Currently working as a primary school teaching assistant, Natasha McKinnon (New Hallian, 2007-2014) writes about her journey and experiences in the education sector.
It’s not until you enter the world of teacher training that you realise what a hard time you gave your teachers at school.
Think I’m kidding? Teachers routinely work up to and over 55 hours a week, including lesson preparation time outside of working in the classroom. Their lives are hectic, and most evenings are spent marking work than having a glass of wine or dancing the night away.
But yes, this is what I wanted to do with my life! I moved to Glasgow two years ago, and after completing my Masters, I realised I wanted nothing more than to work with children and impart my hard-gained knowledge to future generations. This isn’t a new phase of life – I've been working with children and young people throughout my life in a variety of roles and environments. From children in poverty in outer Merseyside to the hall of my local church community in Brentwood, I thought I had enough experience to warrant having a go at teaching in inner-city Glasgow.
In full honesty, teaching is a difficult job, and difficult career. In 2016, just under 40,000 teachers left the profession, about 9% of the total workforce (The Guardian, 2019) citing issues in the classroom such as overcrowding, low funding, stress, and workloads. Teacher training for a year was one of the hardest things I ever did. It was comprised of sleepless nights, preparing presentation after presentation, dealing with challenging students (one of whom did threaten to ‘get me’ after school, which was fun), as well as handling inter-departmental politics. I was expected to create units of work to demonstrate both my creativity and my commitment within the classroom. It was a hugely stressful experience and impacted my mental health in ways I hadn’t foreseen.
I now work as a teaching assistant in a primary school in Upminster. I get to help kids with their maths homework, listen to them read, play with them at break and lunchtime if need be. I work from Kindergarten ages (2 or 3) up to students in year 6, aged 11. Working in a school in a less pressured environment has shown me why I wanted to work in schools in the first place – to be with children.
If you enjoy working with children, and you enjoy the challenge of what each new day brings, teaching might just be the thing for you. It truly is a career like no other.