| Case Studies

Bringing my Passion For Fairness into the Classroom

Cohort: September 2019 – June 2020 

Region: South East England

Subject: English

Alice had a career in law, policy and advocacy before setting up her own social enterprise relating to swimming. She was inspired to become an English teacher after teaching several children with communication difficulties how to swim.

I have always cared deeply about challenging inequality and discrimination, and that is what drew me to a career in law. However, after a few years I began to see other ways that I could make an impact in people’s lives – whether it was as a swim teacher or as a social entrepreneur encouraging women from different backgrounds to take up swimming. Now as an English teacher with a keen interest in helping students with special educational needs, I can see the lifelong effect I’m having on all my pupils.

When your students know that you care, that’s when everything changes. It takes time to build that relationship and trust, but the rewards are immense.

Love of language and communication 

Both my parents were English teachers, so I was used to seeing them lesson planning and marking in the evenings. My house was full of literature and my parents instilled in me a love of reading and social justice from an early age. I think the best thing about literature is that it can teach us about social and economic development and it was this keen interest that propelled me into law school and later on to work in policy and advocacy.

I believe the fact that I’ve taken a rather circuitous route into teaching is an enormous benefit to my students as I can share real-life examples with them from my previous roles. However, it is still unusual to see people like me becoming teachers later in life, which is why I decided to join Now Teach. Being part of the Now Teach Network has been invaluable as it has given me access to a large community of career-changers, a range of high quality CPD as well as practical and professional advice that proved critical during my training and NQT years.

Helping challenging students

One of my main motivations for becoming a teacher was that I wanted to work with students with special educational needs. As a swim teacher, I worked with many young people with ASD and ADHD, as well as other social and emotional health needs. It was extremely rewarding to support them in developing this key life skill.

My teacher training with Southfields Teaching School Alliance was outstanding. One key piece of advice was to take the time to learn about each of my students. To do that requires teamwork – I am in daily contact with my colleagues from the pastoral and safeguarding teams as well as the special educational needs departments.

As a trainee and qualified teacher, I have worked with many students with ASD and those who have social and emotional health needs. I want to continue to build on that experience in the coming years.

Managing student behaviour

I must admit that I was worried about student behaviour before I started my teacher training as it is mentioned so much in the media. From my experience, it is just as much about building relationships as it is about enforcing clear and consistent rules. Overall when your students know that you care, that’s when everything changes. Of course, it takes time to build that relationship, but the rewards are immense.

The one thing that I would advise any new teacher to do is to see their students as whole people. There is always a myriad of things bubbling along beneath the surface in a student’s life, and that’s why it is crucial to have a holistic understanding of them and in turn, help them to reach their highest potential.

Alice has found that by building relationships with her students and following a few basic principles, she is able to maintain control and respect in her classes. Discover more tips on managing behaviour from Zed Holmes, a former Managing Director who became an economics teacher. 

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