time to write you one, give them a very nice thank you, a present or two and let them know how it goes for you (if they are interested).

This has got to be one of the best websites for helping you write your personal statement, there is an abundance of ideas, so you definitely won't be stuck on what to include.  If you still are then you haven't got enough experience!

If you have any questions just leave me a comment and I will answer them in my next post!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Pre-PGCE Application: What you need to do

I'm well on my way to becoming a teacher!  I've set this blog up to record my journey from application to interview, to trainee and hopefully to a fully qualified teacher!

I've come to this profession from a design background, having graduated with a Textile Design degree in 2012.  I spent the past two and a half years freelancing before settling down and pursuing a career I am very passionate about.  Teaching.

Now when I first sat down and truly began to think about embarking upon a PGCE course I didn't really know much about the process, what would be involved and how much work it would be.  My first bit of advice for those of you considering a PGCE course is to DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Little story: I came across a lady, who when she first wanted to go into teaching, merrily went to get her 10 days experience for her application but hadn't done any research into the application process and what would happen at the interviews.  She loved working with the children and got involved when she was volunteering, however, she hadn't watched the teacher at all, so when it came to applying and interviews she was way out of her depth and ended up withdrawing her application.  What a waste of a year!  Don't let this happen to you!

You can look at different courses and they will give you a little idea of what is involved but I found the best way is to trawl through forums, look on youtube and read PGCE student blogs to get a better picture (I'll be posting some of my favourites in later posts).  Find out from the people who have done it, they will be more than happy to let you know how stressful and tiring it is.  If this doesn't scare you off then maybe a PGCE is for you.

Once I'd decided that I definitely wanted to go into teaching I started to look at the requirements for these courses, three of the main ones are:

  • 2:1 in a UK Honours degree (tick)
  • At least grade C in GCSE English, Science and Maths (tick, tick, tick)
  • Have recent experience in a UK Primary School

Now most courses state 10 days experience as a minimum but my advice would be to get as much experience as you can.  A lot of applicants are teaching assistants, who have a wealth of experience, so if you are like me, a graduate from a different profession, then you need to be able to talk about what the teacher did and why they did it that way.  You need to be able to reflect on your experience and the best way to see what works and what doesn't is to observe a range of teachers, from teaching assistants, to NQT's, to teachers who have done it for years.  Also try and get experience in both Key Stages if possible (there is a huge difference in Primary School!)

I spent 5 full weeks in these schools (2 in one and 3 in the other) then continued on at one for 2 days a week and mentioned this in my personal statement as if shows a huge amount of commitment when you are just volunteering.

Lastly start to think about what skills will make you stand out, you are going into a process that is saturated with applicants who all have C's and above in their GCSE's, who have 2:1's in their degree and who have a lot of experience.  You need to bring more to the table than merely what the Universities are asking for.  Make yourself shine and take up extra curricular activities if your lacking, I'll come back to this point in a later post but for now just make sure you are thinking about what skills you can gain to give you and edge and help your application.

Sneak Peek of what is coming:
  • Lots of links to websites I have found to be extremely useful!
  • What you need to be looking at when on placements.
  • Extra curriculars and how important they are.
  • The application process
  • The interviews

If you have any questions at all then leave a comment and I will try and answer them in my future posts!