After teaching children in Hong Kong for 7 years, Annie joined us to continue her teaching career in the UK. Keep reading to hear about her experience of our PGCE programme as an international student, including the bespoke support we offer at the University of Cumbria.
What prompted you to train for your PGCE?
Before coming to the UK, I had been teaching in Hong Kong in a primary school for 7 years. I always wanted to make learning an enjoyable experience for my students, however, between the school system and the highly competitive environment, I found that my students in Hong Kong lost their basic interest in acquiring knowledge. At the same time, the pandemic hit the whole world. During lockdown, I finally had some spare time to imagine what teaching in the UK might be like, this period of reflection brought me here - to the University of Cumbria.
Why did you choose the University of Cumbria?
When I started researching how to continue my teaching career in the UK, I found that the University of Cumbria provided a structured PGCE course with QTS awarded. Although I have my teaching qualification in Hong Kong, I was uncertain about the UK education system and what differences there would be between teaching in a primary school in Hong Kong versus the UK. Moreover, I had heard positive things about the reputation of teacher training at the University of Cumbria.
I chose to study in Lancaster because I would like to settle down in this area. I could finally reunite with my partner after the pandemic and I was attracted to the fantastic scenery, the history, the city's vibe and the serenity.
What barriers did you overcome in your teacher training journey?
We can't avoid difficulties in our lives and this certainly applies to me too. I still remember the moment when I walked into the lecture room and felt so aware of being an ESL student, the other ‘Chinese face’ in the class. I felt nervous at first, even though I used to teach English to my Hong Kong students, and I wondered how could I improve my English. Besides, being a teacher isn’t just about lesson planning or delivering. Using the age-appropriate, informal language in the classroom and listening to different local accents all added to my everyday routine and there were times that I felt frustrated.
I found this advice useful: make it functional! As long as I could communicate with my classmates, colleagues and tutors, I have been applying my second language. In other words, you shouldn’t put too much stress on it. Rather than worrying about my English accent, I talked to my UoC tutors and mentors who fully supported me in my teaching and gave me useful guidance. Recently, I began listening to BBC channel 4 while driving to school and I my everyday conversations are improving
It was an amazing journey throughout the placements. I had many happy tears in schools: the moment when I left the class with lots of children giving me hugs and cards; the moment when I shared my worries and frustration with my class teacher who truly cared for me and gave me great support.
What was the moment when things fell into place for you?
I found the course quite challenging to begin with, particularly my placement in September, but my tutor came to my placement schools to support my work and supervised my progress. She was caring and supportive, listened to me and reinforced me with positivity.
Tell us about your experiences on placement.
It was an amazing journey throughout the placements. I had many happy tears in schools: the moment when I left the class with lots of children giving me hugs and cards; the moment when I shared my worries and frustration with my class teacher who truly cared for me and gave me great support. Don’t be afraid if the placements sound a little bit overwhelming or challenging, especially when you are staying late after school and still haven’t done all the planning! It is part of the journey to becoming a qualified teacher and developing your unique teaching style.
What advice would you give after your experiences?
Try to reach out to others and see how things could go differently or change the approach if the first one doesn’t work. Always reflect and talk to your tutors and class teachers if there is anything you wanted to clarify, just ask! There’s no such thing as a silly question.
What has been your overall experience training with the University of Cumbria?
I consider studying at UoC as the beginning of the second part of my life. I moved to a new country and city and met many friendly and welcoming friends and teachers. I also learned to be more independent and to reach out. After all, it is not easy to step out of any comfort zone. I am so glad that I made the decision and have achieved more than I ever thought I could. I am so ready to be teaching in my own classroom this September.
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