When I look back on my life, I genuinely can not think of a time when I have wanted to be anything other than a teacher and so it doesn’t ever feel like I have had to make a decision to get into it. It feels as though I have always been on the path, although the path has had a few twists and turns along the way. I remember six-year-old Miss Cartwright sitting and taking a register of all of her teddy bears sat in rows on her bedroom carpet. I remember ten-year-old Miss Cartwright swishing around the house in a cloak calling herself Professor McGonagall. I remember sixteen-year-old Miss Cartwright volunteering to listen to KS1 pupils read in her spare time. I remember Miss Cartwright’s hands trembling as she opened her A-Level results, waiting to find out if she would be attending her dream university. I remember twenty-two year old Miss Cartwright accepting her first ever paid teaching role. I absolutely adored school as a pupil and truly could not wait for the day I could step into the teacher role. It feels as though education is as much a part of me, as I am of it!
What for you is most rewarding about being a teacher?
Where to begin? Teaching is a career choice that is so fulfilling and rich with a wide variety of rewards, it’s really quite tough to pick just one! For me, the relationships, journeys and adventures that you get to share with your children are the greatest rewards. Each year, thirty-or-so children trust you enough to take risks with you, to laugh with you, to explore with you, to question the world with you, to accept challenges with you, to face failure with you and to ultimately share the highs and lows of their lives with you. Who wouldn’t go home feeling fulfilled after that? Who wouldn’t wake up and leap out of bed for that?
What are the most challenging aspects?
It is no secret that teaching is an immensely challenging career choice. I think that this is actually gaining quite a lot of attention from social media, the media and the public in general at the moment and I really do hope that that attention drives positive change for the next generation of teachers. I regularly see articles and posts about teachers’ pay, rigorous Ofsted inspections, the working hours, the workload, depression, anxiety and stress… The list goes on! Personally, the most challenging aspect of teaching is learning to set boundaries on yourself and learning to say no sometimes, so that the job does not consume your life entirely. In my NQT year I absolutely threw myself into work at 100mph and genuinely worked from 5am when I woke up right through to 11pm when I went to bed, Monday to Friday. The weekends would often become a blur or planning, paperwork and admin and it soon felt like I was working seven day weeks, every week. Obviously, this had a detrimental effect on my physical health because I would rarely make time for the gym or would often eat fast food, my mental health because I was not taking time to care for myself, my relationships with my partner, friends and family who I would go without seeing for long periods of time, and my quality of life in general. While I certainly excelled at work through all of my hard work, I had to learn how to set boundaries and balance my workload so that I still got to be Georgia on a weekend and not just Miss Cartwright 24/7. While I’ve certainly not got it perfect just yet, I do feel like I’m starting to find that happy medium. I am a firm believer that you can not pour from an empty glass, and do it is important to look after yourself so that you can provide the best quality learning experience for your pupils.
What do you think are the most important qualities a teacher should have?
I’m sure that right this second there are many young adults questioning their selves: “Am I smart enough to be a teacher?”, “Am I hard-working enough to be a teacher?”, “Am I good enough at Maths to be a teacher?” or “Am I strong enough to manage a class?”. You can learn subject knowledge. You can master the curriculum. You can acquire behaviour management skills. But, the most important qualities a teacher should have are not always those that can be learned from a book or on a training course. I think, that the most important qualities a teacher should have are: a kind heart. a calm temperament, a resilient attitude and a good sense of humour.
How does it feel when you receive thanks from your students?
When a student thanks a teacher, it shows that they have been able to acknowledge what that teacher has done to help them and that they have understood the invaluable gifts of knowledge, skills and happy memories that have been shared with them. That understanding and that acknowledgment are truly priceless to me. I’ve been working in schools, voluntarily and paid, for around eight years now and I can safely say that receiving thanks from your children is worth more than any pay cheque will ever be. Whether it comes in the form of a handmade card, a big hug or just an appreciative glance, it is a truly special moment to have your work acknowledged by the little humans that you do it all for. Not all recognition comes in the form of the word ‘outstanding’.
What specifically does receiving this thank you card mean to you?
Obviously, this ‘Thank You’ card is particularly special for me as it is the first time I have received such a formal acknowledgment or token of gratitude. I must say I am quite touched that someone took the time to seek out such a formal way of expressing their appreciation of what I do. Having read the online reasoning for the card, I know who the card came from and this has obviously added to the importance of it. The pupil in question is someone who I know has found mainstream education challenging, and yet I have been able to help them find joy in the classroom and feel like they belong and that they deserve a high quality education. I feel that I have had a truly lasting impact on this pupil and their family. What more could you ask to get out of a day at work?
What do you hope pupils will learn from this initiative?
If by this you mean, the ‘Thank A Teacher’ initiative, then I hope that pupils will learn that their education is not something to be taken for granted and that it is something to be enjoyed and appreciated, just as the individuals who make it all happen deserve to be appreciated in turn.
Do you have any tips for a young person looking to get into teaching?
Many of these tips are gems of knowledge passed on to me by teachers and mentors who I have looked up to when getting into teaching myself, and I have stuck by them this far! So, I truly hope they help the next generation of teachers:
– Identify your own pedagogy and ethos, and find the route into teaching and the right school that aligns with you. Do not change yourself to fit where you do not feel you belong.
– Stick to your own morals.
– Set yourself boundaries – you can not pour from an empty glass.
– Ask questions, talk to those around you, seek out advice and listen to those that are more experienced than you.
– When you get into the classroom, never shout. If you are shouting you have lost control of the situation, and you have lost control of yourself.
– Kill them with kindness. Whether it’s an antagonising student or an unkind member of staff, never let anything get to you and always take the moral high ground.
– Remember that every day is a new day and a new opportunity. Do not dwell on what went wrong yesterday, or hold a grudge against a child who misbehaved last week.
– Be reflective and adapt, but do not crush yourself criticism – save that for Ofsted.
– At the end of each day, identify your highlight of that day. What is that little gem of joy that you are taking home with you from today? Cherish those moments and remember THAT is why you want into teaching