“Just” a Teacher

Well, like every other person with a job, I’ve been a little busy over the last few months but I have been inspired to put fingers to keyboard again for my latest blog article.  I am most certainly not the first person to have written about this topic and sadly I envisage I will not be the last. But, I had my first experience of someone calling me ‘just’ a teacher the other day and WOW it riled me up.

Image result for just a teacher

Now I love this person dearly, and if they are reading this now then “sorry not sorry” in a way as this has to be said. I am not ‘just’ a teacher. I am not ‘wasting my potential’ and quite frankly in answer to your question of “when are you going to earn £250k (a year)?” the answer is most likely never. And believe it or not, this is a conscious choice.

I would really like the individual to know that trying to make me a money-centred person is like trying to make a tyrannosaurus rex a vegan. It is just not in my nature. I have, and always will, put myself before others. I’m not saying that for martyrdom or a ‘woe is me’ attitude, it is just a fact that it is one of my main personality traits. I have done numerous 2am drives to various friends in need to cheer them up, I buy cards and gifts for my loved ones just because I know it will make them happy, I’m a self-confessed, chronic people-pleaser. I love other people’s happiness. The fact that I get to make a modest living out of making other people happy, or at least attempting to influence their lives so they can make their own choices and be happy themselves, is wonderful. I really don’t think I would sleep well at night if I knew all I was making money for was either myself or a massive corporation. Or maybe I would because I could afford a top of the range mattress, who knows?

When I have something I want to say but can’t word it properly I write a poem and before I type it for the world to see I need to make my peace with the culprit. You are an absolute business machine. You are dedicated, driven and I would imagine scary to work for and these traits are things I take from you and adapt to my situation. Please do not mistake me being a teacher as a cop out. You said I was wasting my potential whereas in fact I cannot think of a better place for me to maximise my potential. If more powerful business leaders like yourself gave a little more respect to teachers, perhaps the education system wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in. But don’t worry, I plan to sort it out at some point in my career 😉.

Here is a little something I wrote:

She was privileged growing up, she is thankful every day
that anything necessary for her education, her family could pay.

For knowledge comes at a price these days, but she got her money’s worth,
A Levels fit for a Dancing Queen, she was ready to face the earth.

A 2:1 degree from a top uni, what would she make of herself?
With all the potential to be great, the idea was planted – maximise your wealth.

“Climb to the top, mind the bodies as you go, get those 6 figures you need.
No, don’t be ridiculous, it’s your right to take this, only the poor call it greed!”

But this girl was not wired this way, she didn’t think like that,
as in her mind, there’s not a job on this planet that needs a salary that fat.

There are some who deserve it, absolutely no ifs no buts,
the life savers and the selfless but they are only handed more cuts.

At the horror of the money hungry, the disbelief of the high earners,
this young graduate started earning her pennies, dedicating her skills to little learners.

The more she taught, the more she learned that sadly she wasn’t respected.
The students, they were fabulous, it was her profession that was dismissed, rejected.

“You’re wasting your talent” they told her, “you should be bringing home much more.”
What they don’t get is she does bring home, every “hey miss” she gets at her classroom door.

“You’re 25 and what have you achieved, you’re not even on 30k”
well, she’s already shaped the lives of over 1000 children in her own mathematical way.

And no it might not be glamourous and no she doesn’t wear designer
but she’s there for her students and when they need help they can find her.

“Just” a teacher you say, just a teacher my arse.
She’s been a social worker, therapist, parent and more and all second to leading a class.

The work is hard, what work isn’t “but what about your holidays” they scoff.
Come and have a go, just 6 weeks should do it and you’ll realise that she earns her time off.

Now she knows a leopard won’t change its spots but this isn’t a recruitment rhyme,
our economy only runs so smoothly because each career is valued for its place and time.

Celebrate the driven, the determined, the entrepreneurs and those who see the good in each child
Those who possess the patience of a saint even when your kid drives them wild.

So yes, this girl decided to realise her potential, she didn’t waste a bit.
for the 300 students she teaches this year are quite thankful she’s stuck with it.

And whilst they may strive for bigger salaries that are always just out of reach,
Right now, she’ll change lives, enjoy her job, and smile. Guess she’ll have to ‘just’ teach.
If you got all the way to the end of that then thank you for reading!
I’m desperately trying to get back into the swing of blogging and will be writing up a bit on mindfulness soon. I would love to hear from anyone who has had positive or negative experiences with using Mindfulness and meditation techniques in their classroom.


Miss White


Goodbye Training Wheels

It’s safe to say I have made the most of the most famous perk of teaching. In my five and a half weeks off I have been to Thailand, climbed the three peaks (picture attached), travelled around the UK including up to Skye, seen my beautiful friend marry her wonderful new husband and to top it all off, seen Jools Holland LIVE.. (a father’s day present). I have truly made the most of my holiday and I hope any fellow teachers reading this did as well as we definitely deserve it!

Tomorrow I start my first year as a real-life official full timetable teacher, and considering I am one of the most positive people alive, naturally I am incredibly excited. I’m also nervous. Very nervous. How do teacher’s cope with a full timetable? My six PPA sessions over a fortnight are unfortunately spaced with five in week A and one in week B in which I have my NQT mentee meeting (which I am very excited and proud to say that I am somebody’s mentor!). I’m so worried about how I am going to manage the workload however I suppose there is no point in worrying until I have actually been through a cycle or two but I would love some suggestions!

I also enter this year with a sickening feeling and it is all to do with the new maths GCSE spec. I know it can’t be just me however this feeling of the unknown is very disconcerting. I would be completely fine but this years GCSE results have left me a little frustrated and confused with the systems in place. My GCSE class worked incredibly hard with the majority working at a good C level all year, or so I thought. With the grade boundaries hiked up 7 marks I lost 8 students in the old boundary to the new. That is 8 students that I can’t help but feel like I have let them down in some way. I know that students have to put in the effort to get the grades but when I put in hours, sweat and actual tears it makes the results all the more gutting. I sincerely hope that this new-fangled GCSE stops moving the goal posts as much as the old one.

However, of course all of these doubts are muted by all of the exciting things I want to try in my classroom. I will be utilising Plickers (www.plickers.com) a LOT more this year and I will do a post on it soon for anyone who doesn’t use it because its life changing! I want to trial flipped learning – all suggestions on how to do this with the most student benefit would be welcomed. Furthermore, through being an Associate Tutor at this years Summer Institute, I have a new way to teach concepts which I am incredibly excited to deliver.

I hope everyone has a wonderful start of term!

Miss White



An Inspector Calls.. Twice

So it turns out this teaching business takes up more time than you think! I cannot believe it has been five months since I have done a blog post, but then when I think of all of the things that have happened in those five months I think I can be forgiven.

There have been quite a few milestones of teaching that have happened in this short space of time and I’ll go through the highs and lows so sit back, relax and enjoy the read!

The first.. I graduated 🙂 We had a lovely PGCE graduation in the Wills memorial building in Bristol. It was a truly lovely day of celebrations! Here is a picture of myself and two very important fellow teachers. Without these two the journey would have looked very different. 11210465_10155982755400538_7067253947566550109_n

December: the women and men in suits came to visit. Within three weeks I was interviewed by an HMI for the TeachFirst Ofsted and also observed by the very same HMI in the following weeks for our much anticipated school Ofsted.

The TeachFirst interview allowed me to be fiercely defensive over my training route. I was able to show exactly how proud I am of my journey and how thankful I am for the oodles of support I have received along the way. My mentors, headteacher, colleagues, friends and peers have been a non-stop port of call for any problems or wobbles I may have had during my journey and they continue to do so. Of course TeachFirst has its perceived flaws to those who are not au fair with the inner workings of it. There is an argument that TeachFirst teachers do exactly that, they dabble in teaching before they turn to a better-paid job however that is not my experience. Many of my friends are staying in teaching for a third year in their schools simply because they have fallen in love with the profession. There may be some doubters still but in the current climate, getting people through the door to teaching has got to be helping the shortage! Hang on, what was I saying? Oh yeah, the interview with Mr Ofsted – I secretly enjoyed the heated discussions because it proved how much I appreciate everything everyone has done for me along my journey and I couldn’t recommend it more to those with a passion for teaching (who also have an abundance of resilience).

The school Ofsted. What can I say? It was an experience and a half. I know I am completely biased but the school I work in cannot be described by Ofsted descriptors. It is phenomenal. The relationships the pupils have with the teachers are magical and over 40% of these pupils are pupil premium and live in a very deprived area. What the school and teachers do for their pupils is way above and beyond what happens in the classroom. For this reason, when we were waiting for the verdict I found myself going from the most positive outlook “we are going to skip a grade and be outstanding” to completely doubting the system “they are going to make us inadequate”. For a period of time I completely lost all faith in the system. I was angry at the fact that I couldn’t show on paper how a child has gone from not putting their hand up to being able to deliver a 5 minute presentation. I was at a loss looking through my books and thinking – “oh no Little Susie has not responded to my feedback in green pen, the school will fail because of me. “ It was a horrible horrible time. Thankfully the school got its more than deserved “good” grading, although in my eyes that is like telling Usain Bolt that he is “good” at running, but as I said, I’m openly biased.

Following the inspections, school was a much happier place to be. Finally the staff have the recognition they deserve, the news was delivered to the pupils’ and we continued our day to day ‘goodness’ that we can now happily bask in.

A couple of weeks into this academic year I was approached by a group of year 9 girls for the best part of my (short) teaching career so far. It was a brief moment, and to them they may not even remember but to me it is everything. They came after school, armed with green options booklets and uttered the words “Miss what should I choose so I can go to university?”

My heart melted. Two of these girls were causing me a lot of trouble at the beginning of last year, very bright girls but my god they loved to wind each other and myself up. Fast forward a year and her they are asking me for advice on GCSE choices so they can go to university. They asked what I did, which uni I went to and asking how can they get there. We had a good half an hour of navigating the option blocks with their fresh careers in mind. Conversations about their potential and promises from them on how hard they are going to work followed and they left the room with a clearer future in mind and I was left feeling incredible. I cant really pin point why but it was simply an awesome moment.

I’ll stop chatting now but I do have lots more that has happened however they warrant their own blog post. Things include: teaching sex-ed nightmares, a masters all about marking and future career prospects!


Thanks for reading!


Miss White x

NQT.. Easy as 1,2,3?

First off, apologies for the gap in posts, it’s been a manic start to the term, but this is what has inspired the latest post.

The first few weeks as an NQT/Year 2 TeachFirst were insurmountably better than the same time last year.
Knowing the behaviour policies, the majority of my pupils’ names and backgrounds, the order of the day, what teaching a five period day feels like are the small things that honestly made the biggest difference to this year.

I was on top of my marking, keeping to the scheme of work and all was going swimmingly.

Until all of the other things come into play. I have a wonderful group of year seven tutees this year and with that comes 26 new (very needy) children who require equipment checks, letter hand-ins, trips out, days off time table and a plethora of other seemingly menial tasks which all create further work.
They are a glorious bunch, full of questions, (so many questions) and comments.. “Miss my hamster bit me this morning ..look!”, “Miss my mum’s dog put toys in my school bag..look!” and a personal favourite ..”Miss what do you call a cow with no legs?… Ground beef”. I love being a tutor but i was not prepared for just how much of your life and attention they require.

This addition to my workload is what has had the biggest impact and I only realised this on Monday of week 4.

Towards the end of last year I was warned by my colleagues not to take on too much in my NQT year as you I am still only one year in which means that I am still very much in the embryonic stage of my career. I completely agreed and looked forward to this year with anticipation while i get given slightly more responsibilities whilst keeping teaching and learning and learning about teaching at the forefront. However, it was only when my subject mentor sat me down and made me write all of the extra tasks/responsibilities I had accepted within the first month of my second year I realised I had shot myself in the foot.

Something to remember for the future..
Something to remember for the future..

The list was mammoth 18 extra responsibilities on top of a normal teaching timetable! And it was completely my fault. I had said yes to absolutely everything thrown my way. I have always been told to take every opportunity, and I tell my pupils to take every opportunity but I had a complete meltdown about the fact that I couldn’t do all of my extra tasks. I felt like I had failed myself and the school.

The reason for the meltdown was not only the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to complete all of the tasks to the best of my ability but that actually my tutees and my pupils were the ones that were suffering. The more things you say yes to, the less time there is for planning and marking which means the more you risk the pupils’ progress, which is the reason why I chose to become a teacher; Pupil progression in maths and in their socio-emotional growth a a young person.

Discussions with my professional mentor were amazingly supportive, I’m just annoyed at myself that it got to breaking point before I did something about it. I learned my most valuable lesson within the first four weeks of teaching and that sometimes the right thing to do is to say no.

Instead of completing five tasks half-heartedly I can now put all of my focus and efforts into the ones where I feel push me for the early stage of my career that I am in. Hopefully, this little wobble earlier means that I can keep progressing through my career and not go near this dreaded “burn out” that you read about in the news!

Advice to new teachers .. learn when to say no. It makes your life so much easier.

You don’t look like a maths teacher?!

So it’s back to school and I’ve fallen in love with my job all over again. I will be posting about the highs and lows including more brilliant remarks from children such as “Miss you really need to pick that spot on your face” (Day 3 new term). However, this post is more about a very odd phenomenon that I have experienced too many times.

The inspiration for this post (which may end up a bit ranty so I apologise in advance) comes twofold: the first was during a lazy morning when I was watching Nothing to Declare and a man uttered the words “Do I look like a drug dealer?” to which the security guard replied “you tell me, what does a drug dealer look like?”

The second has been happening ever since I began my training. It goes something like this:

Person A: “So what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a teacher”

Person A: “Ooooh primary?”

Me: “No, secondary”

Person A: “Oooh that’s brave, Art?”

Me: “No, I teach maths”

Person A: “OOOOHHH Maths.. you don’t look like a maths teacher”

Me: …

"What does a maths teacher look like?"
“What does a maths teacher look like?”

Now before I get any abuse I am by no means suggesting that being a Primary teacher or an Art teacher are somehow inferior, in fact I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for all teachers. Primary couldn’t be more important in a child’s life and I fundamentally believe all pupils should partake in as much of the Arts curriculum as possible as I am equally as proud of my Art and Maths A levels.

But why as a society, are young female teachers all primary?

What about the male primary teachers? The female head teachers? The Male nurses? The female builders? Having had these conversations with far too many people (including family members) it has made me think twice before I pigeon hole a profession to a gender. I have pulled my pupils up on it on more than one occasion when they refer to teachers as “she”, clearly stating how men are teachers too.

Having spent the beginning of summer up in Leeds for TeachFirst Returners week, I can safely say that there are at least 3,000 teachers in schools across England and Wales who may face exactly the same conversation I have had. Perhaps it’s time to show what a maths or science or drama teacher looks like. Move away from the media depictions of maths teachers being sour faced, child hating individuals who carry a briefcase and can’t work any technology in the room. Challenge the Miss Honey stereotype of a primary teacher. I want to inspire my pupils to believe that they can genuinely take on any career they choose and I never want this decision being affected by gender.

I know I am not ground-breaking in any of my comments here but I think it should be talked about as much as possible as things will never change if we don’t mention it.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have ever experienced anything like this.

If it were that bad, you wouldn’t be reading this.

This week has seen the 2014 TeachFirst cohort return to Leeds to deliver our final presentations and pass our pearls of wisdom onto the (exhausted) 2015s.

Hearing the journeys my peers have made at their schools has been my favourite part. The passion, the sharing of strengths, the development of weaknesses and the celebration of successes has been heartwarming and I feel proud to be a part of such a wonderful team of new teachers.

I could talk about how brilliantly everyone has done in their own individual ways but the one thing that has stood out for myself and fellow participants is the way the year is sold to you is largely false. Flashback a year and I remember at this point being so tired and so saturated with knowledge that I felt like I couldn’t possibly take in any more teaching nuggets. I also felt that I couldn’t hear just how rubbish this year was going to be and, more importantly, how rubbish I was going to be at the start.

Who starts a job being told that its going to be horrible? Or that you will suck at it?

It’s worrying the amount of people who genuinely believe at this moment in time that they are about to embark on a sad, joyless, uphill struggle where you have chairs thrown at you every day and are the only one fighting for equality in education. It’s simply not the case!

Cheesy as you like, but it is ALWAYS there
Cheesy as you like, but it is ALWAYS there

“You will cry at school.” That is a pearl of wisdom that is passed onto the new teachers. You will break down and cry in your workplace. Imagine in your job training being told that you will burst into tears? Sadly, it probably is the case! I have been in tears lots of times over this year through frustration and fatigue. However, there is no pearl of wisdom that says that the reason you may cry is because you are bursting with pride at what a pupil has achieved (year 9 presentation this summer term). Or that in fact you laugh until your stomach hurts on ten more occasions for every tear you shed .

I have been exceedingly lucky to be placed in a glorious school. The staff are incredibly supportive and the pupils make me proud on a daily basis. That isn’t to say it has been smiles and rainbows all year, of course not! But I fear that the way “year one” is portrayed is at risk of overshadowing the glorious snippets that happen daily. There has not been a single day where I haven’t smiled at something during the school day. This is also the case for my peers who have been placed in exceedingly challenging schools. Yes lessons go to pot sometimes, yes pupils say mean things, yes you teach topics completely wrong and have to apologise to the students for the last week of learning (whoops) but those things rarely ever happen all in the same day! It depends on you as a person as to how you decide to feel about a day. Do you dwell on the negatives? Or do you realise the good you are doing just by being a welcoming face in your classroom?

I think what I’m trying to say is that if it was as bad as everyone says it is then there wouldn’t be thousands of teachers in Leeds right now. If the whole year was horrendous and all you are is a hinderance then TeachFirst as a movement would not be expanding at the rate that it is. You will have ups and downs and you will make mistakes but you will not make that same mistake twice! You are never failing, you are always learning and that learning curve is so steep and you will push yourself to be the best you can be in your own personal pathway through year one. What is absolutely the case is that this year will be the making of you. You will laugh, you will cry but every single day, along with all of the other teachers on the programme and all teachers across the country, you WILL be making a positive difference to your pupils’ lives.

Working to Live or Living to Work?

“I plan on having evenings off and seeing friends at weekends, will I be able to do this?” questioned one new TeachFirst Participant.

It was hard not to laugh.

All different directions.. is this the case?
All different directions.. is this the case?

The first term of teaching was completely devoted to my new career. Twelve hour days Monday to Friday, weekends filled with essays/planning/marking. Every waking moment was spent thinking/worrying about my classes, finding new resources, coming up with wacky classroom activities that in reality were completely unnecessary or worrying about up and coming observations/essays. When sleeping, dreams were filled with school or nightmares about lessons. Teaching was my entire life.

As the year has gone on I have managed to make myself only do school work at school. That still means leaving at 6:30/7pm but once I leave I have those precious three hours to myself. If I want to go somewhere at the weekend I will plan accordingly to get everything done so I can come out from my hermit-shell and be sociable. It is only occasionally that I devote an entire Sunday to marking so my “work life balance” some would say has improved.

A tough ‘work/life balance’ is not unique to TeachFirst or teaching for that matter. I enjoy catching up with my university and school classmates on the drive home (hands free of course) by giving them a call. This is normally about 7pm and often I am only able to speak to one of my friends and they are a fellow trainee teacher! All of my other graduates are still in the office, working on a task I can’t fathom. They work for hours, HOURS at the same desk. They are putting in exactly the same amount of work as me, arguably more. A work/life balance is not possible for new graduates.I got to the last round of interviews for a discount supermarket graduate scheme; a £45k salary with an Audi A4. The sacrifice? Your soul. Yes you get paid a fortune but wiping your tears away with a wad of £50 notes kind of defeats the object doesn’t it? Graduates have it tough, you work hard for your £30,000(+) certificate and if you don’t perform in your job then there are 200 other grads on your heels waiting for your role. As young professionals, graduates’ energy stores are exploited but I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. The cure? My plan is to work my way out from the bottom of the pile quickly so i can survey my options from there. This means a LOT more hours and the scales being heavily weighted on the work side of the work life balance.

However, personally I don’t really see it as a “work/life balance” quite simply because I love my job. My work and my life are intertwined and I am incredibly lucky to be able to say so. Of course I have had moments where I resent the fact that I am too tired to go out on the weekend or I can’t make a social gathering because I have books to mark and I remember muttering expletives about having to write essays in my precious holidays. But, I do not resent the appreciation from the pupils or the outcomes from my hard work. I know I am new to the profession and perhaps this outlook does wear off but as soon as I start seeing my job as a chore then I will be in the wrong career. Working simply to make a living means you don’t enjoy 5 out of the 7 precious days of your week. I’ve done the maths, thats not a good proportion!

When I have a family of my own I am sure this will be altered and this scares me. How do people do it? Is it possible to juggle the needs of the 150 children in your classes with home pressures of your own children/spouse/abundance of cats? Is there really a glass ceiling for women in education? What do you do when childcare costs outweigh your weekly salary? So many questions which, as a naive newbie I really don’t have the answer to but they are questions I am excited to deal with (much later on!).

This has been a spillage of thoughts but the take home message for new teachers is, no you won’t be able to stop working at 5, yes you will have to work weekends at the start but it does get better and above all it’s completely worth it.

Classroom Confessions .. The “What Ifs” you can’t prepare for.

The idea for this blog post came to me after meeting the wonderful group of TeachFirst 2015 participants. I overheard the 57, filled with excitement and nerves,  asking many questions starting with the word s”What If…?”

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if they don’t listen?”

“What if they refuse to leave the room?”

“What if I don’t know the answer?”

These worries are normal and there are a plethora of ways/techniques to help you deal with each one in turn but it got me thinking… what are the “what if’s” that myself and fellow teachers have encountered that quite frankly, you would never.. EVER.. expect to happen.

Schools and teachers shall remain anonymous .. the situations are all very real!

The jist to this article..
The jist to this post …

Here we go: “What if you are humiliated in front of your class?” Having been *very active* active at the front for the majority of a lesson teacher M poses a question to the class.. hands go up.. they choose student A who replies “Miss, the answer is six, and you have massive sweat patches.”

“you have massive sweat patches”.. those words will remain Teacher Ms mind for eternity. Student A was right, it turns out teacher M did have massive sweat patches but what did she do? She dealt with the situation. She reprimanded the rudeness, explained that the patches in question were a sign of how hard she was willing to work in order for the pupils to learn and then naturally, once the class had gone, hoped the ground would swallow her up a tiny bit. She coped.

Teacher P encountered this “What if…. Some kid sets fire to your desk with propanone in the second week “by mistake”?” Well step one is to put out the fire, and then you simply deal with the situation. Interestingly with a problem like this it is important not to take it personally as the pupil in question later went on to be Teacher Ps favourite pupil.

“What if you tell your pupils to swear at you?” Teacher Q came across this situation when attempting to implement an AfL strategy learnt in summer training. The classic Thumbs up, middle or down was misinterpreted by teacher Q and came out as the instruction: “thumbs up, middle fingers or thumbs down.” Naturally, every single one of the 28 pupils in front of her were sat with their middle fingers directed at teacher Q. This situation you have to address the mistakes. teacher Q laughed it off and then NEVER made that mistake again.

Teacher Rs “What if” highlights the importance of caring and supportive staff members. “What if the decorative zip that goes from waist to knee turns out not to be decorative at all and you are expected to go and teach a class imminently and your entire backside if on show?” The solution? Quick minds working together meant that one teacher went off and started the class of year 10 whilst two others ran to lost property to source some spare school trousers. On returning to the classroom (after a swift change) what if a pupil says that they “swear” they saw you wearing a skirt today.. well on this occasion the solution is to lie a little bit and reply “nope and now back to work.”

Teacher Q offered this golden what if : what if a pupil screams at you “my mum’s gunna rape you” at the top of her voice? A bizzare situation and one which I don’t think many people would think to ask with how you deal with it. Teacher Y followed protocol, implemented the disciplinary system and sought help from more experienced members of staff. This resulted in student Y being placed on alternative provision before unfortunately being excluded for a multitude of other offences. There was no way Teacher Y could have been prepared for this situation however the support systems in place at schools are well equipped ro deal with the unexpected. Yet again, teacher Y coped.

Teacher Z answers this more worrying what if.. “what if a pupil walks towards you threatening they are going to *effing* punch you in the *effing* face?” This situation is the stuff of nightmares, luckily schools know their pupils, and this school has a constant police presence. The aggressive child was swiftly dealt with by the Police Officer and not Teacher Z (whose effing face remains in tact). The moral of this story is, direct confrontation is always not acceptable and should always go higher than you. Staff members are trained in this field and it is not down to you to take abuse, verbal or physical. If you are in a threatening situation, do your best to calm it down and know the protocol as to who to pass it on to. Although these last two are more serious situations, it is important to know that you really aren’t alone and all schools are there to support their staff.

These situations, from the embarrassing to the frightening all highlight one thing which we (as new teachers) have been amazed at all year. We can deal with almost anything. Pupils coming to us in floods of tears over unimaginable home life situations, pupils shouting accidentally hilarious things (naming parts of a circle and “rectum” was said instead of “radius”), pupils embarrassing us, pupils outsmarting us. These all point to an unknown ability to cope with situations that up until now had never been tested.

If I could go back and tell me from a year ago one piece of advice/moral support it would be to trust in myself and my instincts. For all of the unimaginable situations, you somehow know what to do. You deal with the immediate problem, you source a logical solution and then you carry on teaching.

Maths in the Big Smoke

1:30 am on Saturday morning and I get back from the year 11 prom, what a wonderful evening! The students looked fantastic in all of their finery and were impeccably behaved as the celebrated they end of their time at school. Four and a half hours later after a small nap I am on the train to London for my first conference.

Me and all my mates on the train …

 Hosted by la salle education, #mathsconf4 was an incredibly useful day. It was set in the delectable architecture of the Grand Connaught rooms near covent garden and the impressive setting was complimented by the abundance of impressive individuals who delivered workshops, shared ideas and resources and generally made the day the success it was. It all started with speed dating.. Maths style. Instead of “I’m on the cusp of libra and Virgo so I can be pretty unpredictable at times teehee” it was more “here is my favourite resource, here is how it has changed my pedagogy, now what’s yours?” Within 10 minutes I had 5 brand new ideas with thanks to @MrBenWard, @MissBsResources @BetterMaths @MrKMorrison and @e_hayes12! 

 Onto the workshops. My first was seeing the amazing things @EmathsUK have been working on with saving teachers time when putting together a scheme of work, we were allowed to play with the software which was highly beneficial, especially as the curriculum is changing so much! Next, I snuck into a workshop on bar modelling. This was so important as I have found out I am getting pupils coming in at level 1 (KS2 levels) which means I am gathering ways to teach early years maths! .. Please send any helpful advice my way!

Lunchtime saw the tweet up where it was lovely to put some faces to tweets! I particularly enjoyed trying the ‘O Level” 16 mark questions from the paper that was sat the year before I was born..

After lunch I attended two excellent sessions on problem solving and leadership lead by @NCETMSecondary and @WorkEdgeChaos respectively. Now I thought I could play he part of mad teacher quite well, speaking fast an dancing around the room.. but the presenter from NCETM was described by @MrKMorrison as “a Tazmanian devil of knowledge” .. I mean the man was buzzing around the room. I felt tired by the end but I picked up so many useful things for immediate impact in my classroom and also pertinent points for reflection and consideration for later on in my career.

The day was polished off by some post conference networking over a (London priced) glass of wine where stories were shared and valuable advice and support was offered (Thanks @MrBenWard, @mathsjem). It is these moments that I think will become the best part of being involved in a network of teachers. The generosity of others is immense with resource sharing and a willingness to share experiences (the good and bad) is inspiring.

All in all it was totally worth getting out of bed at 5:30 am to go to London. Not only for the sessions but more importantly seeing how many other teachers want to improve and grow as professionals made me yet again excited about the career I have chosen.

Who are ya? – Reflecting on teacher persona

Today saw our year 11 pupils come in for one last day of celebrations and farewells. As I said goodbye and good luck to my wonderful group, it was a perfect opportunity for me to reflect on what I have found the most important part of my teaching career so far – my changing teacher persona. 


This phrase was thrown around at our Summer Institute and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really take what was being said into account. My family and friends had told me that I would make a great teacher and something inside me simply believed them. I am a confident, extroverted individual who is very sociable, I believed I would have no trouble standing up in front of a class and controlling them. Right?

HA! That cocky person would get eaten alive by year 10..

The ‘me’ that makes a good teacher is not the ‘me’ my family and friends know. If they saw me actually up in front of my classes, teaching in the way that I do, they would be quite confused. I think if I were able to show a video of me teaching now to the ‘me’ that started in September, I wouldn’t believe it.

The day-to-day experiences have shaped who I am as a teacher at this early stage in my career. Every successful activity, every lightbulb moment, every near-tears experience, every answer and every answer-back all collaborate to fine tune the teacher part of me. At every teacher’s core is the desire to make a difference, and if that isn’t somewhere in your DNA then what are you doing teaching?! But every new experience shapes how you will act and react in each new situation, thus forming your own personalised teacher persona.

I asked teachers on twitter to describe their teacher persona in three words @MrBenWard chose: Enthusiastic, relentlessly positive and genuine. @CristaHazell chose: focused on students, fun and connecting (building bridges for learners). My HOD chose: inspirational, motivational and relatable. These are the sort of people we want our young people to be surrounded by. What would you describe yourself as?

Going back to why I was writing this post in the first place.. my year 11s.. I have realised that the students have picked up on the nuances in my own teacher persona. To choose three words for the teacher I feel I am at my core I would go for enthusiastic, energetic and empathetic. Saying goodbye to the twenty-four wonderful individuals I had in my classroom made me realise the parts of my persona I turn up or down depending on the needs of the students in front of me.

The extroverted members of the class left me comments such as “thanks for making maths so fun” or “you’re a bit mad but I learned a lot”, the hard working pupils wrote things such as “thank you for pushing me” and “believing in me.” The most tear-jerking card came from the quietest member of the class who has progressed so much over the year from a C grade to the A/A* border. It read ‘thank you for helping me find my confidence’.

I have made a difference.

I have made a different difference, to different pupils via the different aspects of who I am as a teacher.

If anyone is about to start TeachFirst and feel like you don’t know what your teacher persona is then please don’t panic. If you have making a difference to students at your core, love the subject you are teaching and care deeply about the young people in front of you then every great experience a will shape who you are as a teacher and will inform your ever adapting teacher persona. You will try out techniques from other teachers and pick the parts that fit in with your personality. If you aren’t the most energetic person in the world, then don’t expect teacher you to be bouncing off the walls. On the other hand, if you are more of a shy individual then be ready for a shock as your teacher persona may have other ideas!

Feel free to comment with your descriptions of either yourself or of your favourite teacher.

Thank you for reading (and well done for getting through it all!)