Deborah Mills – Cohort 2019
This has all been Maggie Smith’s fault. Since coming across her in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” as a girl, teaching has held a glamour for me. Now, 30 odd years in advertising later, here I am, entering that dream: me, like Maggie, standing in front of a rapt classroom, changing lives and spouting aperçus.
Well, not exactly. Though there are some aspects of this year which have been quite Miss Jean Brodie-ish. It is thrilling to be re-immersed in a subject I love (English) and incredibly stimulating to be able to discuss it with smart, passionate people who love it too. (It certainly beats arguing about “vision statements” for drinking yoghurts.) And those moments when you get a great response from a child who can barely be bothered to lift their head off the desk! Well, you can’t help feeling just a little bit Miss Jean B.
But, my goodness, teaching is tough. It taxes you emotionally, physically, psychologically. It requires Olympic level skills in patience and tongue-biting. It’s no surprise so many schools have a ‘crying cupboard’ (ours is equipped with a mirror so you can exit with your makeup and your dignity, intact.) Yet, somehow, despite it all, this teaching lark gets under your skin.
There are some things I wasn’t expecting. Firstly, the routine of school life is a horrible shock. From the bracingly early mornings to the complete lack of autonomy over your time, if you’ve been working in a creative industry, despair – we’re not in Kansas now! What with teaching, CPD, detentions, lesson planning, marking, etc. etc., your day is a minute by minute “to do” list. Even a pee break has to be planned. The loosey-goosey “Sorry, I’m running 5 minutes late” office life I knew is a dim memory. But then 31 Year 9s about to sit through 50 minutes of “Julius Caesar” are seldom in a waiting mood.
Secondly, apart from at career’s talks, or if you can magic up a visiting speaker out of your ancient Rolodex, most schools are not all that interested in your glorious past career. Admittedly, I’m not exactly Bill Gates, but I have actually run companies and large global businesses. I thought I might be a useful resource for executivey, leadershippy, creativey, managementy issues. Nope. Most senior leadership teams have no more clue about what to do with a career-switcher than they would if the school inherited a hippo.
Finally, depending on your training provider, the whole process of getting your qualification is pretty frustrating. Even experienced teachers and trainers were baffled by mine. Imagine being stranded in a room in the dark, tasked with drawing a detailed plan of each piece of furniture. Eventually you would work out what was what, but it would have been a lot easier if someone had turned on the light. Welcome to (some) teacher training!
But here’s a top tip, do raise any issues like this with the team at “Now Teach”. Thanks to them, I got my tutor changed and, after two terms of frustration, confusion, and multiple trips to the ‘crying cupboard’, my training was transformed.
What does not kill us, makes us stronger. Despite the hours, the scheduling, the occasional urge to quit (don’t even get me started on the unremitting cycles of feedback) I have made it. I’m an NQT, with a downloadable certificate to prove it. I’ve also learned so much, especially about myself – and I have never, not for a moment, found it dull. Most of all, I can’t wait to get back into the classroom. After all, those aperçus aren’t going to spout themselves.