Why teach?

I want to tell you about how I came to be a maths teacher.

My previous career was in banking. I wasn't one of those work-hard, play-harder, money-hungry traders that you might picture. I was an analyst - I did lots of spreadsheet work (I love spreadsheets!), devised and implemented process improvements, wrote briefings and recommendations. I enjoyed it.

An experience
One day my company offered me the opportunity to give a presentation at an Inner London school about careers in banking (ironic, given the world was teetering on the brink of financial meltdown). Keen to do something a bit different, and knowing it would be a challenge (delivering presentations wasn't my strong point), I went along to Pimlico Academy and nervously gave a careers talk to a classroom of scary-looking boys. They initially came across as grumpy and disinterested, but after my talk they came out with the most amazing questions. In fact I was blown away by their questions. They were imaginative, insightful, ambitious... It was a life-changing moment. Afterwards I felt a buzz of adrenaline, a huge sense of satisfaction from successfully engaging and interacting with these teenagers. It wasn't a feeling I was used to. I wanted more.

A trigger
To cut a long story short, the global financial crisis hit my company hard and a short while later I found myself sitting at work everyday with very little to do. Unsurprisingly I was one of the very many bankers made redundant in December 2008. I was utterly depressed at losing my job. I felt miserable. I quickly got a new job on a contract with another investment bank but by then I was disillusioned with banking. My feet itched. Armed with a big enough redundancy payment to take a year out of work whilst continuing to pay my mortgage, I took the opportunity to retrain as a teacher.

An inspiration
I can't talk about my reasons for becoming a teacher without also mentioning my friend Ceri. I studied statistics at UCL with Ceri. Pretty much everyone on my course went to work in banking or accountancy after graduation, except Ceri. She surprised us all by joining the first ever cohort of Teach First trainees. Ceri turned out to be an excellent teacher who was passionate about her job. She quickly progressed to be Head of Department. In the years after university, I never once heard her mention the hours, the marking, the bad behaviour... She only ever talked about the good stuff. A positive and uncomplaining teacher, I have since discovered, is a very rare thing indeed. I was lucky to have her encouragement and support when I decided to change career.

On the last day of my second PGCE placement

A reflection
So here I am, a maths teacher. Now I don't claim to love it so much that I never look back. To be honest there are times when I wonder why on earth I left a career that was so easy in comparison. I do like a challenge, but challenge is an understatement when it comes to teaching!

On days when I'm up until midnight doing marking and admin, when a pupil has been rude to me, when a lesson has gone badly, when I'm frustrated by many many things, I look back and remember the good things about my previous career - the swanky corporate events, the comfortable air-conditioned offices, the free-flowing positive feedback and big rewards for doing a good job. Yes, of course I miss all of that. Teaching doesn't come naturally to me. I'm often outside my comfort zone. I still get a bit nervous before every lesson. But things happen everyday to remind me why I love being a teacher and why it was the right decision.

That feeling of satisfaction I get when a lesson goes well, when a pupil says 'I get it!', when a pupil say thank you. The pride I feel when I see my pupils perform in a play, win a competition, produce an amazing piece of work or put a huge amount of effort into something. The enjoyment I get from being creative and passionate. The happiness I feel when I solve a challenging mathematical problem! It's all incredible. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's incredible.

A level and GCSE results days are coming up soon. I'm so excited. Most of my colleagues don't go into school for results, but I wouldn't miss it. I worked so hard this year and my pupils were absolutely lovely. I really believe I did everything I possibly could to support and motivate them. They all worked their socks off. Seeing their reaction when they open their results to find they've done well in maths - what a huge sense of achievement. What a wonderful feeling. A feeling I could never have experienced sitting at a desk with my spreadsheets.

Graduation day. Proud - and relieved - to have survived my PGCE

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely write up. Thanks for sharing. Whenever you have a bad day, feeling exhausted, fed up - just think of the difference you are making. Teaching has given me a purpose to. I love maths and enjoy teaching it to others to :D