I started teaching in 1994. Seems like a long time ago when I write it down. I was lucky enough to meet a few inspirational teachers back home in Sunderland. However one stands out from my secondary school who knew how to motivate me and set me on my way. Mr A was a new teacher, a Newcastle fan, working in an all-boys catholic comprehensive school in Sunderland. A tough gig. I would like to thank him publically for starting me off in this wonderful profession. Geography, friends and football got me through my secondary school experience.
My experience to date involves two inner city comprehensives in Nottingham and Leeds working as a geography teacher, head of year and a behaviour unit manager. Then two AHT posts in Hampshire learning about pastoral care and timetabling amongst other things. Most recently I have had two DH jobs in very different schools still near or in Hampshire developing teach and learning and learning how to do things the right way again! Without the support of great teachers would I be enjoying a great career and helping other today?
Our GCSE geography class was a mixed bunch. My biggest memory is a field trip to Malham and a walk over a limestone pavement. Lessons involved attention to detail for presentation, conversations about football and some geography chucked in for good measure. The culture and ethos of the school was based on the motto “Deus Lux Nostra”. As a classical studies student rather than a Latin candidate I didn’t really understand the meaning. In the late 80’s in our school it wasn’t cool to be motivated to learn. Prefects ran the school with an iron fist and teachers had straps which left vivid memories even today. I still can remember when our Head of Year removed the quietest kid from our primary school to teach him not to slide on the lower school floor (by his collar!). He returned to tutor time shortly after his visit to the office outside our classroom in floods of tears – a lesson for everyone to learn!
As a shy boy my (Year 6) primary school teacher expressed her concerns about how I would cope with the transition to secondary school. Maybe she knew what was waiting for me. My leaving gift of a scrap book of the ’73 Cup Final was above and beyond. Thanks Mrs S a great teacher. This worry was only shared with me in my 20’s. I think on reflection we were left to go to school and make the most of it and pastoral care stopped at the age of 11. To be honest the care side of things came from a few staff and definitely not the nuns who ‘taught’ us some different lessons from the age of 4 – 11. How times have changed.
In the secondary environment answering questions in an all-male class would paralyse me. The red flush of embarrassment would start from the neck and cover the face to mumbled coughs of “beety” from classmates. But, during a parents evening in Year 11, the challenge was laid down. “I think Martyn will get a ‘B’ but could get an ‘A’ if he tried”. The perfect intervention at the perfect time. The same thing followed into 6th form. More geography (Lake District this time). More football. More coping with a tough environment. And the same challenge in Year 13. A ‘B’ might become and ‘A’ with some effort.
Without the care and support I received from Mrs Mc and Mrs C when I started school would I be in this job today? Would I enjoy mathematics and would I pass that enthusiasm onto my eldest daughter? Without Mr A and Mr A would I still enjoy playing badminton and occasionally chess and cricket? I’m not sure if primary schools today provide the grounding in the benefits of sport which provided me with my coping strategies for secondary school life and taught me about being part of a team and dealing with disappointment? Without the final Mr A in secondary school would I be writing this now? Without the push at the right time would I be able to do the same for others now? Education in the NE was not valued by all in the ‘80s. As an August baby it provided me with a route out to something different. To the teachers that helped me on my way many many thanks. Without you I’m not sure where I would be now. Definitely not in a job I love and definitely not looking forward to the next 25 years as a teacher.