I got home tonight, dripping wet after being caught in a rather unexpected hailstorm, to find a letter on my doormat. This was the letter I have been waiting for ever since I applied to start teacher training seven very long months ago. It therefore contained within it all of my hopes and dreams for the future and despite my desperation to know my fate, I found myself absolutely terrified to open the envelope. What if this was the end of the road? What if my dream of being a teacher was never going to come true? I gave myself a minute before ripping the letter open; then, with shaking hands, I read the line ‘We are pleased to inform you…’. I can’t even begin to describe what happiness and what intense relief I felt as those words sunk in. I jumped for joy, I whooped out loud; to be able to have a career I love, to get to teach a subject that has enriched my life beyond all measure, to get to give children the gift of an education! What greater vocation could there be?! And now it is mine!!!
I have no illusions, and I am no idealist. I know enough teachers to know that my classroom will not be a live version of Dead Poet’s Society. I know full well that it will be hard work, with incredibly long hours, and often little thanks. However, if I can give just one child the confidence and encouragement that my best teachers gave me, I know all the hardships will be worth it. Ever since I was at primary school, I benefited from teachers who spotted my love for literature and writing and encouraged me to develop it as much as possible. In my last year of primary school, my class teacher always read my pieces of creative writing out loud to the class, as examples of excellence. My heart would swell with pride at the thought that something I had created was considered worthy of attention and praise. The greatest joy for me, though, was being asked to read the story to the class on Friday afternoons. I remember the atmosphere in the winter most vividly; school was one of those red brick Victorian affairs, with huge gothic windows, parquet floors and rusty cast iron radiators. We would sit, warm and cosy in our overheated classroom, the big windows dark and steamy, with rain tapping at the glass, while I would read out loud. I don’t think my teacher ever truly knew what that meant to me.
Moving on to secondary school, I became a small fish in a big pond, and my confidence suffered. I was used to being the best at everything and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. That’s where my English teacher stepped in. She noticed the books I chose to read were rather more advanced and she’d give me reading lists to take to the library to expand my horizons. She too would read out my creative writing to the rest of the class and encourage me to push myself further. As I moved up the school, I became known for my writing and my talent was nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity to shine. I lived for my English lessons, where I could steep myself in words. In those classrooms I was made to feel special and that I had a great future ahead of me. Obviously my parents told me all this too, but somehow when you hear it from someone who’s not related to you, it means so much more because they have no obligation to find you wonderful! It was my English teacher who pushed me to apply to Cambridge, and gave me the confidence to believe that I could be good enough to study there. I wasn’t, as it turns out, but that’s where another favourite teacher saved the day, recommending her alma mater which she thought would suit me perfectly. She was right; I followed her advice and had a marvellous three years. Without her, I don’t know where I would have ended up.
Teachers are often vilified, criticised for working too little and complaining too much, told that they are not ‘cut out’ for the ‘real world’ and haven’t got two brain cells to rub together. The decline of respect for the teaching profession in England is incredibly disappointing when you consider that really, there is nothing more vital to society than teachers. I am enormously grateful to the good teachers I had, who dedicated themselves to their pupils with a passion and always had time for those of us who needed that little extra encouragement to reach our potential. I owe them so much and I hope to be able to emulate them as I strive to do my best for my own pupils. School is about so much more than exams and grades; it’s where children grow into young adults and lay down the foundations of their futures. To be a part of that process in a child’s life is an immense privilege and I absolutely cannot wait to have a role in it.
So, starting in September, I will be a trainee English teacher. I’m doing a route that involves being thrown in at the deep end by training in a school rather than at university, so it’s going to be quite the challenge. However, after several years of dull office jobs that I can’t wait to see the back of, I’m ready!! Woohoo!!!! Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement while I have been waiting…it has really helped to be able to share the process with you, and I have appreciated your support and faith in me enormously!