Current Ark Teacher Training trainee Rachael traded in her freelance career to retrain as a primary teacher in West London. Here she talks about her decision to teach, the highs, the lows and how ultimately it’s all worth while.
This time last year I was working from my family home in north-west England, illustrating e-learning courses for a local NHS training project and volunteering in my local community. It was also around this time that I started filling out my application for Ark Teacher Training. Now, I’ve moved to London and am teaching year one at Ark Byron Primary Academy.
I studied Theology at the University of Exeter and become a freelance illustrator after I graduated. I’ve grown up volunteering in a variety of organisations, predominantly focused on improving the lives of young people, so a transition into teaching made sense to me.
Teaching is such a privilege; you are a key influence in the lives of children. I was fortunate enough to have an upbringing which gave me the foundation of ambition, self-confidence and curiosity. I wanted to be able to give that to others and teaching felt like the perfect way to do that.
The School Direct route suited me; not only did it bring the financial benefits of providing me with a salary, but I also like the routine of working full-time. It also makes me a better teacher – I’m able to put theory into practice every day. I can immediately try out everything I’ve been taught in a classroom setting.
I’m lucky, there’s so much I’ve been able to bring into the classroom from my previous roles. As well as experience volunteering with young people, my time-management and creative skills have been particularly beneficial. I felt better equipped to balance the broad range of demands placed upon me from both training and teaching. I’ve also been able to use my creativity to plan exciting lessons, create interesting displays and come up with different ways to engage the children in learning.
Balancing my time between training, planning and teaching can feel a little overwhelming. The course is rigorous, but putting the work in is worth the outcome. There is nothing more satisfying than successfully teaching a lesson you’ve planned using all the skills and techniques you have been practising and preparing for.
My advice to anyone considering a career in teaching? It can seem a little scary, especially when people are always telling you what a tough job it is, but it is thoroughly worth it. I’ve been incredibly supported throughout the process and everyone at Ark Teacher Training and in my school has helped me to manage a work-life balance.
Children are great – don’t ever lose sight of why you want to teach. I had a particularly challenging student in my Phonics class last term. I spent a lot of time and energy getting to know this child, putting behaviour management techniques in place, trying to minimise disruption, but it was tough. On the last day of term I was leaving early for a training session, this student broke down crying. I went over to check everything was ok and they replied “‘You’ve learnt enough already Miss Gillies, I don’t want you to go!” In that moment all the hard work was worth it, especially when I discovered they had progressed three levels in their Phonics.
Seeing and working with the children every day reminds me, particularly at challenging points, why I am doing what I am doing.
Want to join Rachael in transforming lives in the classroom? Find out how you can apply to train to teach with Ark.