Careers - Back to the old stomping ground

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Returning to your old school can be a strange experience - especially as a teacher

Kirsty Saull had mixed feelings when she learned that she would be returning to Highworth Warneford School in Swindon as a part of her teacher training just 10 years after completing her GCSEs.

"I knew I would be running into many old faces," she says. "Would I be welcomed into the fold as a fellow teacher by those who once taught me, or would I forever be viewed as 'the girl who liked to argue her point'?"

She was unsure of how to approach her former teachers. "I began to think about how I had behaved as a pupil," she says. "I'd never really considered myself an annoying child - I'd always been willing to hand out the books and answer questions - but now that I was a teacher myself, I could see how my 10-minute debates with teachers may have been somewhat of an inconvenience to them. I was about to find out how I was really viewed during my teens."

But Miss Saull was pleasantly surprised. Her former teachers welcomed her with warm smiles and a few hugs. "It was still strange for me as they insisted I call them by their first names and meet them for coffee in the once 'out of bounds' staffroom," she said. "However, once the shock of working with people who were once my authority figures subsided, I realised I had an advantage over other new teachers."

Knowing the ins and outs of school procedures proved to be invaluable. "I had a network of people who I could turn to for help and advice whenever I felt I was struggling," she says. "Although I felt inwardly ashamed at some of the behaviour I had exhibited when I was at school, not one person seemed to bear a grudge."

This may not always be the case, says James Williams, lecturer in science education at Sussex University. "Some older staff may not make the distinction between you as a pupil and you as the teacher," he says. "It may also shatter your illusions and perceptions of once loved or loathed teachers who taught you.

"Unless you are certain that it is for you and no other will do, I would try to get a job elsewhere. For career progression, experience in a variety of schools is good."

Miss Saull, who now teaches English, drama and media studies at Kingsdown School in Swindon, agrees that teaching at a variety of schools can help you progress. However she does not regret her decision to teach at her former school - she says that it significantly eased the transition of starting a new job.

"You've already got enough to learn," she says. "Why not give yourself the advantage by going somewhere where you already know the lay of the land and a few names and behaviour policies?"


- Keep an open mind: teachers you disliked as a pupil may treat you differently as a colleague

- You are familiar with procedures and policies

- Knowing teachers can provide you with a network of people to turn to for advice

- Remembering your time at school may bring you closer to your own pupils

- Experience in a variety of schools is good for your career.

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