Robert is about to finish his first half term of teaching, having swapped his career in the City to teach maths to secondary students. How has it gone? Is he enjoying it? And most importantly, did he make the right decision?
So, how have the first six of weeks of school gone? Not only have I survived, but I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s early days of course, but on top of leaving each day feeling as if I’ve made a difference, so much of what I’ve enjoyed has been rather unexpected.
If I were to pick three things that have stood out, the first would be that working with children is genuinely inspiring and fun. Their curiosity and willingness to learn (not just about maths, but about life) is refreshing. I was surprised at how seriously they take their teachers’ feedback. For example, one of the things I do with my form is to read through the book logs they have to write. When correcting spelling or grammar, I thought they would be annoyed by my pickiness, but they love getting this feedback, and are super keen for me to read what they’ve written. They are also (often unintentionally) funny. My favourite moment so far is when talking about Drama Club, I stopped after reading the phrase “budding thespians” off the slide to ask the class if anyone knew what a thespian was. One student raised his hand and said, “is it when two women marry each other?” Cue stifled giggles from children and staff members alike.
Secondly, I am loving the intellectual challenge of learning a completely different skill. You realise pretty early on that teaching is not as easy as you think it is when observing a skilled teacher’s lessons. There are a million and one things you have to be simultaneously aware of, control, and plan for. As a new trainee, you are assigned both a mentor (who observes you teach and gives you weekly “action steps” to work on) and a co-planner (who helps you plan lessons). I also have the opportunity at school to observe different teachers in my free periods. This is incredibly useful and I find myself thinking, “oh, that’s how they explained that”, or “that’s a nice way of dealing with that issue; I can use that in my lesson”.
Finally, I am enjoying the thrill of being “on stage”. As a teacher, you are constantly performing, with 30 expectant pairs of eyes on you, relying on you to learn something new. I’m certainly still in the phase of having butterflies before each class (will this ever go, I wonder?), but as you settle into the lesson and find your groove, with the class being productive – it’s just, well, cool. The high after finishing something successfully is one I got occasionally in my previous job, maybe only once every couple of months. But now it happens every day. And yes, sometimes a lesson doesn’t go so well – but the next lesson is always a clean slate where you can improve on last time.
Of course, it’s not amazing all of the time. There are frustrations or difficulties; dealing with challenging behaviour is one aspect where I have a lot to learn. And it’s tiring. Standing on your feet the whole day is a lot more draining than sitting in meetings or in front of a computer screen.
In my old job, I was always thinking about work outside of the office; but this feeling was usually one of dread – often worrying about a mistake in Excel formula. Now, even though I still think about work all the time, it is completely different – in a positive way. I’m thinking about how to teach a certain topic or how to engage a particular student.
One of the many benefits of Ark Teacher Training is the weekly Thursday afternoon training sessions with the other trainees. It’s fantastic to have a peer group where we can share good practice and support each other. There have been some great highlights from my fellow trainees, from first successful science practicals to productive restorative conversations with students. It’s great being able to work alongside the trainees from Now Teach. The diverse experiences in our cohort, from new twenty-one-year-old graduates to fifty-something former corporate high-fliers, means that we can all learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
In the run-up to half term, I can confirm that I’ve definitely made the right career decision.
Inspired by Robert and want to train to teach? Apply now.