Heather Brown is a 29 year old pre-service trainee teacher from Scotland, living in Lancashire in the UK, who left a law career to pursue her dream to teach. In this guest post, she shares her experience and frustrations…
Wide eyed and full of idealistic intentions I quit my lucrative job in the legal sector and decided I was going to ‘make a difference’, I was going to do something that mattered and I was going to get a job that would let me leave work before nightfall. I knew my pay would drop, although upon closer inspection I found this to be more of an avalanche like plunge, nevertheless I wanted a career with meaning, and I wanted to contribute something more to society than making rich people richer.
After completing the seemingly endless application form and the two weeks of required ‘work experience’ which I had secured only through my existing connections in the education sector (I have found that nepotism is integral to getting into teaching) I was joyously invited to an interview DAY. An entire day of covert questioning, observing our interactions (just ignore the five people in the room staring at you writing feverish notes) and ending in a presentation. I poured my heart out about my passion for my subject and my overpowering desire to teach, I recited the various lines I had read in the TES that morning, supported my interviewers unveiled contempt for the education minister and above all I fervently denied the suspicious line of questioning regarding my decision to go into teaching coinciding with the birth of my first child.
I was offered a place on the course. Clearly having only 2 weeks of classroom experience in the 8 years since graduating University was outweighed by my enthusiasm, wonderful presentation and £9,000.00 fees cheque.
So I dumped the business suits bought myself some pastel coloured blouses and dangly earrings and embarked on my teacher training. The first day began with a meet and greet which consisted of 2 hours of ice breaker exercises, a plethora of speeches from various university factions and ended with a horrifying introduction to safeguarding responsibilities – basically report everything, EVERYTHING. Finally a half hour speech designed to terrify us into joining a union followed by a goody bag of stationary, funnily enough emblazoned with the insignia of the various teaching unions.
The following day consisted of a perplexing look at the current education system and then another session regarding the changes afoot, rendering the previous session obsolete – all delivered by an embittered lecturer through gritted teeth. Then onto professional standards – also known as basic common sense written with the usual bureaucratic flair of a government department. It was at this point I began to wonder when the teaching would be mentioned – oh how naïve.
It is with a tired sigh that I have to realise the following realities after only a few months of teacher training;
- Learning/teaching theory has been wildly over-complicated by unscrupulous editors to sell text books.
- Much of the theory is completely unsubstantiated by any empirical evidence.
- There is a great deal of emphasis on how not to discipline a badly behaved learner but virtually none on how to do so.
- There is huge encouragement to ensure that certain learners don’t get left behind but there is barely any emphasis on helping high achieving learners push even further.
- Websites written by actual teachers have far more practical advice than many of the textbooks.
- My ability to teach is going to be judged on a mound of written work and only 8 hours of actual classroom observation.
My biggest frustration has got to be the confusion around what a teacher is really there to do. We are told that ‘teaching to the exam’ is bad, that learning should be the focus, to concentrate on the learner’s needs and interests not the teacher’s/college’s/examiner’s – oh but you will be judged by your employer on your exam results record. This is the biggest contradiction I have found so far, but then again I’m only a couple of months in.
Now I find that my eyes are not quite so wide, my heart is not singing quite so loudly… but I am still thrilled to be close to becoming a teacher and my plan is simply to put in the effort to hopefully get out the effort– Hold on that’s pretty catchy, maybe I should contact some publishers!