I used to be a teacher, and it was always a bit complicated to explain what I taught – because first I had to explain who I taught. I never wanted to be a teacher, in fact I used to say I’d do anything rather than teaching, but there weren’t as many opportunities for different jobs when I first started earning my living. I had a degree in history and English with French as a subsidiary subject. I took my degree at Manchester Polytechnic starting it in the year it opened; my degree was awarded by the CAA, the Council for Academic Awards, which nobody had heard of and it was also not an honours degree. So when I started looking for work when I’d finished, apart from the Civil Service there didn’t seem to be much available. I applied for dozens and dozens of jobs, working as a waitress and in shops while I did so just to earn some dough. Eventually I got a job in the Civil Service which was so dull – in an office with just two other people – that was it, and with very little to do. I confess, I gave it up without having anything to go to but luckily got a job at Manchester Airport which I absolutely loved. Much as I enjoyed it, I began to realise that there would be no progression in the job, it would always be the same and i would always be doing the same thing… no chance of moving into a different area or getting a promotion… so I decided, that like all my friends, I would become a teacher… I was lucky to get a grant but had to support myself as well, by working in a pickled onion factory!
I trained to teach English to young people whose first language or languages were something else, and got a job in inner-city Manchester doing just that – and also teaching humanities – English, history and geography,and French A-level . After three years I moved to a language centre in north London, where all I taught was English, mainly to Indian students. It was a chaotic place and I was given no support, no equipment, no resources or materials, and much as I liked the young people, in the end I began to look for something else. I headed back up north to Oldham this time, though still living in Manchester, and this time I was back in a secondary school, second in the department of what was then called E2L, English as a second language. As luck would have it, the head of department left shortly after I arrived and I was given her position. I also taught ordinary English, but teaching and supporting young people who came into the school from another country – mostly Bangladesh and Pakistan, but also India, was my love. Talking of love… after twelve years another teacher and I realised we had fallen in love… we married, and before long I left work altogether to have two children – one at a time not twins!
By now, teaching had changed completely, there was more and more admin, more and more meetings, more and more new initiatives, more and more out of classroom work, and teachers began to lose their freedom in the classroom.. I was glad to escape, much as I had enjoyed it. When my children were themselves at school, a friend who was head of what was called a Pupil Referral Unit for children permanently excluded from school, began to ask me to come and work for her. I wasn’t interested, I would find some other work. My friend kept asking, and when one evening she came round and almost begged me to help her out with just two days work, just two days as she was desperate for staff, and when she mentioned how much I would be paid… well, it seemed mean not to step in… and eighteen months later I was still there, loving every minute of working with these challenging young people. However it was not a permanent position, and I was only paid for the work i did, not over the holidays. I saw a permanent job in the same line, here in Weston-super-Mare, The unit I applied to was for students in their last year of compulsory education, so aged fifteen to sixteen.
I was fortunate enough to get the job and began to teach English… and History… and citizenship… and art… and much, much more. I continued very happily there, husband in a job in another school as a technician not a teacher, children going through their education, and me working with great colleagues and great young people. However, it came to a time where once again, changes in the education system began to impinge and not I felt for the better. I didn’t feel we were serving teh best interests of our students, cramped by new curriculum… and I also began to feel teaching had taken up enough of my life. So when I hd the opportunity to leave, I did!
So when people ask me what I taught… young people! i taught msotly English as a second language, a lot of straight English, a lot of History, some integrated humanities, some French, and a lot of other stuff as well