All worked up

30th October 2015 at 00:00

I have spent most of today looking at my phone. I’ve kept it charged up, I haven’t strayed anywhere without tip-top reception and I’ve checked that the ringer is on full bing approximately every 15 seconds. It brings back memories of myself as a stroppy teen, glaring at my parents if they dared hog our landline. Only this time the call I was waiting for wasn’t from some daft lad down the disco that I had my eye on, it was from a college. You see, I had a job interview yesterday.

I’m the perennial new girl. I’ve not worked full-time for one organisation or been on a permanent contract throughout my whole career. This is entirely my own choice. In fact, the longest working relationship I have had is with this magazine. Having a clutch of part-time jobs and contracts to make up a full working week is my normal. It’s called a portfolio career, but the term sounds like something one of those weaselly types from The Apprentice would use to hide the fact that they’re unemployed.

Working in this way has given me the courage to occasionally leave a job when the time was right, without the safety net of having another one lined up. I always had at least part of the week booked, except for one day about three years ago when I looked at my diary and it was empty. Not empty for a couple of weeks – empty for ever. Various contracts hadn’t been agreed on time and a teaching job had just fallen through.

Despite my husband reassuring me that everything would come good, I was frightened. He was right and by the end of the month I’d been offered more work than I could manage. Still, the memory of that day lingers, and as a result I tend to take on a lot of work, never taking it for granted that the flow will continue.

What has been a constant in my teaching career is my specialism: functional skills English, which I’ve taught since its first pilot in 2008. Through working with a wide range of young people studying at different skill levels, I’ve discovered that I’m more comfortable supporting learners who find English particularly stressful and difficult to grasp. Students who struggle to communicate, whether that’s because of behavioural challenges, learning difficulties, disabilities or numerous other barriers.

Exploring how various methods capture their attention and help them to develop their skills gives me enormous energy. So, although I’ve loved being a functional skills teacher, I feel as though I’ve found my area in inclusion and support. It’s something that I could be really good at and would feel exhilarated to study long-term.

So when a job came up that met everything on my wish list – the right teaching area, not far from home, part-time hours, opportunities for study – I was more than a little bit keen. I stayed off the coffee before the interview in case my enthusiasm went overboard and I accidentally shouted: “Can I have the job pleeeease? I’ll work really hard, I promise.” I managed to keep control of myself and it went quite well.

Just before I started writing this column, I received a call saying I’d got the job. I’m so excited to be starting again – again.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands. @MrsSarahSimons

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