Jamie is a full-time student on the PGCE English course. Prior to coming to the department he studied a BA in English and American Literature and an MA in the same subject at University of Kent.
What first attracted you to teaching?
I benefited from fantastic teachers when I was at school which led me to study English, and I wanted to do the same for others and use my subject within employment.
Why did you choose to do a PGCE?
I chose a PGCE because I wanted to have the academic grounding in the theory of teaching and apply it through experience.
Why did you choose to do your PGCE at Oxford?
Oxford has an excellent reputation and the placement split gave you time to settle within a department during S1. The course allowed you to become involved in the schools that you were placed in and gave you time to reflect on your teaching. The research and essay-writing was great for understanding areas of teaching and educational theory that you were interested in too.
How have you been supported throughout the course?
I think you get supported through so many different outlets. Throughout I felt I could ask anyone of my peers for advice. The department is always helpful and I always felt that I would be supported. My placement schools also offered so much help and, because of the length of S1, you almost become part of the department.
What have been the highlights of the year?
In terms of the course there were so many great things. At the start of the course the seminars at the department were varied and fun. You get to know your mentors and peers quite well and so sessions like the behaviour management one become informative and entertaining. When we all first started the split time at department and school it was great to talk to the other PGCE students about what was going on.
For teaching, I think the months of February/March were the ones I enjoyed most. It’s difficult to go from part-time to full-time, but after adjusting you start to hit a rhythm with your teaching.
What’s the community like at the department?
It’s a great one. You feel welcomed by a friendly staff and all the students are in the same position of learning how to teach. There’s a sense of collectivism amongst those on the course.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about applying to Oxford’s PGCE?
If you want to go into teaching then I’d definitely go for the Oxford PGCE. You get all the benefits of being an Oxford student (with less free-time admittedly), and you also get a course which is fine-tuned to provide you with the tools to become a successful, reflective teacher.
Do you have any advice for someone preparing to start their Oxford PGCE?
Organisation from the start is probably my top tip. The course slowly drops you in to a school, and when you start full-time your workload increases quite significantly, so you need to stay on top. Also, always write your reflections as soon as you can after a lesson! It’s therapeutic and also will save you so much work in the long-run!
What was the application process, including the interview, like at Oxford?
I applied late – around a week before the course started – but it didn’t take me long to apply at all. I remember that I was at the airport coming back from holiday and I got the call that I had been accepted for interview. I had to prepare a small oral presentation about some aspect of teaching that I focused on during a visit to a secondary school. I remember being really nervous for the interview, but the interviewers were friendly.
Looking back, when you applied to Oxford did you have any misconceptions about the University?
I don’t think so, but because it’s Oxford I did wonder whether I was good enough to be there. I remember in the first week we had a lecture mention this feeling of being an impostor, and they said that if you’re here, you’re good enough. However, as the course goes on you completely forget that you ever thought that.
What do you hope to achieve through teaching?
I think teaching students brings its own rewards. Seeing students being able to apply what you taught them is a fantastic feeling.
What do you most value about the teaching at the department?
I think there is always an innate sense of critique and debate. We were always encouraged to reflect on what we had seen or read and critique it. I also cannot understate the support our teachers gave us throughout.
What are the biggest misconceptions about teaching?
That it’s an easy job where you finish at 3pm and have long holidays. Teaching is tough and, especially as an English teacher, you have to accept that marking will sometimes take over.
What has your degree taught you most?
I think the PGCE taught me to always reflect on my teaching, and to think about what I can improve on. I certainly became a lot more organised too, though I was one of those students who always forgot to bring a pen!
What’s your favourite thing about studying at the department?
The sheer collection of journals, books, and resources that Oxford has is such an advantage when you are writing coursework. You have so much at your disposal.