- Posted by: Educators Wales
Design & Technology Teacher and House Leader at Eastern High
How long have you worked in education?
I’ve been a teacher since 2004. I studied Design & Technology with Qualified Teacher status, so we had teaching placements throughout the course – six weeks in first and second year and eight weeks in third year. After finishing university, instead of going straight into a teaching job, I decided to go travelling. When I came back to Cardiff, I got a job working in a factory whilst I was looking for teaching jobs. It became tedious very quickly, so I decided to join a supply teacher agency in Cardiff, and soon after joining I had a phone call telling me I’d got a placement for six weeks at Llanrumney High School. I stayed longer than six weeks and got offered a permanent job there. In 2013, the school merged with Rumney High School to become Eastern High School, which is where I work now…17 years later and I haven’t gone anywhere!
Did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?
When I was in school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up deciding on teaching after a conversation with my Head of Sixth Form who suggested that I should consider it. I eventually decided to go down the route of becoming a Design & Technology (D.T) teacher, because I really enjoyed it and it was one of my best subjects.
For me, becoming a D.T teacher was a no-brainer – it was something I enjoyed at school. From my perspective, if you become a High School teacher, you need to be a professional and passionate about your subject. If you enjoy what you’re teaching, then you’re going to have that interest and that knowledge to help move pupils forward and make progress, which is what teaching is all about! That’s what got me through the door in terms of knowing I was going to be doing something that I enjoyed. It’s important because if you’ve got a job you enjoy, you’re winning, already aren’t you?
What’s the best thing about being a teacher?
Teaching for me, is a lot better than working in a factory. Every day is different, and you never know what’s going to happen. You can be prepared for some things and have all your lessons planned but working with children - you never know what the day is going to bring and that’s quite exciting.
Do you have any fun, unique ways of connecting with your pupils?
For me, being a teacher is all about your personality. It’s important for your students to get to know you and you shouldn’t be afraid to show them who you are. For instance, the students know I’m from Barry so a lot of them call me Barry as a nickname, which I like!
The families know a lot about me, especially now during the lockdown as we’ve made videos to help the pupils with their learning and I try and make them more interesting and fun to watch by injecting my personality into them – telling Dad jokes and so on.
I’ve been teaching in the area for so long now that I’ve taught a range of siblings, uncles, aunties – I’ve even taught mums and dads! I love connecting with the pupils and their families and feeling part of the community.
On the flip side you get challenged daily, because some days can be really tough and some of the struggles that our families face are heart breaking at times. You can’t just be all laughter and jokes, you have to be serious when you need to be. For me, the reason personality is so important is because it comes down to knowing pupils and learning the best way to work with different families. If you can show empathy for what someone’s feeling or what someone’s going through, then that’s just going to make you a better teacher.
Can you tell me about a time where you feel like you’ve really made a difference at work?
If pupils leave here happy, then that’s a massive reward for me. We have kids go to study at university and that’s great – but, in this community, that might not always be the end goal that’s achievable. We’ve had pupils leave us to go on to be professional footballers, we’ve had pupils leave us to go to college – whatever is appropriate for that pupil, that’s them achieving their goal. Not everybody leaves here with 10A*s because that’s not achievable for everyone. When you are a teacher, you do become part of the community because the community depends on you. We look after people’s kids – they send them here to know that they’re safe. So for me, it’s all about making sure that every pupil is reaching their unique potential, whatever that is.
Have you ever been inspired by one of your pupils?
Some of our pupils face tough challenges and adversity. We can paint a story of teaching that’s only shows the positives, but in reality, it can be difficult at times. There are some pupils that don’t have access to certain things that other pupils do but are still expected to get through the school day the same way. For me, being aware of a pupil who’s having a particularly tough time and seeing that they are trying their best, is a massive inspiration. I’m inspired daily by my students.
How has working in education shaped you as a person?
In terms of my confidence, I’m a far more confident person than I was when I left school. I was quite quiet I suppose and I’m definitely not quiet anymore! The day I did my first assembly I was absolutely petrified, but it all comes with experience and practice. If I was still working in that factory, I would not be the person that I am now. I probably wouldn’t have the confidence to do half of the things that I do now. Teaching has really changed my life and the person that I am today.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about becoming a teacher?
You’ve got to be a team player. As a teacher, you’re always working together – whether that’s working in different departments or as an entire school. You’ve just got to be on board and willing to be co-operative, engaged and part of the team.