a centenary
of Learning

  • 63
  • by Rachel McClary
  • graduated 2004
  • studied MEd in Psychology of Education
  • from America, UK

My time at Bristol has taught me that I am a good writer and now my life in America is opening up new possibilities.

I studied the MEd Psychology of Education because I had been teaching in early education (2-5 years) for a number of years and was becoming increasingly interested in working with children with Special Educational Needs. From 1998-2001, I worked as a teacher and deputy manager at the Red house Nursery in Bristol (now the Red House Children’s Centre).The intention was to complete the MEd to enable me to apply for further Educational Psychology training. My first degree was in English Literature from Cardiff University followed by a PGCE (Primary) from Trinity College Carmarthen.

I was living in Bristol at the time, so Bristol was my first choice for the MEd. Before I started the Master’s, I worked for the University-based research project SWAP (South West Autism Project) as a family tutor. I provided early intervention for families with pre-school children on the autistic spectrum in the home, supporting pre-schools and managing transitions to school. I worked with some amazing children and families and watching the children develop and grow and the family’s confidence rise was a wonderful experience.  A lot of my experiences working for SWAP informed my research. The work gave me real scenarios to inform my assignments – my thesis was based on case studies of three families involved in the project and looked at stress and early intervention in families with pre-school children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. 

The people on the Master’s course came from so many different backgrounds that it was fascinating to hear about their experiences. I remember coming away from Jim Lucas’ lectures feeling inspired by his colourful stories and by the stories of other people. Jenny Moseley’s creative therapies module also sticks with me. This was a refreshing unit and a lot of fun. I remember having to sit with an egg, a plate and a piece of paper for five minutes and being amazed at how reflective one becomes when made to focus on one thing for a period of time. I should probably remind myself of it more often to force myself to slow down.

Shortly after graduating, I had my eldest daughter and decided that further training would be unfair on both my family and myself while she was young. The initial plan was to continue down the Educational Psychology route when she went to school. Instead, I took up a post as an Early Years Advisor for North Somerset Council. I supported early education settings in the private and voluntary sector in all aspects of early education, including special educational needs.

Probably the biggest influence the Master’s had on my career was rekindling my love of writing and my belief that I am a good writer. I used to write a lot whilst at school and I was a star pupil at English. My first degree was also in English literature. In 2011 my husband suggested I start a blog to share some of my ideas and expertise. I quickly became hooked. My blog (http://rightfromthestart.wordpress.com) gives me an outlet to share the trials and tribulations of parenting and some of the fun activities I do with my children. I talk about child development using my own family as a case study and share my views on early education and childcare in general. I learned from the Master’s that reading, writing and research are the things I enjoy most and the blog gives me an opportunity to keep abreast of current thinking and ‘feel’ like I am still an expert even though I haven’t been in the workplace for almost five years.

My husband and I have now moved to America and I am in another transition phase as I make decisions about where to go with my career. I am beginning to get paid work as a freelance writer for parenting and early education publications. Aside from my own blog, I have written articles for the early education magazine Exchange; I have featured on Netmums and have written articles for Expat Blogs and for other parenting and early education blogs. For a time, I also co-wrote a local parenting site http://practicallyperfectmums.co.uk. I have also written two children’s books. One is a picture book for children aged 3-5 and the other is a chapter book for the 4-7 year old range. I’m hoping to self-publish them once I have the funds and an illustrator.

I am also considering retraining in the US to become a School psychologist but, with two more children below school age, it seems like a huge mountain to commit four years of my life to retraining. My qualifications are currently being assessed by the World Education Service before I can investigate the process to becoming certified in my education district. There are also opportunities for me to use my expertise in the early education field. Currently there is no state funded pre-school here and improvement is high on the agenda, so I am working out how best to use my skills, knowledge and experience.

I would advise others planning on taking the MEd Psychology of Education to get as much experience as they can working with children, schools and families. It is so much easier to write a good assignment when you have life experience to base it on.

Raising three amazing daughters, watching struggling nurseries blossom into exciting, creative places and writing my blog have been my proudest achievements. After a significant career break to raise my family, I often feel I may not have fulfilled my real potential yet. But my time at Bristol has taught me that I am a good writer and now my life in America is opening up new possibilities.