It feels a bit surreal that I will shortly begin my teaching career as a modern studies and history probationer. My teaching journey, thus far, has been a fascinating one – mostly because I was never predicted to be here at all.
Fortunately, education and my school teachers both saved and transformed my life. The power of education has been my passport to where I am today. Education, and the immeasurable support from my own teachers, took me out of a dark, uncertain and chaotic situation in my young adult life to a place that is now full of hope and stability, and I am now en route to a lifelong professional career.
During my senior phase of school, I became estranged from my family and lived independently in temporary accommodation, while remaining at school. Surviving that year and passing any of my senior exams seemed ambitious, and to some unachievable.
A pupil’s view: ‘Exam results won’t matter at all a decade from now’
A teacher’s view: Why exams must not obscure everything else schools do
A headteacher’s view: Exams? I take more pride in everyday achievements'
School became my sanctuary
Ironically, I went from having one of the worst attendance rates throughout my school journey to never wanting to leave by the end of S6. Education became my only source of hope and purpose. My school became my sanctuary and only place of stability. And my teachers became like family. Unlike the rest of my peers, I was forced to grow up fast and take on a whole new adult life while still young.
Yet what felt like the most horrific time of my life has also led me to the best. It was in this time of uncertainty that I felt how influential a teacher could be. That they are more than “just teachers” – they are advisers, encouragers, counsellors, motivators, mentors, friends, family, social workers, nurturers, detectives, anchors and the only job in the world that creates all other professions.
My journey into teaching has by no means been easy. Getting into and staying at university has been challenging. On many occasions throughout my time training, I wanted to give up. I often felt out of place, that I didn’t “deserve” to be at university, and that the teaching profession was not for people like me, with a background like mine.
There were times when it got tough throughout placements and university exams, as I tried to balance work and thought “why am I doing this?”, “is it even worth it?” and “is this what I really want to do?”
However, despite the self-doubt and challenges that Scottish education poses, I fundamentally believe that the best possible way to change the world is through education. That is what motivates me every day to be a teacher. I know, both physically and academically, I would not be here had It not been for the life-changing impact my own teachers and education played in my life.
I hope that with the life experiences I have had from a young age, I will bring something a little extra to teaching beyond results. I hope to be able to make the life-changing difference in some young people's lives in the way my own teachers did with me. Whatever this year brings, I am ready for a big adventure and the learning curve that lies ahead.
Erin McAuley is a 21-year-old modern studies and history probationer teacher at Dunblane High School