What first sparked your interest in teaching?
I applied for a PGCE when I was coming to the end of my maths degree at Queen’s but realised that I was applying because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life so I withdrew my application. I then volunteered with Youth for Christ for two years where I was a singer in a band. We went into schools mainly in England to take assemblies and lessons.
After this, I worked in a bank for a couple of years and then decided that I really did want to be a teacher. It was mainly my Youth for Christ work that convinced me I wanted to be a teacher.
I knew I wanted to work with teenagers, helping them get the best education possible.
I wanted to be part of a school that enthuses young people to do their best and achieve their goals, and at times for them this can seem impossible.
Please describe what’s unique about your school.
I work in Dundonald High School and last year we were told that we were going to close and nothing could be done. That did not happen. Staff, pupils and community fought to keep our school open and we are thriving. Our exam results continue to improve and our pupil numbers are also increasing.
It is so exciting to be part of something like this from the beginning of the process. To be part of the solution and to see our kids valued is amazing. At times, I did feel that we were fighting a losing battle but I, with others, never gave up. Even if in the end we had lost, I would have fought to the end as I believe the kids I teach deserve a good school in their community and teachers who care about them as individuals, not just statistics. We are very proud at what we have accomplished so far at Dundonald High School and are excited about our future.
What are the most enjoyable parts of the job?
I teach maths and a lot of pupils can feel before they reach secondary level education that they can’t do maths or it’s boring. I love changing that attitude. To get kids talking about maths, solving problems together, seeing how maths works in the real world and enjoying it is why I do my job. When kids leave my room at the end of a lesson and talk about how much fun they have had, it’s brilliant. I love seeing pupils succeed and their attitude towards maths change to an eagerness to learn and a desire to work out solutions for themselves.
And the most frustrating?
Probably the most frustrating part is having to implement something in the curriculum when you know it’s not what’s best for your pupils. Our priority as teachers should always be giving our pupils the best education possible.
One day doesn’t seem long enough but I would get together as many teachers as possible to hear exactly what the people on the ground are doing and thinking. Teachers need to be listened to as we are the ones who know pupils and know how to help them achieve their full potential. When people are listened to properly, it enthuses them and reignites passion where it may have gone. There are so many good ideas out there and real opinions on issues that need to be acted on.
The main priority, I think, needs to be what is happening to our kids who are leaving primary education to join secondary education. The system was changed before my daughter was even in primary school and she is now in P6. I simply cannot believe that it is still not sorted. I really do believe that kids should go to their closest school and they should be getting the same opportunities no matter what school they attend.
Pupils who attend secondary school are just as valuable as pupils who attend a grammar school.
Our job as teachers is to help pupils be the best they can be and help them get to where they want to be. There is obviously a long road to go but the idea that a better type of person goes to a grammar school is nonsense and our society needs to reflect this.
How has the job changed since you began teaching?
I have been teaching now for almost nine years. Since then, the biggest change for my subject is the Revised Curriculum being implemented in Key Stage 3.
In theory this is great, encouraging teachers to be more creative in their teaching and having less constraints on topics that need to be covered – although there still needs to be some thought given about how this feeds into Key Stage 4 in a beneficial way.
How do you relax?
I relax by spending time with my husband and two kids and I love being part of my church family.
Good food is a big hobby of mine and I try to make exercise part of my routine – not relaxing at the time but I feel much better for it afterwards.