Hell or high water, it's what they want

5th September 2008 at 01:00
Douglas Blane talks to some of this year's student teachers and finds they are an impressive bunch

Stephanie Devenney (24)

Secondary history at Strathclyde University

I'm from Philadelphia, but I always wanted to come to the UK. It was a dream. So after I got my first degree from Gwynedd-Mercy College, I came over to Glasgow University to do an M.Litt in history. I had no friends or family here and had two weeks of sitting by myself or wandering around the city getting lost. But I soon started making friends and now I absolutely love Glasgow. People here remind me of how they are in Philadelphia. There's kind of a grittiness about the city. It's got heart and character.

I went home after the Master's and thought about what I should do. I knew trying to become a teacher in Scotland would be an uphill battle. There's a bunch of red tape to go through, being an overseas person. Then at the end of it, is there even going to be a job? Life would be so much easier if I stayed at home in Philly.

I'm not eligible for the teacher induction scheme because I'm not a UK student. So that scares the life out of me. I was kind of apprehensive also, because I haven't been schooled in Scotland and school systems here are very different to what I've been through.

I was thinking all this negative stuff. Then I decided, I'm just going to go for it. I want to teach. I've always wanted to teach. And if I can teach in Scotland, that will be amazing. It will be putting two lifelong goals together.

Jenna Clayton (22)

Secondary English at Strathclyde University

Neither of my parents is a teacher but they did influence my decision to become one. They told me to do what makes me happy, whether it was being a lawyer or working in McDonald's.

I couldn't see myself in a corporate role. I had ideas of going into lecturing, but there wasn't much contact time and it was the teaching that interested me most.

I like the idea of working with young people, doing something I feel passionately about, helping to make a difference.

The PGDE staff seem friendly and knowledgeable. I've heard mixed things about the course - some say you don't have a spare minute, others that it's a walk in the park.

It angers me that some teachers have forgotten why they joined the profession, and it has become something they suffer. There are newly- qualified teachers desperate to get involved, and these teachers are taking up places.

Also, there's a lack of respect for young people. Without them, teachers wouldn't have a job. We don't know what kind of background "difficult kids" are coming from. So we should avoid self-fulfilling prophecies and stop labelling them.

Friends who are excellent teachers are doing supply work or even temping, just to get by. Until class sizes are reduced and retired teachers properly retire, I won't be hanging around to see how bad it gets. I'm planning to move to Australia when I have some teaching experience.

There are no jobs here.

Jonathan Marshall (37)

Primary at Aberdeen University

I was a skier for Scotland and then a ski coach for many years. Out on the slopes is the best office in the world. But it's not so good when you have young children. Both of mine were born in the last few years in Japan, where I've been teaching English to primary-age kids.

I enjoyed that so much that I decided to come home and train to be a teacher in Scotland. I discovered when I was a ski coach and during a year in Finland on my first degree - where they encourage very bright people into teaching - that you can make a big difference working with really young children. You have more time with them, more chance to point them in the right direction.

That's one of the things I'll bring to the job from coaching - how to help children make good choices. As a coach you're doing that all the time. It's maybe not something teachers are trained to think about so much. I've done a fair bit of reading to prepare for the course, about working with children and motivating them.

My main concern would be the first assignment - it's been a long time since I wrote any essays. I'm fully committed to working in Scotland. I know jobs are hard to find, but I'm not thinking about that now.

This is my first day. I've been chatting to all sorts of people, hearing their reasons for coming into the profession. That fascinates me.

I've been impressed by the induction and by the feeling around the university. It's vibrant.

Annette Iafrate (23)

Secondary geography at Glasgow University

I worked in a call-centre for a bank all the time I was a student. I look after 10 younger people now, all with different personalities. So that's useful experience for teaching. I've got my own car and bills to pay, so I plan to keep on working there this year.

I worked with Active Schools, teaching netball to primary school girls, and with older kids at Camp America. I liked teaching the older ones best. They are young adults and they think more for themselves. I have a young sister, so I'm used to the backchat and cheekiness. Also I'm passionate about my subject and I want to teach it.

I'm the first in our family to go to university, so my mum's really happy for me - though she did tell me to shut up yesterday when I went on for hours about my first day on the course. I've learnt that you need to be organised and not leave things to the last minute. In fact, I'm maybe a bit too organised, too much of a perfectionist.

This new course at Glasgow University is giving us 90 points towards a Master's degree - we'll only need another 30 at the end of it. That's a big plus. I also like the fact that they're mixing us with primary students for some classes. They're podcasting some lectures too. I'm really looking forward to it all.

If I can't get a job in teaching, which is my biggest worry, I can always stay with the bank at the same sort of wage. But I don't want to. I want to be a teacher.

Angus Mackay (41)

Primary, Gaelic medium at Strathclyde University

I am not long back from Dornod in Outer Mongolia. I was out there for two years with VSO, doing community health education. Before that I'd been in health education for years with the NHS in Scotland. First we looked at the areas of need. These turned out to be familiar problems - alcohol, sexual health, communicable diseases. They were difficult to tackle in a different culture and foreign language but I found far more commonalities than differences. It's either a rural thing or we are all the same really. I was pleased with what we set up. We did good work.

I had always had a notion to teach, right back to my degree in civil engineering. I did get classroom experience with the NHS, but I was always abseiling in and out. I've no illusions it'll be easy when I'm doing the real leg-work.

I find primary kids more rewarding. They are hungry to learn. They're soaking it up. They are eager to feed it back to you.

Gaelic is my native language, so Gaelic-medium teaching was the natural choice. I've read some of the research on how children learn and am looking forward to finding out more. As a teacher, I'll be fairly traditional, but certainly not fire and brimstone.

Somebody said once that they couldn't guarantee the kids would learn everything they wanted them to. But they could guarantee an atmosphere conducive to learning. That's what I'll be aiming for.

Suzanne Somerville (29)

Primary at Dundee University

I decided to become a teacher after five years in environmental education. I had enjoyed visiting and working with schools and thought it was a good time to make the change when my daughter was still young - she is just a year old.

I like sharing experiences with people, and primary school is such an exciting time for children. I want to make a difference. I feel teaching will allow me to do that - or at least to try.

I have studied and worked for years and have a degree in micro-biology and a Master's in marine resource development and protection. So I feel I bring a well-rounded understanding of the world to teaching.

I travelled after university, so I have some exciting stories to tell, and I am now a mother, which I hope will help in some way.

I think teachers have a vital role in society. They do a tremendous job which is often misunderstood, because of the long holidays and things. My biggest concern at the moment is not being able to find a post after my probationary year. My ambition is simply to be a good teacher.

I think I will be fair, but strict. I will try to adapt appropriately to each class and I will be super-organised. That's the kind of person I am.

Francis Kelly (35)

Secondary physics at Strathclyde University

I started a B.Ed in outdoor education straight from school. But one day, in the middle of winter, we were on Glyder Fach in Snowdonia, descending a steep gully, when I slipped.

I was stopping myself with my ice-axe until a rock knocked it out of my hand. It was a moment of extreme clarity. I remember looking up at my friends and the lecturer, then down to see where I was going to land.

I fell 150 feet. What saved me was that I landed on a snow-covered slope and rolled for another few hundred feet. When I came to a halt, I remember feeling I didn't want to just lie there. I jumped up and waved that I was OK. I thought I was. But I had compression fractures and torn ligaments, and that was the end of the course.

I then worked for a computer manufacturer and had several years as a psychiatric nurse in a secure unit. That was challenging and I felt I had a knack for it. I liked treating the inmates as human beings, trying to communicate with them.

In the end, though, I wanted more feedback from the people I was working with. So I did a degree in physics and I started the course at Jordanhill.

I am looking forward to the newness and to getting into the classroom at last. The lack of teaching jobs does worry me, especially after all this time being supported by my partner.

But I have the probationer year to look forward to. And if supply teaching is all there is after that, then that's what I will do.

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