Tania Findlay, MBE St. Newlyn East Learning Academy, Cornwall. 11 Feb 2020

Why did you decide to get into teaching?

I was late to the party and qualified when I was 38! I was a TA for seven years before I became a teacher. I was covering lots of PPA and really enjoyed it so I thought I’d retrain. I completed my degree through the University of Worcester, while still working full time and with a young family, then did the GTP through the University of St. Mark and St. John in Plymouth-I’m in my 7th year of teaching, an Assistant Head and am a Specialist Leader in Education for English. This year, in the 2020 New Year’s Honours, I was honoured with an MBE for Education which was incredibly humbling but I was so, so thrilled to receive it, I’m still a bit stunned if I’m honest! The award isn’t just for me though, it’s for all hardworking teachers in the UK, who do their best every day, amazing educators who are absolutely making a difference to the children in their classes.

What for you is most rewarding about being a teacher?
I just love working with children, they’re so refreshingly honest about everything. When a child absolutely decides they can’t do something and you give them the confidence to see that they can, even though it may be challenging, and they absolutely smash it, that makes everything worthwhile. When they smile because they finally ‘get it’-that feeling is unreal. No two days are the same and that’s what keeps it exciting.

What are the most challenging aspects?
I teach Yr.6 so, for me, it’s the external accountabilities: SATs. I agree that there should be some kind of assessment at the end of Key Stages and arguably SATs are a good way of doing that, but I still maintain if you took the time element away, children would feel less pressure and be more successful.

How does it feel when you receive thanks from your students?
It’s lovely. I don’t ever think about being thanked for doing my job, I teach because I want to make a difference, and I want every child to reach their full potential.

So to hear a child say ‘Thank You’ is lovely, everyone likes to feel appreciated, don’t they? I’d say, it’s not necessary but it is always appreciated.

What specifically does receiving this thank you card mean to you?
It was a nice surprise. Being a Yr. 6 teacher, after I’ve taught my class, they go on to secondary school and I don’t always expect to hear from them again. I’d met the parent of this child a few weeks before, in the town where we live, and he said ‘She misses you lots and talks about you all the time!’ This card thanked me for setting her up for secondary school and it was a real compliment. I do miss my previous class and it’s great to hear how their getting on.

What do you hope pupils will learn from this initiative?
If children see teachers thanking teachers or support staff, or other role models thanking them too, that can only be a good thing. I hope it makes them stop and reflect on all the things they are thankful for, not necessarily teachers, but health, family and friends, their education, where many children across the world don’t have access to a basic one.

How important is gratitude in day to day life do you think?
This world is so fast-paced and our lives are the same. Sometimes we’re all guilty of rushing around and forgetting to be thankful for lots of things. Manners cost nothing; it’s important to be polite and respectful even if it isn’t reciprocated.  It worries me that our children spend more and more time looking at a screen and some have a disjointed view of perfection, they look at photos of celebrities, which are so filtered they barely resemble themselves, and aspire to be like that. It is so important to be kind to others and ourselves, to be grateful for all the wonderful things that we have and that we contribute to the world.