I had always known I wanted to teach, and it had always been in my mind to find a way to get into the classroom. But life happened and I found myself working in a bank for 18 years, dreading going into work. One day I decided to do something about it. At that stage I didn’t have a degree, so I started by going to evening classes to try and find a subject I was interested in. It wasn’t until I took an evening class in Biology that I even considered science. I took my HNC and then secured a place at university studying Biomedical Science. Having completed that, I was offered a funded Masters and eventually I did a PhD.
All the while I was learning, I was still aware that the ultimate goal was to teach and during my PhD I secured a place on SCITT programme. Unfortunately my situation changed, and I realised that paying to train wasn’t an option. I came across Teach First and went along to the Milkround Presentation at the Newcastle University campus – and immediately decided to apply. Having my training funded and going into a school where I would really be needed definitely appealed to me.
I had lots of support throughout my application process, right through until I finished my training. I remember having a particularly difficult period during the Summer Institute, whilst training in my local area. I had a complete panic, I had kids at home and I was away from them – I thought ‘I can’t do this!’ But there were lots of people to speak to, giving me gentle encouragement and advice and I just kept going. Taking it day by day, using the support systems in place and even just knowing that there were people who were there to help me through it was reassuring.
I’m now in my third year, I stayed on in the school I was placed in through Teach First and my job couldn’t be more different from working in that bank. I can say that 90% of the time I love my job, and in comparison I remember quite literally hating the idea of going in to my old job. I used to dread it. I love my job now, and yes I have a huge work load, but it’s so rewarding.
My highlight from the last three years was in my second year. I had a really low ability year 11 Additional Science class who were really struggling. We were set to do a lesson on the heart, and instead of working through diagrams on a Power Point – I contacted a local butcher and organised for him to save me a batch of pigs’ hearts. We dissected the hearts in class and every single person got involved somehow. They were all engaged with the subject, and energised by it for the first time. They were the only class to experience working on a real heart – it was the talk of corridors. Another teacher even asked to use the spare hearts I had left over, his pupils were envious.
I think that’s when I first learned a really valuable teaching lesson – not to rely on Power Points too much. It’s easy to go into minute details and over-plan. Good lessons need to be flexible, which is really hard to do when you first start teaching, but you need to be able to work with your pupils and accept you might need to adjust your plans to keep them engaged.
I think the advice I would give to anyone considering taking on the programme having come from another career would be - just do it! Take the chance, it’ll be the best thing you ever did. It’s always the things you didn’t do that you regret, and you won’t regret joining the Leadership Development Programme.