An interview with English writer Nicola Worgan

We speak to our English writer Nicola Worgan, to hear how she approaches writing for us.

Nicola is Head of the English Department at a college, where the majority of her students are those who have failed GCSE English the first time round, and who are in need of an injection of enthusiasm to get them back on track for the grades they need.

“When they come to us I try to create a very different atmosphere for them. They often genuinely dislike English and they’ve resisted it for quite a long time. They don’t like the fact that they’re being effectively forced to resit it. So for me, when they get that moment where something sinks in that they’ve never understood before, a lightbulb moment, that’s my main teaching motivation.”

And yet teaching English was not on the cards for Nicola for a very long time. Indeed, it took a journey around the world and a TEFL course before she finally fell in love with teaching.

Nicola was a child with a voracious appetite for reading and her nose in a book at all times. English was always “her subject,” the one she excelled in, and she continued to hone her skills in an English degree at university. But she was adamant that she wouldn’t become a teacher, in spite of the commonly heard “You do English? Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher then.’”

“After I did my degree I didn’t really know what else to do,” she remembers, “Even though I had been resisting the idea of being a teacher, I had an interview to do a PGCE. They told me that I wasn’t ready for it. At the time I was absolutely enraged and incensed, and I couldn’t quite believe what they were telling me, but they were absolutely right. So I went off and did some travel and about 5 years after my degree I ended up doing a TEFL course in Barcelona. It was then that I fell in love with teaching rather than doing it because it was something that I felt I should do. So I did the full TEFL course, travelled around the world and then thought actually, it’s time to go home and make a proper career out of this.”

As well as encouraging lightbulb moments in her classes, another key motivation for Nicola’s teaching, and writing, is innovation. “Im not afraid to give things a go. I do a lot of reading around, and Drama is my second subject so I do a lot of that, getting kids to record themselves, or getting as much on the VLE in as many different ways as possible. I’m just trying to keep it as interesting as I can.”

This naturally led her to GCSEPod. She saw an advert in the TES looking for writers for our content, and thought she’d be a great fit. “I was looking for different ways to to keep my knowledge up to date. When you teach, you tend to teach the same texts or the same things all the time. I thought writing for GCSEPod would be quite a good way to keep my subject knowledge up to date and look at different texts.”

And has her writing inspired new teaching practices? “Yes! I’ve introduced some poetry that I wouldn’t necessarily have taught in the class, but because of writing about it I was able to incorporate that into my teaching” And moreover, she’s started to introduce her own audio learning into her classroom, recording herself and asking students to create their own recordings.

“I always say to my students that they’ve got to be actively involved in learning, really go in, and this is where audio and visual learning, as opposed to just highlighting in a textbook, really comes into its own. I think that active involvement is the absolute key, and that’s how I ‘sell’ the idea of audio-visual learning to my own students”.

Nicola’s passion for innovation in teaching has made her relationship with GCSEPod a perfect pairing. “I think the key has got to be that it makes revision or learning less arduous. The visuals in GCSEPod are a fantastic addition as well, because you’re hitting two of the main learning styles there. Students are receptive to different things in different ways, and little bits at a time is a really effective way to do that. I think it’s a really good thing.”

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“100% of our year 11 students achieved at least 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C.

82% achieved at least 5 GCSEs including Maths, English and/or Welsh at grades A*-C. An impressive 27% of grades were at A* or A compared to the national average of 19.4%.

We strongly believe that GCSEPod has played an important role in improving the outcomes for some of our pupils. Indeed, some of our top users exceeded their target grades in many areas and have now returned to the sixth form to continue their studies at A level.”

Diane Evans - Assistant Head Teacher,
Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteif

There is a very clear correlation between the subjects with the most pronounced raises in attainment (English Literature, Chemistry, Biology and Physics) and those that had the highest GCSEPod usage.

In addition, the student with the highest GCSEPod usage was also our highest achiever.

Because there has so clearly been an impact on the departments that utilised GCSEPod effectively, we will be looking to increase the use of GCSEPod across the school in coming years.”

Andrew Ost - Deputy Head,
Fort Pitt Grammar School

“We’ve used GCSEPod for a year and the results speak for themselves!

Not only did we see a rise in headline measures across the board with our highest user of GCSEPod gaining 7A* – but the students and their parents love it!

It’s fun, user friendly, and easy to use in a variety of ways – on a mobile device, in school, at the heart of our mentoring and intervention strategies, for flipping learning, and to deliver positive engagement that parents can see. Plus we’ve only just scratched the surface!”

Dominic Howkins - Vice Principal,
Ormiston Sudbury Academy

Awards

Don’t just take our word for it. GCSEPod has gained huge recognition since our initial launch in 2010 and we continue to pick up industry awards along the way. We’re constantly listening to the schools that use GCSEPod and learning how we can best support teachers and students in times of change. Contact us to tell us your goals for the next year and discuss how we can be a part of your school improvement strategy.

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