Isabel Braadbaart, PGDE Primary
'I know I will stay in touch with the friends I’ve made for a long time – not just because they are colleagues who share educational interests and values.'
Why did you choose to study at the University of Edinburgh?
As a non-British citizen, I didn’t just choose to come to the University of Edinburgh, I also choose to come to Scotland. The Scottish approach to initial teacher education (ITE) appealed to me because of its conciseness, affordability, and emphasis on practical experience as well as theoretical involvement in education. The PGDE at Moray House was my first choice for two main reasons. The first is that I found the focus on social justice issues, critical, transformative pedagogy, and lifelong professional learning compelling. What I heard at the open days and at the interview resonated with my own beliefs about what being a good teacher means. The second reason, which was really the cherry on top, is simply that I wanted to live in Edinburgh!
What aspects of student life do you enjoy the most?
As a PGDE student, there is not much more to student life than the PGDE – it is very full on! That being said, the intensity of the programme means that you develop some wonderful, supportive friendships very quickly. I know I will stay in touch with the friends I’ve made for a long time – not just because they are colleagues who share educational interests and values, but also because they are great fun.
What aspects of your degree do you enjoy the most?
The PGDE can be seen as split into three parts – exploring the early, middle and upper years of primary education, or two parts – time spent in university and time spent in schools on placement. What I enjoy most is how these two interlink. Time spent on placement feels the most meaningful and important, but it is made so because of the knowledge and skills you have gained while in university. While such an intense program will have flaws and cannot appeal to everyone, it is this deeply embedded sense that I become a better teacher by becoming a better learner that I will carry with me throughout my career. The PGDE at Moray House definitely prepares students to become life-long professional learners.
What do you find most challenging?
Managing your own health and wellbeing on the PGDE is challenging. Not just for me, but for almost everyone I have spoken to. Even if you come from a strong academic background, which will help with the readings and assignments, you will still struggle to feel on top of things. My first placement, in particular, was very stressful, and overall placements are high-stress situations because naturally, you want them to go well! However, after the initial adjustment during the early years part of the course, I really focused on prioritizing my time and energy. It still doesn’t always go perfectly, but I have worked hard to develop routines, habits and mindsets which help me feel that the work I am doing is both manageable and meaningful.
What do you find most rewarding?
As I have already mentioned too many times, the PGDE is a very intense course. You cover a lot of ground in one year, which is exhausting both physically and mentally, but also has the benefit of allowing you to really feel your own growth as a teacher, a student and academic, and a professional. When I think back to how I felt handing in my first assignment or preparing to teach my first full class lesson, it is incredible how much I have gained in confidence and competence over these past eight months. This sense of endless potential for growth is really one of the greatest parts of the PGDE – we know we aren’t perfect teachers (and that no one will ever be perfect!) but we are honing our ability to reflect and develop so that we can continue improving our practice.
..... it is incredible how much I have gained in confidence and competence over these past eight months.
What is your favourite course so far and why?
The PGDE covers various developmental stages as well as areas of the curriculum and professional development – to say there are ‘individual courses’ is a bit constraining. However, one of my favourite classes has been our weekly workshops on language. My Master's degree is in children’s literature and literacies, so obviously this was appealing to me! However, what makes any class great in whatever academic setting is, of course, the teachers. The tutor we had for languages always made space for our own concerns about language and literacy in primary education and had so much useful information and experiences to share with us. Additionally, there was a lot more focus on our ideas and letting us talk – while the tutors, lecturers and readings are informative, I have also learned so much from my fellow students. Because you have classes with the same thirty or so people all year, you really get to know each other and become very comfortable pushing each other further while still being supportive.
The tutor we had for languages always made space for our own concerns about language and literacy in primary education, and had so much useful information and experiences to share with us.
What do you most like about studying here?
There are so many good things about studying at the University of Edinburgh: it has an incredible amount of resources, its staff and research are internationally renowned, it is located in the centre of an amazing city, and if you study at Moray House you get a view of Arthur’s Seat every day! However, the PGDE program is the reason I chose to study here, and it has to be the thing I like most – I wanted to become a teacher, and it is helped me achieve that.
How is your programme equipping you for your future career?
Obviously, the PGDE is intended to produce teachers ready to enter the profession. It is accredited by the GTCS and manifestly does just that. However, this is a rather limited conception of teacher education. The PGDE has provided me (and all its students) with the skills, knowledge and dispositions needed to successfully partake in lifelong professional learning as a teacher. Not every aspect of teaching can be covered in just nine months, however, the focus they take on the essential elements means that while I am nervous about having my own class this August, I am also incredibly excited!
Beyond that, as a dual citizen of the United States and the Netherlands, a key aspect I looked for in choosing a program was transferability. The Scottish ITE approach, and especially the probation year, is in many ways unique and held in regard internationally.