This is the second of my series of blog posts celebrating the achievements and progress of former students.
Megan Douglas (@MegDouglasTeach) graduated from Plymouth University in 2015 with a B.Ed degree in primary education. She is half way through her second year of teaching. On graduation she wrote a blog post about her time at Plymouth University. She now teaches in Berkshire where she grew up. Whilst at university she heard news of a new free school being set up in her local area, which grabbed her attention. When she found out it would be a specialised STEM primary school she was even more interested, and after a long application and interview process she secured her first teaching post at the school. Despite the challenges she has loved being involved with working at a newly established school as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). She feels she has a say in everything and all staff continue to have a huge part in making decisions and moulding the way they would like their school to grow. Here is her interview:
One day I just woke up and decided I wanted to be a teacher. I had always enjoyed working with children, organising events and drama – I decided that I could do these things every day as a teacher! I’ve always enjoyed education and I really did enjoy going to school, I had brilliant teachers and some not so brilliant teachers but they have all shaped the kind of teacher I am and the teaching methods I use in my classroom.
2) What is the best thing about being a teacher in a primary school? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
This is a question I still ponder on and the reasons change quite regularly. It really is the little things that I enjoy about teaching, the ‘light bulb’ moments and watching children grow throughout the year. I teach year 1 and I find the transition from EYFS to KS1 absolutely fascinating, they change so much throughout the year and it’s lovely when they are so aware of their achievements and developments too.
3) What does it take to become an excellent teacher? What characteristics do the best teachers have?
Good question… I’ve been lucky enough to be taught by some excellent teachers and I honestly think it is up to the learner to give a teacher such a prestigious title. I also think behind an excellent teacher is an excellent team. As a learner, I believe an excellent teacher should be supportive, funny, challenging and fair. The best teachers I have ever had have given me the opportunity to explore and connect my learning with real life experience.
4) What do you consider your greatest achievement to date as an educator?
I cried 7 weeks into my NQT year in the toilet next to my classroom because a little boy with Special Educational Needs in my class called me by my name for the first time and recognised me as his teacher. It was something so small to everyone else but the biggest achievement for me and him.
5) How can we improve education? If you were the Secretary for Education, what would be your first priorities?
Number one, funding. I work in one of the poorest funded boroughs in the UK. The schools are very good in my local area and I have been lucky enough to attend these schools as a child but gradually over the years the funding has been decreased and cut. Because housing prices are high, average wages are good and the schools have good results we have seen huge cuts in our school funding. Resources are so limited and some local schools are even asking parents to foot the bill. Number two, I would ensure I could relate to our teachers. I really think that those making big decisions should experience what we experience on a daily basis.
6) What are the most innovative uses of technology in education (that you have done yourself, or have seen)?
At my current school we are very Google based. Our teamwork is smooth, neat and effective through the use of sharing files, planning and working collaboratively on documents. Children in school have a Chromebook each along with access to tablets in each class. Everything is connected. We now have a 3D printer and are working on projects with our oldest year group (year 4) to design and make their own objects. CPD is very strong at my school and I have been able to explore different technologies through having time to network and visit the BETT Show to explore new opportunities for technological innovation at our school. BETT was full of virtual reality this year which will hopefully be our next development…
7) What is your favourite story or memory of teaching children you would like to share?
On the last day of the summer term we took the whole school on a day trip to Bournemouth. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day, we took them straight to the beach and our wonderful parent vounteers and staff marked off a very large section of the beach for us. Some children had never been to the beach before, they hadn’t felt the sand between their toes or the salty tasty of the sea. The children were able to paddle and jump between the waves. We walked to the gardens and enjoyed our sandwiches and ice creams. For some reason I felt like a real teacher that day, a memory maker.
8) What advice would you give those who are just about to start out on the pathway to becoming a teacher?
Observe the best, apply what you know, be confident but be yourself (children can always see through you!). Your to do list will never end but that is okay. Make time for yourself, your friends and family. Enjoy.
9) What are the most significant challenges facing education right now?
Lack of teachers and high volumes of teachers leaving the profession along with high rates of mental illness (for both pupils and teachers) all linked to the pressure and stress of results and data.
10) What will schools of the future look like? What would you like to see happening in the next 10 years?
At my school all staff are called by our first names, the children don’t line up and walk in straight lines, the children can sit where they wish when they go in to assembly, we let the children explore our natural outside areas, the children have wide access to technology but can make a decision whether is necessary to use instead of another tool. The children camp, they cook food on our fire, they make dens in the wood at break time without having ‘forest school’ on the timetable. We let them be children. I love working at the school I teach at but I’m very aware it isn’t the reality in this climate of results and progression. I wish for schools of the future to be more child led and focused on the development of a child.
Photo courtesy of Megan Douglas
Teacher Voices: Megan Douglas by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.