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New face

Name Michelle Durham

Age 24

Current post Newly qualified, teaching French at Whitmorehigh school, London borough of Harrow

Career to date?

I took a BA in English and French at De Montfort University, Leicester, then did a PGCE at the University of Hertfordshire. I used to be a pupil at Whitmore. When I came back to gain some experience in the summer before my PGCE, it was strange going into the staffroom. Many of my old teachers are still here, but now they look at me as a teacher rather than someone they taught.

Why did you become a teacher?

I started applying for graduate programmes, but they all seemed to be promoting big salaries and lots of career paths. There was no "giving back" element - the sense that you were doing something worthwhile. I'd always planned to go into law or journalism, but I was drawn to teaching. It seemed something I could get job satisfaction from. It was working with kids - I like spending time with them and helping them see things in a different way. And my subject helps them access another language and culture. I emphasise to the kids that if they learn enough to get by in France, they can work there. It opens up another world.

What's the best thing that's happened to you so far?

My favourite are Year 10s and there have been quite a few lessons where they've understood, for example, the perfect tense. They start off saying, "I can never do this", and at the end most of them understand it. It's little things like that which happen on a daily basis.

And the worst?

The end of the first term. I couldn't imagine I could feel so tired.

What do you like most about teaching?

Self-evaluation - where you're constantly reviewing how you do things. If you teach something a certain way and the kids don't get it, you have to think of another way that will help them understand.

What is your dream job?

Something that looks at learning styles and the way children work, perhaps with an emphasis on kids with special needs, opening up access to those children.

Top tip?

Get into a school and get some experience. A lot of people think "I'd like to do that" or "I'd like to make a difference", but when you get a post, it's tough work.

Interview by Martin Whittaker

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