So I’m almost 6 weeks into my new job and I’m really enjoying it, it is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done. It’s hard work and I don’t have very much free time, but I seem to get bored when I do have it these days! So what better to do than to put some thoughts onto paper. And today I’m writing about teaching.
I really like teaching, I sort of knew that already but this past couple of weeks have been the first time I’ve actually had groups of children and teenagers to teach things to. And it’s great, I get to be passionate about what I’m teaching and I get to engage children in learning outside. But I fear the latter point there may be the operative part. I like teaching outside and I like teaching geography and local history and playing games, and that means working in the outdoor learning industry. And here lies the problem, the truth is that teaching outdoors is seasonal and often these days focussed on the adventure side, rock climbing and kayaking and all those things I’m really quite rubbish at. And it’s low paid, PGL and Kingswood offer a wage of £2.40 an hour and that’s before accommodation is deducted. Here I get minimum wage but also cheap accommodation so it balances out, however I’m living in a flat of 10 in shared rooms and that is, let me tell you, far from ideal. Fact of the matter is, though, here is probably the best I will get in this industry, but in such a small company working your way up to becoming a year round tutor is reliant on other people leaving. And whilst seasonal tutors leave all the time, the senior staff rarely do. Why would they? They pretty much have the best job in the world.
I’m fine here for the moment, I can see myself doing this for a few years if they’ll have me. But I’m an anxious person and that means living in the future, and I know I’m going to get to a point in life where I’ll want to settle down, live in a place of my own, not go crawling back to my parents’ house every winter.
So I’ve discovered I love teaching and I like working with children and young people. The answer seems to be obvious: Go and be a teacher! But I always said I wouldn’t, and for good reason.
I hated school, it was certainly not the best years of my life. I was bullied, I had an undiagnosed specific learning difficulty and whilst I did well I really didn’t enjoy myself. Do I really want to purposefully put myself back into an environment I found so hostile? Maybe I could be like the teachers who made school worthwhile, but I’m also worried that I’d be like those teachers that we were downright awful to. Now I think about this, however, this was mostly secondary school, and I did enjoy working with the year 4s we had in last week. So, primary teaching perhaps? I’d like the variety, but I’m not sure I’m ready to stop clinging to the geography I love, and the prospect of teaching numeracy doesn’t really feel too fantastic. I suppose the other thing, other than the teaching and the children that I’d enjoy is the freedom to work in a school anywhere in the country, because everywhere has schools at the end of the day. I’d like the flexibility of that.
Having thought about it though, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I think if I was a teacher I’d like to have a focus on children with additional needs, and there’s not really a PGCE you can do which sets you up for teaching in SEN schools. There is clearly a way into doing it without doing another undergraduate degree, but the lack of this provision is fairly mind-boggling. I think I find SEN teaching attractive because it’s far more tailored on a child to child basis than mainstream teaching, which assumes that all children learn in the same way and want to learn the same things. I find the Montessori and Steiner methods intriguing, but my personal views would prevent me teaching in a private school. It’s tough to support a system that fails a lot of children, but the fact only private schools offer an alternative that is out of the grasp of many parents makes me cross. It’s massively unfair. Here we use Cornell’s flow learning method, which is a great common sense way of teaching.
Of course, teaching isn’t the only way I could work with children. I like the idea of youth work and helping some of the more vulnerable children in society. But again jobs in this field are few and far between and I don’t really have the experience they want, or the qualifications.
I could get lucky, there are jobs in environmental education which are well paid and full time, and hopefully sticking around here and getting an institute of outdoor learning qualification would assist me in this. Maybe I’m worrying too much, over-thinking things, maybe I should just be happy with my lot. But the old me was always so certain about what I wanted to do with my future, and I’ll be honest, not having a long term plan scares me. I know people will tell me that if I’m deliberating this much about teaching in schools then it’s not for me. But I think I knew that already. For now I’ll just take great joy in showing children the natural world and the things and places I love and helping them to enjoy their school trips. Maybe taking children away from the school environment is what I find most rewarding of all.