“The Teaching Awards was the catalyst for my career to career off into all kinds of interesting directions. As a result of the award, all manner of offers came in, all of which I said, ‘yes’ to. I still tend towards saying yes to everything as it is an interesting way of living life.”
Winner, Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, 2004
Now consultant and author of the How to Teach series
Winning the award was, I felt, a validation for the East End, for teachers who serve challenging communities and for the kind of teacher I was at the time.
The Teaching Awards was the catalyst for my career to career off into all kinds of interesting directions. As a result of the award, all manner of offers came in, all of which I said, ‘yes’ to. I still tend towards saying yes to everything as it is an interesting way of living life.
I spent the first seven years of my career at Eastlea Community School in Canning Town. In many ways it was the happiest time of my professional life. I almost knew what I was doing then.
THE JOB, CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
Being a teacher was always part of a plan. I was predominantly a songwriter in my twenties, but you cannot eat mild to the moderate critical acclaim I was attempting to subsist on, and I entered the profession in my very early thirties determined to take it seriously. In terms of my teaching, I’ve become a little less ‘showy’ over the years. I tend to do short contracts nowadays in which I am employed solely for my abilities as a subject specialist and this is more a case of inflicting my subject knowledge upon them in much the same way a Frenchman might feed a goose rather than focusing on the experiential elements of a lesson which is what I was doing when I won the award.
I am not particularly good or skilled at teaching people to read but, on the occasion this has happened (accidentally), I have been awestruck by the responsibility of it. I have taught adults to read. I sleep well enough.
The advice I would give a newly qualified teacher is that the most important person in the school is you. Learn either to say no to or to appear incompetent at paperwork. People will ask you to do less of it.
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
It has become less imaginative, more bludgeoningly conformist and, with some institutions, more Stalinist. I feel the compulsory slideshow that is Powerpoint has moved it away a little from human connection, conversation and expressions of empathy. All the time there is an expectation, passed on from people who send email at four in the morning, that young teachers will do similar there will be a recruitment crisis. I have no solution to a sick system by and for the benefit of by sick people other than to opt out of it myself.