I left the PGCE course. After spending the Christmas period thinking long and hard about it, I came to the realisation that teaching is not for me. At least, not right now. Who knows, maybe in 20 years time I’ll be ready. I got a lot of advice about what to do, some people suggesting I’d probably get on better teaching in a college or adult education. Others said I would probably have felt differently had the Computer Science PGCE actually been primarily Computer Science, and not have me teaching mostly ICT. That is true. If I had stayed, I would have done a short placement in a different school, one that did teach Computer Science. But even so, my feelings were more on the experience of teaching in general, things that would be the same at any school. And also the growing realisation of what I want to be doing.
I still don’t know what I want to do. I don’t have a single job in mind that I want to do, or specific company I’m desperate to work for. But one of the things I missed most was ‘making things’. The chance to build something from components, or write software, or program an embedded system, and the persistence to keep going and overcome any problems to reach the desired end goal. To make it do what I want it to do. My last job didn’t give me much opportunity for this. Any software was likely to be VBA based in Microsoft Word or Excel, and even that was much less a part of my role towards the end as they shifted the focus of our team to providing training courses.
I feel knowing I want to do more of that is a good thing. Since leaving the PGCE, I’ve had time to work on projects of my own and go through the material on different online courses, to try and learn new things. I won 6 months subscription to Treehouse when I went to Breaking Borders in December. While I am currently between jobs, I’m working through as much material on there as I can. Even though I don’t want to be a web designer (maybe a web developer) I have gone through all of their web design material. I have then taken what I’ve learned there to completely redesign my website http://dw87.co.uk. It’s not much, but it now makes use of more current date HTML and CSS than before, and looks different.
I’ve also finally made use of my Raspberry Pi, after perhaps avoiding it because I had never really used Linux. I’ve made a project that uses a web server on the Raspberry Pi with a Python script to change the LEDs of the PiGlow module when someone visits my website. This was also a good opportunity for me to join and learn to use Github, something I had also not used (shocking, I know). For those interested, the project can be found here, PyGloworm.
I am also working on another web project using Twitter, to explore their new 1.1 API, as it’s all changed since I last developed anything with Twitter (about 4 years ago). I am really enjoying the challenge of knowing what something should do, and trying to work out how to make it do it. Over Christmas, I admit I did a lot of gaming on my Xbox 360. Since starting work on my own projects, I’ve been more focussed on making them work, and learning what I need to achieve that, and have barely touched my Xbox. In fact, I’ve only really touched it to swap the HDMI cable over into my Raspberry Pi so I can use the same screen. After the Twitter project, my next goal is to get into Android development, and convert my old Windows Phone 7 app that controlled my Netduino robot into an Android app to control my m3pi robot.
As well as redesigning my website, I feel that I am redesigning myself at the same time. I’ve got a better idea what I want to do, and I’m enjoying working on projects of my own while hopefully learning new skills at the same time. I’m even considering taking up a new hobby, something I’ve not really had in recent years. I’ll keep you posted on that one. Even though I’m technically currently unemployed, I feel more positive about things that I have for a long time, and hope I can find a job that won’t rob me of this feeling.
2013 has come to an end. Thank f**k for that!
The fact that this year was numbered 13 was never going to bode well for anyone. Superstitious or not, the number 13 is never very appealing, and to have it looming over every single day this was not going to be good. But it’s finally over. I have no idea if 2014 is going to be better, but it already gets off to a better start being the number 14.
It seems 2013 was the year things went wrong. I went in to the year with bright ideas of changing careers and doing something completely different, that I actually had the right skills and qualifications for (after multiple rejections at job interviews confirming the experience I’d got from my job was not sufficient enough for anything) – teaching. With Computer Science coming onto the National Curriculum from 2014, it seemed like the perfect time to train. Everyone was saying it would make getting a job really to start teaching Computer Science in September 2014, when more schools need to offer it.
Unfortunately the University were loose with their naming and description of the course. A PGCE in Secondary Computer Science feels more like a PGCE in Secondary ICT with Computer Science, as many of us found ourselves placed in schools that only teach ICT. Not what we thought we were signing up for. Coupled with the drastic increase in funding if we waited until 2014 (more than double the training grant, for the same classification of degree), it definitely seems 2013 was not the right year to train. If we had waited to start until 2014, we would have had more chance of being placed in schools that teach Computer Science, and better funded! But now I’m on the course, I either stick it out and finish, even though I no longer feel teaching is the right job for me, or leave and somehow find something else to do. But I was already not skilled or qualified enough for most of the jobs I wanted to do, so it’ll be near impossible to find anything.
I leave 2013 behind, glad to see the back of it, but not having a clue what the future holds. All the advice I get is I should stick with the course, that no matter how I feel about it, I should complete it. If I follow my gut feeling though, it’s that I should leave the course, and find something new. That I really don’t actually want to be a teacher, now I’ve had the opportunity to experience it. I’m definitely glad I’ve tried, not only did it get me out of a job that was making me miserable to the core, but it gave me the chance to find out what being a teacher is actually like. That is not something I could ever have found out from reading books or talking to people. It’s just that now I’ve found out what it is like, I am 99% certain it is not what I want to be doing with my life. Not now at least.
So I go into 2014 even less certain about what I want to do, and where I want my career to go than I did going into 2013. At least then I knew I wanted to get out of a job I was stuck in. I wrote last year that you should always follow your instincts, not advice from other people. Right now my instincts are mixed, but more on the side of leaving than staying. It is the advice of others that is pushing me to stay.
But it is also not knowing what I would do instead that stops me. I know I enjoy working with electronics, embedded systems and some programming. But I don’t really have enough skills in any of that to get a job doing it. I might get lucky and find a junior/entry level position, but I doubt it. I know I enjoy working with young people, within Scouting and things such as Young Rewired State, helping them learn to code. I have tried combining all of that by going in to teaching, which hasn’t worked. But I think it would be difficult to find a job working in just one of those areas, that I would enjoy.
I’ve got to hold out hope that something will work out. Whether I suddenly start enjoying teaching, and ‘see the light’ that it is the right thing for me to do, or I find some other opportunity – either I apply to a job and miraculously get it, or something else comes along. If I don’t, then it’s difficult to see the point in anything.
That is a very difficult question!
When I first went to write this post, I envisioned another long, drawn out, ramble. But then I found I didn’t have time to write one. So I started, but couldn’t get past the first line.
From my PGCE experience so far, I have very quickly found that teaching probably is not the right career for me. I found that as the term went on, and I was teaching more lessons (still only about 30% of what a regular teacher does), I was feeling less and less comfortable in the classroom. A lot of the feedback I was getting was saying things like I need to “show my personality more” or “relax in the classroom”, and that if I can “show enthusiasm for what I’m teaching, the pupils will want to be there”.
But I was never able to do any of that. Granted, I was always going to find showing enthusiasm difficult, because although I am on a Computer Science PGCE course, I am placed in a school that only offers ICT. So it’s difficult to be enthusiastic about teaching PowerPoint, or graphical Logo design, when these are not things I am particularly interested in. I was able to get a small bit of programming into the PowerPoint lessons, using Visual Basic for Applications, but it was only minor.
The rest of the time though, I was so concerned with teaching the material correctly, making sure pupils knew what they were doing and were not misbehaving, that I couldn’t begin to think about ‘relaxing’ or ‘showing my personality’. I felt that as the weeks went by, I was feeling less comfortable, not more. If I was in a lesson observing, and effectively being a Teaching Assistant, I was fine. I could relax, talk to the pupils about their work, and felt fine. But put me in front of a class as the Teacher, and I was on edge, worried, stressed, and could only focus on the teaching.
Any day when I had to teach a class, I was constantly on edge, and found for the first time in my life how stress can make you ill. I was feeling so nauseous I did not want to risk eating lunch for fear it would make me more ill and unable to teach the lesson. In talking to my mentor at the school about this, where he was saying I need to be doing something I am comfortable with, he happened to ask “What do I feel the most comfortable doing?”.
I found I couldn’t answer. I mean, of course I’m comfortable at home, be that playing video games or working on my computer. But that’s not something that earns money. In many ways I was comfortable at my previous job. I could go in, sit behind my desk and get on with things, quite easily, as there was no major challenge there. I never felt stressed to the point of feeling ill. But I was not comfortable there for other reasons – it felt like I was trapped, and certainly from experience trying to get another job, it seemed like the experience I was getting there served only to keep me there.
I know I’m comfortable, and enjoy, working with electronics and embedded systems. But this is more something I do as a hobby. I do not have enough experience to take this and get a job doing it. I enjoy programming, and writing software, but again, I do not have enough experience to get a job doing this. I enjoy my involvement with Scouting, running out of school activities for young people, but this is volunteer work and does not pay. After months of job hunting and rejections, I saw teaching as a viable option. It required a degree, which I had, and combined things that I enjoy, programming and working with young people.
But I seem to be finding that the whole is less than the sum of it’s parts. I have not felt comfortable doing it, and do not know if I will feel comfortable if I stick with it. The second school I will be placed at briefly in January does teach Computer Science. I may get on better there, as it will be in the right subject area. Even the mentor there agrees ICT and Computer Science are different subjects, and understands my frustrations with my first placement. But I still know I have to go back to the first school, and I’m not sure I can face that. Plus I don’t think a different subject will affect how I feel about teaching itself. I think a lot of how I feel comes from the general role and work as a teacher, and is not specific to the subject.
What I do going forward is something I still do not know.