Who got that job?

13th February 2009 at 00:00
Ever wondered who got a job you saw advertised in The TESS? In the second of an occasional series, we find out

The best school Yolanda Bruce ever worked in was in Ecuador. Then she saw a job advertised that might replicate her South American experience - in Shetland.

Ms Bruce is from Stonehaven, but after training as a physics teacher in Aberdeen and working at Alness Academy in Easter Ross, she embarked on a globe-trotting career which took in London, Indonesia and Mexico before a three-year stint in Ecuador. She worked in a British international private school where staff could be told suddenly to teach a subject in which they had no training. Ms Bruce was required to teach maths and threw herself into learning her new subject.

She relished not being tied down to a single subject, in classes of no more than 17 pupils and in an environment where cramming for exams was not all-important: "South America showed me that I wasn't there just to teach maths; I was there to teach children."

After leaving Ecuador, she took a break from teaching to travel before returning to the north-east of Scotland to do supply work. She had decided only to apply for a permanent job if it combined maths and science, but held out little hope of finding such a post.

Then she spotted an advertisement for a maths and science teacher at Shetland's Sandwick Junior High, around 15 miles south of Lerwick. Despite no links to the islands, the lure of the job was too tempting. She started in December.

It is common for the school's staff to teach more than one subject - combinations include English and modern studies, geography and RE, and maths and RE - but this is as much because of the difficulty in recruiting to the islands as a commitment to cross-curricular working. Such arrangements have provided a head start in implementing A Curriculum for Excellence. Ms Bruce had not heard of the initiative before arriving in Scotland but, having read up on it, she concluded: "That's what I was doing in Ecuador".

She can have the same pupils for two subjects and feels better able to help them. She can compare why some thrive in physics but struggle in maths, and transfer successful ways of learning across the subjects.

The other advantage is that classes are about the same size as in Ecuador. This, allied to more relaxed subject boundaries, helped create a different relationship with pupils in Ecuador than in previous jobs: "I felt I was more of a friend than a 'big stick' teacher".

Sandwick Junior High's population of around 300, similarly, has allowed her to get to know pupils better than in bigger schools, while she has enjoyed the rounded appreciation of children's needs which the mix of primary and secondary allows.

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