This year I have signed up to do a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education), basically a crash course in high school teaching. I decided to sign up mid-way through the year last year, and I’ve been excited about getting started ever since. I’d heard from several friends who also did it, how worthwhile it is. That, “It’s a breeze to complete while working”, compared to the stresses of postgrad studies. After only one week of studies, I am convinced that my friends need to relook at their definition of “a breeze”.

One week in, and I was already five chapters and three assignments behind. I looked at the number of assessments for just one of my five modules this term, and I started thinking this mountain was going to be insurmountable. One of the lecturers announced, in no uncertain terms, “Trying to complete full time studies, keep up with responsibilities at work and maintain a stable family and social life, is impossible”. Thanks for your encouragement, sir.

Attending online lectures has been a baptism of fire too. Anonymous attendance lectures led by monotonous lecturers, are dangerous for someone who has the attention span of a carrot…

Adding to this confusion, there is a group of PGCE students that start in March, and one that started last year in July. These two groups take the exact same modules but are currently at very different stages of their modules. And so, they have different, designated lecture times. But still have the same module code. There is nothing as confusing as joining a Xhosa lecture and having absolutely no idea how you went from “my name is” to “sentence construction and noun classes in isiXhosa” in one lecture.

The crowning jewel in this chaotic course has been the registration process. I went through the registration process seven times at university, and every year it was a nightmare. Whether it was mix ups with modules, outstanding contracts or hiking around campus to deal with blocked student cards, while dealing with food poisoning, the registration process has always confounded me. But this year was going to be different. I registered as early as possible, I made sure everything was paid up and submitted in November already. Come January, it was all plain sailing. I thought that I had finally gotten it right.

I, in all my wisdom, decided not to register for a computing course that was compulsory, because I planned on writing the course’s exemption test. Little did I know, you can only write the test, by first registering for the course. Which in hindsight, was obvious. After learning this I spent a week trying to find out how to join a module after registration had closed. At first, there was overwhelming anxiety that I had potentially ruined my chance of finishing the course in a year. I was panicking, switching between frustration with myself and fear of failure, so early in the year. Eventually though, after doing everything I could to get the registration ball rolling, I experienced a sudden sense of peace. I still had no idea what the outcome would be, but I was calmer in facing the future, and in forgiving myself for my mistake. I was able to lay my fears at the Lord’s feet and just walk away. The week of rollercoaster peace and fear culminated in a very audible “THANK THE LORD” in the middle of JA Floral, when the email came through that I had been registered.

Now that the jitters of starting something new are over, the course is starting to be exciting again. The lectures are no longer monotonous, I’m catching up on the reading and the mountain of assignments are actually not so bad. Most of all, because of the disruption to my carefully laid out plans at the beginning of the term, I am better mentally prepared to deal with any other issues that might pop up in the year. It’s still a very long road ahead, but like a runner settling into their pace, I’m finding my rhythm.

Many of us started something new this year. New studies, new job, new stage of life, or just another new year. It may seem a bit late to be talking about starting new things when we are already three months into the year, but as with my studies, this is about the time that we all settle down into our rhythm. We’ve seen the hurdles we are going to be facing, and we’ve gotten over the initial growing pains of doing something new. Now it’s just a matter of not losing steam. So, I now encourage us all with the words of Paul:

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Whatever new mountain you are climbing at the moment, stay strong in the Lord. Continue to give your all and do not be distracted by the fears of failure.

Much love in Christ
Heather (Phillips)