Reasons to be cheerful

6th April 2007 at 01:00
There's preparation, marking and paperwork, monitoring, league tables, challenging pupils and even challenging parents. Yes, the pay is better, but it's often still not enough to buy a house. The hours are never as short as everybody seems to think, and the holidays never as long. But teachers are not generally a miserable lot. So who are these happy teachers? Why do they love their jobs? Nick Morrison talks to two of them

Andrew Davies might have taken a different path. His parents had worked in schools - his mum as a bursar, his dad as a technology technician - but it was far from a foregone conclusion he would follow. In his GCSE year, he went to the school careers adviser, who told him he was a perfect fit for two different careers. Hayfever ruled out forestry, so teaching it was.

Now he is in his eighth year at Eaglesfield Paddle Primary, near Cockermouth in Cumbria, after arriving on a placement as a student. "I love working here. I love the school, what I do and the colleagues I work with,"

says the 31-year-old.

Andrew, pictured right, has always enjoyed working with younger children and says: "You can see the light go on when they understand something, and it is brilliant. You are talking about fractions or percentages and all of a sudden the children go, 'I get it now', and you see them grow."

After teaching a Year 45 group, then Year 1, Andrew now teaches Year 6, including Christopher, his 10-year-old son. And although the paperwork and regular strategies can be frustrating, the school's insistence on regular planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time - for Andrew it's Wednesday mornings - has made a difference. The school's location also helps. It's on the edge of the Lake District and Andrew drives to work, or sometimes cycles, past Skiddaw, England's third highest mountain. He also organises an annual cycling trip for the Year 6s into the National Park.

"This year, all along the lakeside there were massive puddles for about 100 metres, and you know how when you're a kid and you're cycling through puddles you stick your legs out? There were 30 children and adults going through puddles with their legs out - it was an amazing sight. It's a fantastic trip and the staff fight to come on it."

Andrew, who was named most outstanding new teacher in the North-east and Cumbria in the 2000 Teaching Awards, has so far resisted doing his National Professional Qualification for Headship. "I would miss working with children", he says.

Instead, he is choosing to progress through his specialism: he is developing the school's technology standards and is the lead primary ICT teacher for the county. "I don't think I would consider leaving," he says

Delia Sykes, above, will be 65 this year but has no plans to quit teaching.

She has been a maths teacher at the King Edward VI School, a specialist arts and technology school in Morpeth, Northumberland, for almost 30 years.

Delia started her career in Manchester 40 years ago, before taking time out to start a family, and then relocating to the North-east. She had always wanted to be a teacher. "The thing I wanted to do was work with people, and I was fascinated by the psychology of education. It was a decision I've never regretted," she says.

It helps that she loves her subject, and, even after 35 years, she is still looking for new ways to teach. "Maths is a language and it is about how you can improve communication. I'm in a school where we're constantly revising how we teach. I work with a lot of newly qualified teachers and it makes you realise there are lots of other methods of teaching."

Delia was the winner of the Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement in last year's Teaching Awards. And she says teachers have to recognise that some pupils will go on to greater success than they have, although she gets as much pleasure when a child gets high grades.

Over the years, Delia, has marked changes. Where once a Rubik cube was the only unwanted technology in the classroom, now there are mobile phones to deal with. Shorter attention spans and changing family units also add to the mix. She admits she doesn't have the energy she once did but has learned to use the energy she has. She has no plans to retire this year.

Instead she'll see her present Year 10s at least through their GCSEs. A gradual transition may be the only way she will leave. "Most of the pupils who know me say, 'Miss, you'll never stop."

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