I started as a journalist on a regional newspaper, I worked my way up and eventually I was free lancing for the Guardian. At that point lots and lots of young people wanted to talk to me all of a sudden, because they thought it was quite an interesting job. So I started just chatting to people really, and trying to explain how to get into it and what sort of things you can do as a young person to write for publication. And I found it really interesting but I didn’t do that much of it, just occasionally mentoring somebody who would like to go into writing as a career. Then subsequent to moving to Bristol I ended up doing some work with script writers at the Tobacco Factory theatre for a competition. One of the prizes that we offered for winning writers was to work on the script and to develop it from that point of view, and that was also something I found very interesting, and I began to think I could perhaps teach.
We are sent on at least two different placements and that proved very instructive because the first school I was sent to was in quite a difficult area of Bristol. The school previously was almost closed down, it was in a special measures, and is now on a rising trajectory and so the staff are very hot on the case of English and maths teaching. It was fantastic. It was just very interesting to join in with that rapid improvement really. In fact while I was there the Education Secretary visited the school because it’s the most improved school in the country. So it was just good to be in that environment where students were being encouraged to work to the best of their abilities, where they haven’t been before. To be allowed to teach in that environment was quite a privilege really. I was then sent to a completely different school, one that was already outstanding and well known for being a good school in Bristol. The teaching there is fantastic, and I think over the course of my placement I observed all teachers in the English department. That was really useful, obviously for picking up tips on different ways to teach, and they all were really successful, so that was good. I also got to help out with the drama teaching which I’m interested in, and sixth form as well which was brilliant. In fact I’m going to be teaching sixth form and other year groups in September at the same school for a while, so that’s really useful preparation.
Teaching is a lot more subtle than I realised and it can bring in a lot more of your own experience than I realised. That’s encouraging being a mature student. It can all encourage students to learn just by bringing in a range of strategies while you are in the classroom. Most of what you know from the outside world is irrelevant because you’ve got thirty children in front of you. One of them will be engaged by something you are saying, so if you are trying to vary it as much as you possibly can then you’ll get more people learning more often which is good.
I think Bristol is a fantastic place to study. There are many, especially from PGCE point of view, there are many different types of schools in Bristol. It is well known that there are a lot of private schools, but also hugely varied state sector schools and that’s interesting from a learning point of view. It’s a good place to study if you have a family. I have two small children and I’ve found staff here hugely accommodating with the occasional family crisis. They just allow you to complete your studies, which is obviously very useful and has enabled me to become, virtually, qualified. I will be qualified in two weeks hopefully, so yes, it’s great.