Not Every Experience is Perfect – and That’s Okay!

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Placements Manager Jamie Bradbury shares the experiences that shaped his career direction…

When I started at Bath Spa University back in 2008, I felt sure I wanted to be a primary-school teacher. Friends and family had told me I was perfectly suited to it, and I had done the required 10 days of work experience in a primary school, which I had enjoyed. I had taken time out to work after finishing A levels but was finally ready to launch into university life on the 3+1 Education Studies course, with a guaranteed place on the PGCE. For the first time, I had my career plan laid out in front of me.

The course was fantastic. I made lots of friends and the tutors were always very supportive. My first taste of experience through the degree was a school placement out in Melksham, which I attended for one day a week. I was effectively working as a teaching assistant, helping out with all of the lessons and working with small groups of children.

It made me realise how much I enjoyed working with the children and being in a classroom environment. At this point, I was sure I’d made the right decision and was looking forward to the PGCE.

I’d been told that the PGCE would be tougher and more involved, so I knew I’d have to work really hard but was still very motivated. Long gone were the undergraduate days of eight hours per week… I was now getting used to a proper working week. The level of experience was very different in my placements, too. They were much longer and the expectation was to teach 60% of the lessons by the end of the first placement and 80% by the end of the second placement. Working with the children was still enjoyable, but there was something that wasn’t feeling quite right for me.

I’m a person who likes to be prepared and organised, but when teaching I was constantly changing lesson plans. I also liked to have freedom when creating my lessons, but had to fit in with the schools’ teaching structures, as well as their behaviour management and marking policies. Then there was more emphasis on paperwork – something I hadn’t looked at during my initial placement.

But I persevered and completed the PGCE, having gained plenty of experience in working under pressure, organisation, initiative, flexibility, communication and resilience. I had realised that teaching probably wasn’t for me, but shortly after finishing I got a position working with Bath Spa’s Placements team – a role that I really enjoy. I still get to deliver workshops – which is similar to teaching – and I’m in a working environment that I love.

So what did I learn from this? Firstly, that it’s okay to not know what you want to do. Work placements can give you a feel for what you do and don’t like within certain roles and places of work. The more involved the experience is, the more you’ll understand about it.

Secondly, that a bad experience can be equally as beneficial as a good one. You might get lucky and find your dream role, but a lot of the time it won’t be perfect… but you’re likely to have learnt more about your own preferences and how you deal with certain situations.

Thirdly, to keep an open mind and to make the most of opportunities that come your way. This is something I wish I’d done more of. Just because people told me I would make a good teacher, didn’t mean that I would be one. Between A levels and university I worked in a toy store, an auction house and a call centre and I’m glad I tried them all, because each time I found different areas of the jobs I liked.

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