GET SERIOUSLY ORGANISED
In the previous piece of our eight-part series on the PGCE, we talked about how important it is for candidates to recognise the importance of the academic side of the course. Before that, we discussed the advantage of giving up part-time work and taking financial aid in order to finish the qualification in a single year and dedicate the time and attention that the PGCE warrants.
Today’s piece is on the theme of organisation. If you want to survive and thrive in your PGCE year, then organisation is one of the critical skills you must master. This organisation comes in multiple forms, which we will explore separately. In summary, they include:
· “On-paper” organisation
· Academic organisation
· Time organisation
This broad theme includes any and all paperwork that pertains either to your PGCE course or to your school placement. While many small things about being a teacher change over the years, one of the things that never seems to change are the mountains of paperwork.
Here, we’re referring to documents that are not related to your academic or teaching life but are nonetheless crucial for other reasons. This may include forms relating to your bursary or other financial aid, your school’s staff paperwork not related to your day-to-day teaching work, and more.
We recommend that you keep all important paperwork in relevant folders, ideally divided or otherwise organised by category. Folders with individual clear-plastic A4 holders are great, because it protects your important paperwork while also make it easier to look for documents quickly.
Here’s a handy list of stationery that all aspiring teachers should have in their workspace:
· Pencils – go for mechanical pencils so you don’t have to deal with sharpeners and shavings
· Pens – gel pens for fast notetaking are a must-have
· Folders, binders and files – don’t mix too many different categories of material in a single folder, since it just makes it harder to locate information you need
· Post-its – great for casual reminders and ideas that you can stick to a board or to your laptop
· A sizeable but not cumbersome backpack or satchel for when you need to carry it all around – favour a larger bag if it means you get items in comfortable without cramming.
If you don’t have one already, it’s also a great idea to get hold of a dual-function printer/scanner. They’re relatively inexpensive and extremely handy when you receive important documents via email that you have to print and sign, or just to keep a hard copy for your own reference. It can also help you digitalise your print materials.
The academic side of your PGCE is demanding, and you’ll have various modules and assignments to complete during the intensive year of study. You should approach your academic organisation in a similar fashion to the paperwork mentioned above. Keep all digital and hard-copy materials in clearly marked folders and ensure that you backup any digital material on a USB drive or other portable hard drive.
During your school placement, you will also have materials for different class groups, subjects and sessions. An effective method of organisation is very important since you have to keep track of this material every week. This is the most challenging part, but also the best preparation for the inevitable avalanche of paperwork that is coming your way when you gain status as an NQT and enter your first year in a regular school job.
The factor that ties all of your organisation together is time. Effective time management is crucial for both your academic studies and your work programme. In the first article of this series, we shared our view on not getting part-time jobs and instead favouring financial aid because part-time work makes it much harder for a PGCE candidate to manage their time well.
Time management is about planning and discipline. You need to look carefully at all the tasks you have to do in a given week, and plan out how to get them done in a realistic and achievable way. Avoid making overly ambitious commitments, therefore, such as thinking you can finish your PGCE assignments in a single weekend, or do all your lesson planning on Sunday evening. You need to factor in all of the following:
· Time to research and make lesson plans
· Time where you will be in classes or doing PGCE academic work
· Time where you are marking work or doing other school paperwork
· Time for rest, recreation and a social life
· Time to travel to and from where you need to get to
You can’t afford to ignore any of these factors, otherwise your time management will get skewed. The best-case scenario is you disappoint yourself for not meeting your goals that day or week, but the worst-case scenario is that you don’t leave yourself anything like enough time to do good work where it counts.
Organisation is your best ally in the PGCE
The business and pressure of the PGCE is what makes it such a good preparation for life as a teacher. It demands that you are organised and committed to meeting your goals, and that’s the very core of teaching.
Look out for the next part of our series, in which we will be discussing why it’s important to finish academic assignments as efficiently as possible during the PGCE.