Last weekend I read a couple of posts as part of a collaborative post started by Rory Gallagher aka @eddiekayshun. I enjoyed them thoroughly. It’s lovely to read what made people who they are. What drives them on and where their values originate from. I read @chrischivers2 and @jillberry102 who took time out of her doctorate to write her post. I decided I should lift the lid on my own values.

I don’t do ‘personal’ on twitter. Pretty much everything I post on here relates to my professional life. That’s just the way I like it. Don’t misunderstand, I do have a hectic social, private life but it isn’t my way to tell the world about it. For the purposes of this post I will tell you that I didn’t start my degree and then my teaching qualification until I was a mature student. I totally wasted my time at my school and had to begin again later. I was part of the ‘clever set’ of kids who thought it hilarious to mess around at school and make my teachers’ lives a misery. To my great shame I came out with a few qualifications but nothing like I would have if I’d done even a small amount of work. This self inflicted experience is one of the things that has shaped me in to the person I am now.

Having been one of those silly teenagers I soon realised that this is where my future lay. I had first hand experience of troubled teenagers. I had no troubles, I was just naughty. It was far more fun to play truant and do no homework and annoy everyone around me. As an adult I knew where these kids were coming from. I had inbuilt understanding and empathy. I could talk to them on their level and they would listen. That was my grand plan and for a while it was good. I worked with some disaffected youngsters at our local college and felt I was doing some good. I soon realised that these kids mostly had one thing in common. They had failed in school. Some like me were just bucking the system but many actually had special needs. They couldn’t read or write or do maths at a functional level for whatever reason. These are the youngsters who first pushed me in to gaining a degree. A degree was needed to teach adults with learning disabilities. That’s how those 17 year olds were classed. Adults! I wasn’t impressed with that for a start, they’re barely more than children, and they didn’t have a learning disability! So off I went to Uni and gained my degree. I then began teaching in the local FE college. So, my own experience had begun to shape my future later career.

After a while I decided I wanted to change careers and teach children rather than adults. I had no experience in this area so applied for a post as a teaching assistant to gain valuable experience. I had my degree but no qualifications to be a TA. That matters in special schools. I was employed to
tend to the care and welfare of the children at a special school. Much of my time would be spent in the bathrooms ensuring that children were dry, comfortable, well positioned and well cared for. This taught me a valuable lesson. I learnt very quickly that you can’t even begin to think about educating a child until their care and welfare is correct. I spent 2 years as a TA performing many bathroom duties. Any time I had left over I went in to the classroom and worked as a TA. I learnt to make specialist resources, differentiate lessons, programme AAC devices and much, much more. This was a huge learning curve for me. Very quickly I learned how to assist the teacher to make the lessons accessible for each child. I also learnt some behaviour management skills. I watched experienced teachers and coupled with own knowledge of being fairly naughty I learned how to handle most behaviour problems. This was an area I loved and I felt I was finally beginning to make up for my wasted education.

Along came the Graduate Teacher Programme. Now that was excellent timing for me. Here was my chance I decided. Would I be able to do it and go on to become a teacher? My HT was fabulous with me. He knew how badly I wanted it and agreed to back me. There will be no job for you at the end of it he told me. I decided this was a gamble I was willing to take. I wanted to teach. I wanted to make sure that any children I came in to contact with didn’t waste their education. I continued in my role as TA part time and completed the GRTP over the year. That was hard work. I was effectively holding down two jobs and training all at the same time. That year I spent time in the largest Primary School in the North West, I spent time in a village school and I spent time in a lovely junior school. Finally I completed a placement at my own school to complete my training. I knew I would now have to leave the place where I’d been a TA, the HT who’d guided me towards QTS and the teachers and staff who had supported me. That was the deal from the beginning. However, there came an opening. A new teacher was needed and I was interviewed and accepted for the post. I was a key stage 2 teacher and jolly proud of it! I had all that knowledge gained as a TA to help me in my role and plenty of support from the teachers and TAs. I felt I had probably made up for my poor start now.

After 3 years my HT funded me to do my MA. I specialised in inclusion/sensory education. I’m aware I was very lucky to have all this support and guidance from my HT. That support spurred me on. My school was funding me and trusting me to do my best for these children. I wasn’t going to fail a second time. I worked my socks off doing my MA and working full time but it was worth it for the children in my care. Also during this time I took an accredited course to allow me to become CPD leader. I also undertook to become a trainee teacher mentor. I wanted to do this because of all the help and support I’d been given. I was grateful for this and wanted to give something back.

I have now been a teacher for 13 years. I have been lucky enough to have been promoted several times. After 6 years I was promoted to SLT and I felt at last I was doing a worthwhile job. The children in our school are either very poorly, have learning difficulties or challenging behaviours. My early experience gave me the confidence to deal with all these things. I am privileged to have had a HT who believed in me and allowed me to do the training I wanted to do. Last September, as many will know I was made AHT by our current HT. Again, I am privileged and honoured that I have another HT who believes in me. We are a good team. My new HT is continuing to guide me and mentor me and shape my career. Lovely lady.

In essence the values I hold dear are born out of wasting my own early chances and having to re do education again. My experiences as a TA further shaped me in to the person I have now become. I aim for every child to have the best experience from school that is possible. In my school we now have very poorly children, and I feel that I am making up for lost time by giving my all to them. I know that care and comfort comes before education. I know that TAs need to feel valued and respected, I know that because I was one. I know that trainee teachers need careful guidance and support, I know that because I was one. Lastly, I know that teachers need SLT to put their trust and faith in them, not micro manage and protect their non contact time. I know that because I was and still am a teacher. From bathroom TA to AHT, I’ve done it all. The experiences I gained along the way have shaped me in to the person I am now.