This reason follows on from the last, as it’s still about CPD. Two years ago I decided that I would like to learn British Sign Language – partly because I’ve always had an interest in communication, partly because as a language teacher I always enjoy trying out new languages, and partly because I really enjoy working with under-achieving children, and deaf children tend to under-achieve.
Having chosen the course I wanted, I eagerly scanned the list of adult education classes that came through my door, discounted all the ones that were on the far side of Birmingham, and all the ones that were on nights when I did private tuition, and was left with one on at 10am on Mondays. If I was employed full-time in a school I would have had to give up right there, but being self-employed I can choose my own hours, so I signed up for it.
Now, unlike most people I love Monday mornings. I can have a bit of a lie-in, a leisurely breakfast and I miss the morning rush hour. I get to start the week by being a learner not a teacher, so I can remind myself what it’s like to be in the position of the children in my class. And at the end of it all I come away with new skills and qualifications.
Be honest – put your hand up if you’ve enjoyed every single INSET day you’ve ever had. It’s fine when they’re about something you have an interest in, or if it’s something that’s useful even if a little on the boring side. Unfortunately sometimes they are neither interesting nor useful, but you have to turn up for them anyway. I remember one particular training day I endured, where we had a singing teacher come in and we had to spend the whole day learning and singing new songs. As someone who was told at the age of seven that with a voice like mine I should never – ever, under any circumstances – open my mouth and sing, I have had nightmares about that particular INSET day ever since.
Being self-employed means that I am now responsible for my own CPD. I no longer have to sit through training courses that bore me – I can choose whatever I want to do. Sometimes it’s something quick and inexpensive, such as reading a teaching magazine for ideas; sometimes it’s something longer term, such as the free courses you can follow through OpenLearn at the Open University. Other times I will splash out on a course that particularly interests me – for example the British Sign Language class that I’m enrolling on for the 3rd year running (completed level 1, now half way through the two-year level 2 course). From September I have booked myself onto a series of courses for teaching children with dyslexia. I’m far more excited about those than I ever have been about an INSET day.
Of course it’s not always easy when I have to fund my CPD myself, but given a choice between paying and choosing myself, or free training chosen on my behalf, I wouldn’t swap the freedom I have.
Every teacher loves the special relationship they have with their class. Imagine if you could extend that relationship to the whole school. I’m fortunate enough to have the chance to do that. For the last two years, part of my working week has been teaching during PPA time in a local primary school. It’s hectic as I rotate through nine classes in 1 ½ days, but it means I get to spend time with every child in the school. I’m certainly kept on my toes as I’m in Reception 1 minute, and Year 6 the next, but as I’ve said before – I thrive on variety. I may not be a permanent member of staff, but when I can walk into a school and know the name of every single child, I still get a feeling of belonging.
They say a change is as good as a rest, and I get that change more often than most. Everyone is different, and for some people having their own class and their own classroom is the best thing in the world, but I thrive on variety.
I love the freedom of moving from class to class and from school to school. I really enjoy borrowing somebody else’s class for a short while, and spending time with lots of different children. I take great delight in seeing how other people set up their classrooms. I like not having to look at the same wall display for half a term. In fact I love seeing the creativity and flair that other teachers bring to their displays and being enthralled by a new one each day.
I’m lucky because I get the chance to teach the same objectives to different children from different backgrounds using ideas planned by different teachers, which gives me a real feel for what works and what doesn’t, so my teaching is constantly improving.
Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to have to break the ice in new staffrooms, but on the whole teachers are a friendly bunch. People often say that in teaching no two days are ever the same, and for me this is especially true.
How many people get to pick and choose the parts of the job they enjoy and not have to do the rest? Not many, but I’m one of the lucky ones. This year I have spent a big proportion of my week teaching languages which is my biggest passion. I’ve done mostly French, but also some Spanish, German, Latin, BSL, Maori, Italian and Portuguese. I felt really proud when one of my year 1 children sang a Latin solo in the Christmas play!
I’ve also undertaken a lot of 1-2-1 tuition, which I’ve really enjoyed. I feel very privileged to have been able to spend time working closely with under-achieving children in several schools, watching them grow in confidence as they realise that they can do it, and then watching them really take-off when they realise they can do it on their own.
And I’ve had all the fun of working on themed days. This term we had a water themed day (maths: how much water could you save in a year by showering for 1 minute less each day; English: debating whether or not water should be free; geography/PSHE: looking at countries where people don’t have access to clean water) and a 1960s day.
I don’t know yet what September holds, but I’m sure that whatever I do I’m going to love every minute just as much as I have this year.