My non-teachery friends have a joke that I must be the most qualified teacher in Northern Ireland and its purely down to the fact that I’m always signing up for “a wee course” or a study day in special needs, or an awareness course on something to do with education.
I love learning. I always have. As a child I was more likely to be found inside reading a book than outside getting up to mischief. At grammar school I think I may have been one of the only girls to sign up voluntarily for the inter-schools general knowledge quiz. Certainly I was one of the few sixth form students who took seriously our A-level RE teacher when we were told to do extra-reading to broaden our understanding of the history of early church.
My love of learning is probably a big part of what led me to become a teacher. I love that moment when something clicks and you understand what you’ve been learning about. I love that feeling even more when I can see the wheels turning in a students mind and then suddenly the penny drops.
So when I started my initial teacher training I wanted to continue learning, I wanted to learn things for me. So while at College I also went to tech at night and took a Level 1 course in British Sign Language. As graduation rolled closer I decided that I was going to do courses that would both benefit my teaching and the learning of my class (once I got one) and help boost my employablity. I wasn’t going to let lack of additional qualifications rule me out for applying for jobs if I could do something about it.
So this is what has led to me becoming what my friends call “the most qualified teacher in Northern Ireland.” I’ve lost track of how many courses and professional development training days I’ve been on. At one point I could coach Football and Rugby, teach Drama Education in school, support Dyslexic learners, use BrainGym and active relaxation techniques in the classroom and Teach English as a Foreign Language all while using counseling skills and supporting learners with SEN and those who were underachieving. I also learned piano (Grade 3) and took some graded exams (Grade 6) in acting and drama. I’ve also done a Masters in Educational Multimedia and as part of my role as Nurture Teacher I’ve completed the Nurture Group Network Certificate course and am enrolled through that on an MA in education pathway. I think I covered a lot of the bases.
I love training and professional development, especially when its good. I think its so important to continue to learn. Current trends in education will come and go and its important to stay up to date and be aware of them, but I think its more important to keep your love of teaching alive and fresh.
We work in a stressful job. At times paperwork seems never-ending and it can seem as if admin has taken over from actual teaching; so you need to keep the spark alive. No one went in to teaching for the paperwork, or for the money, or even for the holidays. If they did I’m sure they didn’t last long and are doing something with far less pressure. The people who go into teaching and last are the people with the heart for it. The people who want to make a difference in the lives of their students. The people who want to be game-changers and role-models. People who get tingles when they hear “oh captain, my captain!” and well up at the end of Freedom Writers. You come into teaching because you have a love for it and keeping that love alive is key to being able to stay in teaching.
The statistic that’s so often quoted now is that 4 in 10 teachers leave within the first three years. I graduated in 2007 and I have been in my current inner-city school for the past 5 years. I have no intentions of leaving. Partly I put that down to keeping my love of teaching alive through CPD, working with inspiring colleagues who drive me to be the best teacher I can be and linking in with teachers from around the world on Twitter, through blogs, through Pinterest. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. That’s why its important to attend CPD courses, you will be sharpened by the presenters, sharpened by the people you meet in the coffee queue and sharpened by the teacher friends you go with as you unpick what you’ve heard and tweak it for your context.
At the minute I am privileged to be involved with niedcamp an innovative CPD day run by teachers, for teachers. It will fill the gap left by the cancellation of RTU summer school, a CPD event that I usually attend and would’ve missed. Now I am so excited about niedcamp that I am glad the way has been cleared for it! I have never worked with such a fantastic group of educators – I come away from each chat buzzing about the potential and vision and desire to impact their own profession and through that the teaching and learning in schools around them. As iron sharpens iron….