I have now been volunteering with the Foundation students since December, this was not only for me to experience being on the other side of tutorials/crits/discussions/presentations so I could get a taste of whether I would want to pursue this path in the future but also offered an opportunity for the more Fine Art focused students on the course to have direct contact with someone on the degree at the college.
In these sessions I have had one to one tutorials with many of the students and developed and understanding of their work and rapport with them, I have taken part in their Pecha Kucha presentations helping to give developmental feedback, I have held group crits that encouraged the students to have open discussions with each other about their work instead of focusing on their sketch books, I have also given feedback on written proposals and portfolio guidance. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute I've spent with the foundation students and get a real buzz out of seeing their ideas develop. Initially I was concerned that my contextual knowledge wouldn't be broad enough to be able to provide any useful suggestions but I found in the Pecha Kucha presentations in particular I have an awful lot more stored up in the back of my mind than I realised. After these presentations in particular I had an opportunity to talk about my contributions with a tutor I don't normally interact with and was delighted when told that sometimes volunteers will come in and focus on talking about their own practice and how they approach certain situations rather than using prompts to encourage the students to talk about their own work and that I had unconsciously been doing that and hadn't once referenced my own practice.
While I have been doing these sessions I have also had the opportunity to talk to one of last years graduates who is now doing a PGCE. It was a good way to get an insight into what was expected on the course and a chance to ask how she felt about the course. Her suggestion was to go the PGCE route as a get it out the way exercise - but I am also aware that her situation is very different to mine. She was kind enough to let me sit in on one of her sessions too so I could see what was expected of her sessions and how the lesson plans were implemented.
In the last few weeks of volunteering with foundation I could feel myself focusing more on the MA route of progression than the PGCE - not because I wasn't enjoying the sessions but because I was becoming more aware that there would be nothing preventing me from volunteering in the future or still being involved in someway without directly pursuing the teaching qualifications and also that where I am in my life is more suited to tackling the MA - as I have said before I will never get a more suitable situation to be considering taking on this kind of educational commitment - where as a PGCE could be undertaken at a later point when I do have more commitments in my life. Also I have begun to recognise the importance of industry experience in tutors that are leading FE and HE courses - and how would I be able to offer up pertinent and valid opinions if I go straight from education to teaching. Definitely those tutors with professional practice are able to speak from a position of authority. It has also been suggested to me that once you have the teaching qualification you tend to stick with it because of the job security which was an interesting point of view.
So although I have found myself moving away form the PGCE progression it is not through bad experience, but simply that it has given me the opportunity to understand what is involved and rationalise what is going to be most beneficial to me at this point in my life.
Charlie also very kindly wrote me a brief feedback to support the benefit of the volunteering.