Nicolle's Diary #7: Reflecting on my first year
Rewind 12 months, I sit in my living room, I have sent off my UCAS application to study a Foundation Degree in Learning and Education. “Am I really doing the right thing?” I ask my husband.
“You won’t know until you’ve tried” he responds somewhat exhausted by having that same conversation yet again. Three months later, I stand outside the middle school my course is being ran out of, the weight of the bulging pencil case and array of notepads and folders in my bag reassure me I am nothing if not prepared. I enter determined but full of anxiety. This anxiety I soon discovered was unnecessary as was probably half of the stationary I insisted upon taking.
I entered a large well-lit room with sweets laid out upon the tables. My new tutor introduced herself as did the settings administrator who I had fortunately met before. Others arrived and I remember thinking they all looked young and that this was going to go one way or another…
Here I stand today, my first year of study completed. This, due to my future ambitions, is the first of four years. It has flown by. Almost like a blink and you’ll miss it experience. How is it possible that in the past 10 months I have attended 29 lectures, 2 student conferences and submitted 8 assignments. HOW? If this is reflective of the pace of the next three years, I am almost saddened. It has been amazing and far too quick!
I remember wondering how it would be possible to teach up to four degrees at the same time in the same centre. Yet I can honestly say this is my favourite aspect of these degrees. I remember the first handful of times I heard the term “community of inquiry” and thinking this sounds like an excuse for some to work harder than others and yet everyone to reap the benefits. I was sceptical to say the least. Fortunately, this reluctance was again ill-founded, with everyone benefiting from each other’s experiences. I have made some fantastic friends, some of which are studying a different course to myself. We discuss a topic, such as inclusion, and are not limited to the one setting (such as a school) or shared experience and instead explore it from a multitude of angles, gaining an insight that had this not been the format would have been impossible.
The modules covered have been diverse and relevant. I was probably not as familiar with the style of work expected, amazed when given the autonomy to be critical of the statutory curriculum with no expectation to conform or ‘blow smoke’ where I didn’t think it was deserved. I cannot lie and say some modules have not been more challenging than others, but with the benefit of hindsight more often than not that’s because I have over-complicated them. I have probably immersed myself too deeply in all of my modules having acquired my own mini library, despite having access to hundreds of sources online but this only acts as testament to how interesting it has all been.
Then there’s the student conferences, a chance for my local group to get away on a weekend together, we can go off into our different degree specific groups and then come together for meals, drinks or to chat- like a mini-break with friends. Better still however, the tutors join in and this provides further insight into all manner of discussion topics and not just those related to our studies. It really does feel like a community with no hierarchy or barriers and they even had a make your own cheesecake at one of them!
All in all having looked back over this past 12 months I can truly say this has been one of the best of my life. I have felt myself grow academically, in confidence, in ambition and develop my skills in relation to my work placement. I have made some great friends, who have all supported one and other through the current lockdown situation and not just in relation to our studies. I have had opportunities for CPD present themselves separate from my course and I have nothing but gratitude for all the students and tutors I have worked with. I cannot wait to embark on Level 5!