In my previous career, I was a conservationist in the NGO sector, working as a wildlife researcher in the field in Kenya. Although I felt I was working in a worthwhile industry, the impact of my research work felt very distant and intangible. This time last year I was running an academic journal for an international development charity in London and wondering how I’d ended up in a job which trapped me behind a desk! I wanted my day-to-day work to have more impact and be more challenging and more diverse than life as a researcher was providing me.
Teaching is very different from the work I was doing before, but there are always similarities, for example, my experience as a researcher allowed me to be more confident going in to the PGCE essays. But to be honest, the most useful skill I have found so far is knowing when to ask for help! The hours can be long, the days can be stressful and it can seem quite overwhelming at times. Having worked for a few years already, I know myself better than I did when I finished university at 21, I know my limits and when I need to ask for help – which is essential at times!
I chose the School Direct route because it has many obvious benefits – having a salary means I can still pay rent for a start! From a training point of view, the amount of time you spend in the classroom is fantastic and means that you develop very quickly. The Ark Teacher Training programme provides you with so much training and theory as well as the chance to implement the skills you are learning in the classroom immediately.
If you’re considering teaching, I’d say get in a classroom and see if you enjoy it! Try and see a few different schools – the environment can differ so much and you won’t know how you feel about teaching if you don’t visit a few different places. Also, make sure you have a very clear idea of why you want to make this change! Being able to take a step back and remember why you’ve chosen this path is important during your training.
For me, time management has been a big challenge. There are so many competing priorities and initially, everything takes much longer than it should do! My biggest challenge has been trying to get everything done (or at least getting the most important things done), without sacrificing all my spare time. I’ve also struggled to keep perspective on my performance – it is really easy to become despondent and negative when a lesson doesn’t go as planned. However, teaching is a tough profession and even great teachers have bad lessons. When I realised this, it helped me relax and look for small victories in each day. I started to realise that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I first thought, and there are lots of learning points to take from each lesson.
It is a cliché, but the moments when you see the cogs turning and students’ faces realising they’ve achieved something they thought was beyond them are immensely rewarding. Similarly, there have been several times when I’ve been flawed by questions from students which have left me thinking ‘wow, that’s really insightful!’. Being a trainee teacher is not an easy ride: it is easy to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve and how much you are progressing. But when things do go well, it is phenomenally rewarding and truly enjoyable.
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