Student Name: Ryan Lee

Course: PGDE Secondary (Home Economics)

Hometown/Country: Musselburgh, Scotland

Year of graduation: 2020

Ryan came to Queen Margaret University (QMU) as an undergraduate to study for a BSc (Hons) in Nutrition. After thoroughly enjoying his time on the course and realising that he wanted to get into teaching, Ryan decided to continue his studies and put his passion for health and wellbeing into practice by enrolling on the University’s new PGDE Home Economics course. He said: “I knew the University well, and it was a great place to study, so the decision to continue at QMU was straightforward for me.”

About you 

What attracted you to the course (both Nutrition and PDGE Home Economics)?

My passion for health and wellbeing, sport, and nutrition originally attracted me to study the BSc Nutrition course. I had always thought about teaching, in some sort of capacity, as a career so when the opportunity arose to continue my studies at QMU and to become a Home Economics teacher I jumped at the chance and have not looked back since. 

 

The Course 

What did you enjoy most about your course(s)? What were some of the highlights?

From Nutrition, it was learning about the contemporary food issues, sustainability and the many health-related issues and inequalities that Scotland faces today. Taking part in an Honours project at a primary school where I was able to teach children about the journey of food and food sustainability was another highlight.

As for the PGDE Home Economics course, embracing the values of social justice and inclusion and putting this into practice as a new Home Economics teacher was a fantastic learning experience. Additionally, I enjoyed challenging stereotypes about the subject and driving Home Economics forward in the 21st century; there’s so much more to it than just aprons and sewing machines! The various placements in secondary schools allowed me to work with so many fantastic teachers and learn a lot from them. You learn in the classroom and can consolidate your learning from campus.

Working with young people is fantastic, too. You have good days and bad days when starting out, but the good certainly outweighs the bad. Every day you learn something new about yourself and what it is like to be a young person in school today. Both courses have provided me with the ability to support young people and provide them with the skills they need to build resilient and sustainable communities through an understanding of nutrition and health equality.

Did you participate in any special activities as part of your course, and were they beneficial?

I took part in the PGDE focus group this year. From being a part of QMU’s inaugural cohort of students, I am glad I was involved in this and grateful for the opportunity. This not only allowed me to see how a

focus group runs within a University, but also provided me, and some of my colleagues, with a platform to give feedback to QMU on the course. I also hope that this will help the course continue to improve and adapt in years to come.

How did your lecturers support your learning?

The lecturers were always on hand to offer their support and advice. It was clear from the beginning that they wanted to push Home Economics forward and provide as many opportunities for us to listen and learn from many different professionals, each with diverse backgrounds and experience across the curriculum. Also, providing feedback on academic writing and challenging us to enquire in schools.

What challenges did you face with the course or university life? How did you overcome them?

For both courses, learning to juggle a hectic personal life with coursework is always challenging. However, you do get through it. You learn to prioritise and when to rest and recharge your batteries - being out on placement for the first time on the PGDE was very tiring.

Can you tell us a little about your placement experiences?

COVID-19 put a halt on my last 5-week placement, but in total, I completed 13 weeks of school placement in two secondary schools. My time on placement allowed me to see what Home Economics was all about. From the different courses, the subject offers, to teaching my very first lesson, which I would probably look back on now with one eye open! But it is where you learn what it is to be a teacher; you get to teach your own classes under the supervision of the class teachers where they provide you with invaluable feedback. Additionally, on each placement, you are externally observed by a QMU mentor and your school mentor who then give you some development points to work on.

Placements also allow you to see how schools operate daily and all the people who make it run smoothly. I read up on child protection procedures and many other school policies. I really did try to get around the whole school and interact with as many different people as possible to make the most of my experience. I joined the lunch club at my first school where I helped judge their Christmas talent show and took part in an eco-group at my second school.

Do you have any advice for students who might be interested in taking either of these courses?

If you are passionate about nutrition, health and wellbeing and working with young people then come and give it a go. I very much enjoyed my time on both courses.

"I enjoyed challenging stereotypes about the subject and driving Home Economics forward in the 21st century; there’s so much more to it than just aprons and sewing machines!"
Ryan Lee, PGDE Secondary (Home Economics)

Did you join any schemes/initiatives to enhance your learning and development while you were at QMU?

I joined the employer mentoring scheme during my third year of the Nutrition course. I suppose I was looking to become more employable and start networking, as well as learning from someone who was previously a student and had secured a job after graduation. I did not necessarily think at the start of this that it would lead me to where I am today. However, I joined the scheme with an open mind and found the experience to be invaluable. I keep in touch with my mentor, and they have been a fantastic support to me. I would like to give back in the future and join this initiative as a mentor.

What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?

Work hard and remember to enjoy your time as a student as it flies by!

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned at University?

Make the most of your time and get to know new people. There are so many interesting stories to be heard. 

 

After graduation 

Can you tell us about your life or plans for once you’ve graduated? (your career path, notable achievements, etc.)?

Graduation this year will be a story I can share for a long time since it has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is an experience which has, in some ways, allowed all of us to slow down a little and reflect, adapt and improve.

I plan to start my teaching post at Musselburgh Grammar School in August and to continue to learn and improve as a teacher while doing all I can to take Home Economics forward as a subject. As well as this, I am looking forward to getting back to refereeing football matches and am hoping to kick on with that when we are able to return.

[Published June 2020]