So, on the 26th June 2015 I was reborn.

No biggy.

My soul was cleansed and I rose from my slumber, gazing on the world with fresh new vision. Everything was beautiful.

I took my disneyfied new body for a walk along the beach. The sun kissed my skin and a ladybird fluttered cheerfully onto my hand, beaming back at me as a trio of bluebirds sang ‘Good morning.’

…….Right, yes….OK….I’m exaggerating a teeny tiny bit. Just a little bit.

Basically, on the 26th June, I graduated. My PGCE year was over and I was officially a Primary Teacher. The dream had been achieved and the curtain had closed on an incredible year.

Incredible for many reasons.

Incredible because I had achieved something I had wanted for years. Incredible because I had learned so much and developed as a person thanks to some brilliant experiences and opportunities. Incredible because I had met some wonderfully supportive and inspirational people. And incredible because it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Ever. Ever ever.

Yes, it was totally worth it and, yes, I absolutely enjoyed it, but there is no denying it was tough. Very tough. I am adamant that over the past ten months I ate enough chocolate to feed a small village and I aged fifteen years. To anyone contemplating a PGCE I would, of course, urge you to do it if your heart really lies in education (and if it doesn’t….well you’ll soon find out) but be prepared.

This time last year I was gearing up for six weeks of freedom before I kissed goodbye to….well….to everything! (My social life, my sleeping pattern…) The advice I was given was:

‘This summer, read any books you want to read. Get up to date with any TV programmes. See your family and friends….because you won’t have time for any of that from September.’

Hahaha. Mega lolz. What a joke! We all laughed.

But he was deadly serious. And absolutely correct.

On the 26th June I genuinely felt like I had been re-released into the world. Suddenly, I was free. I could read. Go for walks. Eat at a reasonable time. See my friends. Say ‘Yes’ to a social event without thinking about the work I needed to complete first. Spend mornings in bed watching ‘Orange is the New Black’. Read whole chapters of books in one sitting. I was granted a magical gift that I had sacrificed for ten months – Time.

Don’t think I’m exaggerating. I fell into the trap of thinking my friends and colleagues were doing just that as they warned me to enjoy my summer holidays but they were so so so so right. When I worked as I TA, I often wondered why colleagues who had taken the PGCE route into education were spoken about like they had been on some kind of Bear Grylls forest-trekking, shark-wrestling, friend-eating survival expedition before entering the classroom. A PGCE student is a survivor.

Whilst I sat in the graduation room, two emotions bubbled inside me. Firstly, I felt like I had undergone some sort of trauma. From battling deadlines, to the endless stream of paperwork and late nights and early mornings and long drives and dreaded lesson observations – you know you’re busy when you swallow grapes whole at lunch time and find yourself crying when you’re reminded of the friends you haven’t seen in six months whilst driving along the dual carriageway. So, yeh, trauma.

Secondly (and most importantly), I felt proud. Pride like I had never felt before. The kind of pride I imagine Alan Grant felt as he left Isla Nublar at the end of Jurassic Park….Yes, that’s right. That is exactly the parallel I am going to make – I felt like I’d just survived 10 months on an island of rampaging, meat-hungry dinosaurs. By the end you’ll be pretty exhausted and maybe even a little bit emotionally scarred, but you will be proud that you survived and grateful for the opportunity. Just like Dr Grant, you will have plenty of stories to tell and you’ll live to enjoy an exciting future.

Finally, here are my four top tips for the PGCE-ers of the future.

  • Make friends. I know plenty of people who have survived to the end due to the support of their fellow students. My bunch certainly helped each other (after many a stressed-out text message).
  • Make time to see your family and friends. Yes, enjoy their company as much as you can over the summer, but you will need downtime during the course. Make sure you plan lots of fun things to help you relax.
  • Enjoy it. It may be hard but you only get to do it once so make the most of the experience, stay positive and be the best you can be.
  • Remember, an extremely rewarding career waits for you on the other side.
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