You always remember a good teacher… Here, three teachers explain why they enjoy their chosen profession so much!
Darren Patten, 52,
is the Learning Manager for Maritime Studies at City College Southampton
“I came into teaching from industry five years ago. I’d been a boat builder for 30 years, starting as an apprentice then moving into building super yachts and racing yachts. People thought my job sounded glamorous, but in reality the inside of one shed looks much like another.
“I worked long hours with stints abroad. The driving force for my career change came when I decided I didn’t want to work away as much. I wanted the chance to be a bit more stable but still be in the same world. It felt like the right time to pass on what I’d learned.
Experts Who Teach
“When I first started teaching, I completed a 16-week PTLLS [preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector] course one evening a week, followed by a two-year diploma in education and training.
“To teach in further education you must be a ‘competent individual’ with your subject matter. Most teachers in FE don’t start as teachers; they are industry experts who learn to teach.
“Some of my students are with me for five years, from 16 to 21. Seeing a student develop and the achievements they make is very rewarding. Someone may not start off as a brilliant student, but if they work hard, apply themselves and go on to be successful, I gain a real sense of pride.
“When I began teaching, managing students’ behaviour was the biggest challenge. Students come to us from school but we expect them to behave like adults. They don’t have to call me Sir or Mr Patten – they use my name – but there are boundaries. I’d been used to managing teams of men in my previous career, with standards of behaviour I expected, so I laid down those same rules from the start. I run a tight ship!
“I enjoy the fact that no day is the same. Teaching the same scheme of work may sound repetitive but it never is. When I walk into any lesson I never know what will happen. We may start a discussion that leads to all sorts of other ideas.
Real World Experience
“I’m very keen on project work, where students get out of the classroom and learn. In 2015, Ben Ainslie Racing approached me to build two support boats for the America’s Cup. Within five months, my students had built two high-quality boats. Some of the students met Ben, David Cameron and the Duchess of Cambridge as part of the project. I witnessed their pride in that. They felt acknowledged, like they were receiving an accolade for being involved. It was very inspiring. Following that project, I won the Innovative Teacher of the Year Award at the college – that was very motivational.
“When I first started teaching, I felt I’d left one very high-pressured career and walked straight into another. I have since learned to manage the demands better and I do have a good work/life balance. There are still stressful moments, but the overriding feeling is one of knowing you may have made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Sarah Morris, 39,
teaches in year 5 at Wickhambrook Primary Academy, Suffolk
“When I think about why I love teaching, I get quite emotional – in a good way! It’s the buzz of the children and the classroom. Going back after a holiday, my class are so happy to see me and I’m happy to see them. It’s an environment we all thrive in.
“Even at age five I wanted to be a teacher. I now realise teaching appealed because I loved school. I still remember teachers who had an impact on me and left lasting memories. I wanted to be a teacher who did that.
“I didn’t go into teaching straight from university but, looking back, all my jobs had teaching elements. I loved sport and worked as a sports development officer, providing pathways through sport for children aged five to 16. When I was 25, I moved to France with my husband, Alan. Unsure what to do, I took a distance-learning TEFL, then worked for a company that offered English training to its staff. I also volunteered in a private nursery – I’d sing songs with them in English!
“When we returned to England three years later, the time felt right for a career change. I did a distance-learning PGCE – we didn’t have a home and were staying with friends, so it suited me. We didn’t know where we’d end up living.
“My first job was at a large school in Saffron Walden, Essex, where I taught for five years. I’ve now been at Wickhambrook, a small village school, for five years too. I started as an intervention teacher two days a week, working with small groups of children who needed a boost or a challenge.
“With two young children of my own, it sounded ideal – but I didn’t get the same buzz as being in a classroom. A month later, a teacher left so I moved back into classroom teaching. I now work four days a week and I’m lead on PE, an NQT mentor and going through lead practitioner accreditation.
“I love building relationships with the children – that mutual respect, that look on their faces when they suddenly get something they’ve struggled with.
“My daughters Freya, eight, and Olivia, five, are pupils at my school. Every day I ask them, ‘How was your day? What did you get up to?’ I hate it when they say, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t want the children in my class to say that to their parents. I want them to remember what they’ve done. Even if that means me making silly voices or dancing, I’ll do it.
“Teaching becomes part of your life. It’s like an addiction. The more changes you see occur as a result of your teaching, the more you want to affect such change, in pupils and the school.
“The only stress comes from lack of time and all the paperwork. Once my children are in bed, I work until 10pm every night. On my day off, I work all day so I can have the weekend with my children. There doesn’t seem to be any way round the depth of marking you have to put in. There’s no point putting a tick and ‘Good work!’ Every piece of work needs a next step or a challenge.
“Sometimes, when I’m exhausted at 10pm, I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But when I go into the classroom the next day it all changes. My class are hungry to learn and that’s what inspires me.”
Liz White, 46,
Is a teaching fellow at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Warwick, leading teacher training programmes for the FE sector
“In many ways, I fell into teaching. At university I wanted to travel, so during holidays I got voluntary charity work in Italy and Romania. I found myself doing art with children and teaching basic English.
“I enjoyed it and decided teaching with travelling sounded exciting. After graduating, I taught English in Tokyo for six months. I didn’t have a TEFL qualification – they just wanted graduates. When I got back to England, I knew teaching was for me.
“My first paid teaching job was at a college supporting students with dyslexia who were struggling to access their GCSE programmes. At the same time, I did a part-time teacher training course. I moved into teaching in prisons, followed by a college for people with learning disabilities. I was drawn to working with people who have experienced a range of learning difficulties, disabilities and other challenges, and those who have struggled with English.
“I’ve been in my current job for nine years. I teach unqualified teachers and experts in a subject who want to teach. My students teach people aged 16 and over in sixth forms, further education colleges, training companies, prisons… anywhere! A typical class could include a hairdresser, a social worker, a police officer, a maths teacher, a florist. It’s a privilege to teach such a range of people. I never stop learning.
“Most of my students are in their 30s and 40s, with kids, mortgages and jobs, so I really relate to them. Even though I’ve been teaching for 20-odd years, I get brilliant teaching ideas from them. I try things out, such as using a new technology, that I’ve picked up from watching my students teach.
“The majority want to be in class, so I don’t have many behavioural issues. A small percentage, however, have been teaching for years before their employer notices they don’t have a teaching qualification, so they’re signed up to my course. With those disgruntled students – who think ‘What can you teach me? I know it all’ – I try to make them realise that I, and the rest of the class, can learn from their experience. My teaching experience brings a breadth of knowledge into the class I wouldn’t have if I’d just taught in schools.
Time to Grow
“I love my job. The best thing is watching somebody really grow as a teacher. I have to make sure people are either good or outstanding teachers by the end of the course. Motivation is key. I have to push them out of their comfort zone, to consider trying new technology or do something more creative.
“The only disadvantage with my job is that I have to work quite a lot in the evenings. My students teach full-time and some of them do so at night, so when I go to assess or observe them it means I have to work late too. I have to be flexible with the time I’m prepared to be available. I don’t mind it in summer, but in winter it’s perhaps my least favourable part of the job.
“It’s hard for my students – they have a lot of barriers to learning. They are working full time, attending lessons and working on assignments at night, as well as perhaps having a family. I spend a lot of time saying, ‘You can do it!’ When they achieve, it’s great to be part of their journey.”