When and why did you become a teacher?
I decided to become a teacher at the age of 11 after my first lesson in Religious Studies. My teachers motivated and inspired me with their extensive subject knowledge, engaging manner which in turn fostered in me a love for the subject and a desire to succeed. They prompted me to question, research and be a creative thinker and I knew straightaway that one day I wanted to impart this into others. The solid foundation I gained ensured that I fostered a lifelong passion for the subject. When I graduated at age 21 from the University of Manchester with a BA Hons in Comparative Religion I was at a cross roads, I did not feel ready to start teaching and felt that I needed to follow a different path first (I always had the goal to become a teacher at a later date). I pursued a successful career in marketing for around 13 years at both Agency and Client side.
One Monday evening I came across an advertisement in a local paper for a role at my secondary school (where the same teachers were still teaching). I immediately wrote a letter from the heart. The letter stated that I had always wanted to become an RS teacher and if in the future a suitable opportunity arose then to bear me in mind. The next morning I posted the letter, on the Wednesday morning I received a call to invite me for an interview and by that Friday lunchtime I had been offered the role. I could not believe it, I would start in a few months as an unqualified teacher and would then embark on the GTP. It was a whirlwind decision and at the time quite reckless as I was walking away from a good career and starting again from scratch. However, I knew that the time was right and I needed to follow my dream. It also showed me that things happen for a reason and to embrace new opportunities when they arise.
What advice would you give to your younger self at the start of your career?
The advice I would give my younger self is embrace everything as an opportunity and don’t be afraid to ask for help – that is a strength not a weakness. In addition, I would advise myself to volunteer to help in extra curricular activities e.g. helping at a school play, school trips etc as that is a good way you can get involved in school life and get to know colleagues and students in a different capacity from the classroom.
How do you manage your own workload and well-being?
I write lists, prioritise and then tick the tasks off when they are completed. I also use lots of post it notes in planning and prioritising. I have learnt that each day can be unpredictable and accept this rather than challenging it.
There are times when I can’t complete all my tasks and as a result, I will have to readjust accordingly. I also have high expectations so I do need to factor this into my workload to ensure that I spend the appropriate time on the right tasks.
I have found that talking to colleagues can be invaluable to wellbeing either for advice or just to have a catch up over a cup of tea. I also allow time at the end of the day to reflect on the events from the day and learn from them. I am fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive husband, family (and friends) and by talking to them and spending time with them that is important for my wellbeing. Where possible I try to ensure weekend and holidays are family time and use this time wisely to relax and recharge my batteries.
During the last few months, I have started setting new tasks for myself each week e.g. making a new recipe, decorating. This new focus has been so beneficial to my wellbeing as it has provided me with time and space for myself (a luxury in a house with three children). In addition, I belong to a book group where I enjoy reading books from a range of genres as well discussing them with a people not in my social circle. We have just finished reading ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo and our next book is ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell.
Is teaching and art or a craft?
This is a tricky question as in all honesty I feel that teaching is both an art and a craft. To love your subject, to be inspired to help others and enable students best life chances means you should have a talent (art) but for that talent to develop it can’t stagnate and must develop and enhance overtime (craft ) into new areas with support, training and practice. You do not become talented overnight it takes effort, vision, support and an inner desire to succeed.
One book that you would recommend anyone working in a school should read.
After attending a Pastoral Conference around two years ago, I was inspired by the keynote speaker Paul McGee the author of S.U.M.O (Shut Up and Move On). He was dynamic, down to earth as well as humorous. He recounted his life story and his tale demonstrated one of determination and resilience. He then wrote this book and the techniques he references can be used in a variety of different situations. In schools, we encounter many students each day, some of which have a variety of issues, which they hold onto and can provide a barrier to their learning. This book has enabled me to use a very simplistic but effective technique for the students to view within themselves how important (on a scale of 1-10) an issue actually is and therefore to put it into context. The techniques from this book can be used in a whole range of situations (not just for students). It facilitates coaching, self-reflection as well as strategies for support to be put into place (if required). I have never ever attended a conference and felt so inspired to buy a book immediately!