You’ve just graduated. You have no idea what you’re doing. So, you decide to stay on to do a Masters, because why not? Everyone has a degree these days so why not get an extra one?
You’ve just graduated, again. You still have no idea what you’re doing. Hey, it’s the 21st century – you don’t need to know what you’re doing!
This was the start of my journey into teaching. I had all the gear and no idea.
I was inspired by my friends who, whilst I was still living in the uni-bubble, were hard at work completing their PGCEs. They were excited, enthusiastic and enjoying the next chapter of their lives. So, I thought, a third degree wouldn’t hurt.
You’re required to have at least three days of classroom observation under your belt. I contacted my old English teacher and she offered me a week. It was great. I got to see all my teachers, find out what the English office looks like and skip the queue at lunch to grab me some cheesy pasta. In all seriousness the experience was invaluable. Albeit a snapshot of the life of a teacher, it fuelled my desire to follow this career path. I even got to talk to a year nine class about travel writing (the topic of my undergraduate dissertation) and that lit a flame that I still carry today: the best thing about teaching is passing on your passion for something. For me, that’s writing. If I could get one child to say, ‘I love writing’ I would be irrevocably happy.
With a week’s worth of sitting at the back of a classroom behind me, I applied for a PGCE through my hometown’s university, School Direct and a local federation. I received interviews for all three, but I was not successful.
The PGCE interview is intimidating. I won’t sugar coat it. You need to know your stuff. Comprising of a group discussion, panel interview, student activity and written exercise, it puts you through your paces and however much I tried, I wasn’t prepared. Before your interview I would advise to bend the ear of any teaching staff you may know, get in contact with your old school, research the current curriculum, read blogs on interview techniques, or do what I did next.
Feeling deflated but not defeated, I started looking for classroom support jobs back home. I applied at three different schools, received interviews for all and was offered a job immediately after my first interview. I was in. This was the most important year for me to learn everything. I was going back to school, but I had infiltrated the other side. It is fascinating to view a classroom as an adult and to watch a teacher work, without the sixteen-year-old mentality of ‘everything is boring, except MSN’ (the only thing I learnt from MSN is how to touch type).
Being a learning support assistant is so rewarding. Plus, I learnt so much about the Bayeux Tapestry, the Battle of Hastings and motte and bailey castles – can you tell I enjoyed History? If you’re on the fence about teaching but love the idea of working in a classroom environment, be a classroom assistant. Working with individual children can be so much fun and helping them achieve their goals and creating that bond between you is a wonderful experience.
Here’s the thing about schools: they are a hub for networking. Everyone knows everyone. You’ve been to university, you’ve got the knowledge, now it’s about who you know. If you’ve got one foot in the door, you’re ahead of the game. By October, the headteacher knew I wanted to be an English teacher. I was still finishing my MA dissertation whilst working so I didn’t apply for the PGCE straight away. I wanted a rest from studying, so I’d decided to apply the following year. My line manager had planned my timetable to be as English-heavy as possible, I was running curriculum coaching sessions and the SEN teacher offered me small-group grammar lessons. Unbeknownst to me my line manager had also put a word in up top, and I was soon approached with the offer of an unqualified teaching role. I loved the school, my colleagues and the kids so I accepted straight away. Another string to my bow, a sub-header for my CV and an even greater insight into teaching before applying for that second student loan.
When it came to application time the following November, I applied for my PGCE through my hometown’s university and School Direct again. I had my lessons planned with a year of observation, two months of teaching and the advice of an entire faculty behind me. I’d been brutally interviewed by my Head of Department and I cried. I’m not going to lie, she was terrifying. However, this meant no one was going to be as scary. I mean, no one. I attended both interviews and I was successful and offered placements with both before leaving the building.
Sometimes the scenic route is the best option. It may take a little longer, you may have to work a little harder, but you get to see everything along the way. My experience made me grow as a person. My tenacity to succeed in what felt like the impossible is what helped me to keep trying. My first rejection left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be a teacher. However, the support, guidance and encouragement I received from my colleagues taught me that I could do anything, including being a great teacher. If you’re fresh out of university with nothing but a scroll and a smile, go and visit your old primary or secondary school. If you loved learning and want to share that passion, be a teacher. I now privately tutor, and one of my students said to me, ‘you’re the reason I love to read again’ and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes it all worthwhile.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.