Assistant Head Teacher at Ainslie Wood Primary School; Founder and director of the EMIE Network
MA Teaching, 2010
What made you choose Middlesex University?
I was looking at doing a masters quite early on in my teaching career. I wanted something that was quite flexible because obviously working full time and studying is difficult. You want to do a Masters but you know it is going to be a lot of work so it needs to be flexible. The course that was offered was something that I felt I could fit in around my full time work and was manageable and flexible. There was good online support because it was distance learning so it catered to my needs.
What attracted you to your course and made you apply?
The locality of the university was important because it was quite close to me so it was convenient for when I had to come in and meet my tutors or use the resources. It offered what I needed, was close by and it was a university that I had heard of and had a good reputation for the course that I was applying for. From discussions with other people who had completed similar distance learning at Middlesex I knew that the support you received was good.
What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?
I really enjoyed working with my tutor, it was really useful and supportive. Even though I had done my degree, embarking on further study can be quite daunting so it was really helpful to have somebody there at all times to call on for assistance when you needed it.
How much time did you spend on campus?
I regularly met with my tutor on campus and would go down to the campus for a quiet space to work. I didn't really get into the socialising aspect because it was a distance learning course but I would visit to study.
What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?
My advice would be to focus on what it is you want to do and work hard now because you gain the benefits of it. In your youth you don't want to work hard because you want to enjoy yourself but it's important to have balance. Get work experience, do the Duke of Edinburgh awards and make yourself a well-rounded individual.
How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?
The course definitely helped get me to where I am today. Nobody in my family had ever been to University so I was the first person stumbling through higher education. Doing my MA has enabled me to think even beyond that and now I may go and do a doctorate one day, as crazy as that sounds.
The Masters also opened up my eyes to reading around what I do and my job role and it gave me a breadth of knowledge so that now I continually self study.
Doing the MA made me feel it was possible to go further and helped me take the step up to senior management. With the changing landscape of education an MA is a concrete qualification that will always be recognised no matter what the government decide and will always be important when applying for head teacher roles.
What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?
I used to work in media so it was a massive change, but one of the programmes I worked on was a film project with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. From working with them I realised that I enjoy working with young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. That's why I've stayed in London and work in the state system. I just fell in love with teaching and I love teaching children and seeing them obtain knowledge and breaking boundaries and the stereotypes that society sometimes puts on them.
The cons are you don't have a life. When you become a teacher it becomes your life and your partner or friends have to accept the fact that you are totally consumed in education. There is no work/life balance. Even with all of the holidays you're still at school, whether you're coming in over the holidays to prepare classes or thinking up new assemblies or lessons – you never switch off.
The pros are having those children who come from nothing and you help give them hope and aspirations to do well so you've helped break the cycle and given them the opportunity to change the story that some people think they should live.
How did you climb the career ladder after you became a teacher?
Because I came into teaching to work with children I've always had a drive to do things and try new ideas, so I was always approaching senior leaders and asking them if I could help or if I could do things or try new opportunities. I think I just pestered people for long enough so that I was given roles and responsibilities.
Initially I became an ICT leader in my NQT year, which is pretty unheard of – you don't take on a core subject in your first year as a teacher – but I really enjoyed ICT so I asked to do it and was given the opportunity. I was then moved up to a middle leader after two years as a teacher. From there I took on more subjects and then became an assistant head teacher by moving to another school.
Putting yourself forward is important. You can't expect people to find you, you need to say 'I'm here and I'd like to move up the ladder'. You just need to be brave enough to put yourself forward.
What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?
I think it must be moving into the assistant head role at Ainslie Wood because I am responsible for children with special educational needs so I now work with all of the children I have always wanted to work with.
Becoming a senior leader has given me a completely different view point on a school and how it works. While being a classroom teacher is vitally important, working at a senior leadership level you are able to work with more children across the whole school and though I miss having my own class I love that I can have a positive impact on a wider group of children across the whole school community.
What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?
I write for the Guardian and do a lot of writing for new teachers, so my top three tips for people going in to teaching would be:
Build a resilience early on to the work load and the huge sense of responsibility that you will take on board
Don't be so hard on yourself, because once you realise the huge sense of responsibility that you have the self doubt starts to creep in and it does take time to learn your trade as a teacher and how to spin all of the plates without losing your sanity.
Remember to keep your head up and sometimes just enjoy the moment when the children are having a giggling fit because you did something funny or when you have found that spark in the teenager who is completely disengaged. Remember those moments, because they keep you motivated.