From research and policy to Now Teach trainee
Where: Oasis Academy Shirley Park
I worked for 15 years in research and policy in international development around areas of child protection. In my twenties I worked for organisations like Unicef, then I had kids and became a consultant. When you do consultancy work for a long period, it gets to the point where you either lose touch with the issues. And the last piece of work I did wrung me dry – you get a 30 day contract and invariably end up working 50 days for it. I thought – what do I want for the next 20 years? Not this. I wanted to get more hands on.
Getting involved in Now Teach happened so quickly. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision so I spent a week in the school I’m now in. I wanted to actually see what happens and get into the staff room – would I get on with teachers from different stages of life? At the end of that week I had to teach a lesson, and I was accepted onto the programme.
I wanted to make sure I made the right decision so I spent a week in the school I’m now in.
Sorting out logistics
Starting as a trainee, one of the biggest issues for me was sorting out childcare for my three children aged 12, 10 and seven. Having had flexibility being self-employed for 10 years, I suddenly had none! I had to make sure what the options were. I do still struggle with that adjustment. You have to be at school regardless of what else is going on. My son broke his ankle a few weeks ago and suddenly you have a hospital appointment, and it’s oh my God! And he’s got crutches so can’t get to school on the bus. So there are logistical problems to deal with.
‘I’ve had quite a few political hiccups between my training provider and the school which has been the least enjoyable part. The issues were around how much I was left in the classroom on my own – literally from week one, not having had a day of training. That was interesting. One of the reasons I’ve had such a heavy timetables, is that there’s no head of department and all the other Geography teachers are new and don’t know the school. There are difficulties still. I’m building relationship with the school and the pupils and I’m finding my provider incredibly unhelpful.
I really like the students and it’s nice to see that relationship building.
Building relationships with students
In all of my classes – bar one – I’ve got good relationships with the students. Initially you think, “I don’t know if I taught them anything” so it’s quite good when they have progress checks and you can see oh good, they’ve learned something! With my Year 11 class it took about 4-5 weeks to get something out of them, as they had a really bad Year 10. They’d missed a lot of content so they were feeling very defeated, thinking they were going to fail. I’m now doing extra revision classes with them before and after school, and it’s making a real difference to them. They’re much more enthusiastic.
I really like the students and it’s nice to have that relationship building – getting to know them and encouraging them. The school does have a really clear behaviour approach – I know that a weakness of mine is that I’m not very good at being strict enough. I realise I need to crack down on the bad behaviour in some sets because there are kids that want to learn.
Learning new skills on the job
I probably struggled less with my teacher persona because I’m used to teaching yoga. It’s a very different thing because with yoga, people want to be there, but I’m used to planning lessons, being at the front of the room, assessing students and so on. I know that from some of my feedback from observations was around language. You’re so used to asking politely, whereas in teaching it should be commands like, “pick up your pen” rather than using please and thank you.
I got some really good advice from someone before I started the training. They said, “Just enjoy the summer, don’t read too much.” And it’s true – I don’t think reading all these guides on teaching would have made sense until I got into the classroom. In the summer I would have thought, “Of course I won’t let my Year 10s throw biscuits around the room” – it’s only when it happens to you that you can look for advice on how to manage it.