We recently caught up with Alex, a secondary school History & Citizenship teacher. We absolutely love Alex's passion for his teaching career! Find out more about the daily challenges that he faces and what he enjoys most about being a teacher...
What year group / subject do you teach?
I teach History and Citizenship to years 7-11. I am also form tutor to year 11 and will be taking on GCSE Classical Civilisation next year.
What made you want to get in to teaching?
I discovered my passion for teaching when I was doing my PhD and teaching undergraduates at the University of Leeds. I really enjoyed engaging with students and sharing my love of history. I have always been very creative and have enjoyed working as a museum curator too, so I was attracted by the idea of working with younger students so I could have fun using my imagination to try to inspire them in creative ways whilst having a big impact on their development as people.
Describe your teaching style in 3 words
Irreverent, imaginative, energetic
What would you say is the most challenging part of being a teacher?
My biggest challenges as a teacher have revolved around managing my own expectations of myself. As a professional historian my instinct is often to want to teach a topic in serious analytical depth, but I have to remind myself that this would take hours to create resources for and just wouldn't be fun for the pupils. And really I got into the business of teaching because I want to make history fun. So I am learning to spend less time over-preparing and just make sure that I know my topic and have a really good creative learning activity planned for it, like when we made online dating profiles for Henry VIII to teach the concept of a renaissance prince to year 8.
What 3 tips would you give to someone about to start their teacher training?
a) Know your subject. There really is no escape from this. But be realistic in the time you spend enhancing your knowledge in specific curriculum areas during your training year. In History, for instance, you might not end up teaching those topics ever again if your next school does different options.
b) Don't be afraid to ask more experienced teachers for help. We were all new once. Some of us quite recently!
c) Don't be disheartened if you aren't great at every aspect of teaching to begin with (or even after a few months or years). Teaching is hard - balancing providing scaffolded support to pupils who need it, especially with SEN needs, managing low level behaviour, challenging your most able and orchestrating an effective learning experience for all within a tight timeframe. Nobody can pull it all off perfectly without serious experience.
What part of your job do you enjoy most?
My favourite part of teaching is when student tell me they've really enjoyed a lesson or that I've changed their mind about History. One of my year 8s started the year thinking it was boring and now she is thinking of taking it for GCSE if I keep making it fun. That makes all the effort worthwhile.
Why would you recommend someone to get into teaching?
Teaching is a great career if you love your subject and want a job where people respect your work and see you as a positive influence in society. I had worked in academia before, but I only really got to teach about my very narrow research field. I actually love all history though, so teaching in secondary school gives me the whole of human history as my playground.
What advice would you give to to an ECT in their first teaching role?
My advice to a new ECT would be to make sure you look after your own wellbeing. It is easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself, but if you overwork and burn out then you aren't any use to your students.
How would you like to see your teaching career develop?
I am really happy in my school so I would like to stay here for a good number of years and continue to enjoy running my own curriculum. I am excited to start teaching Classical Civilisation next year because I love Roman history and it will be nice to interleave my year 7 curriculum with what I can offer at GCSE. As curriculum lead, I can teach whatever history I choose, so perhaps in a couple of years I might swap out some of my options just to give me an excuse to buy more books and keep thinking of new ideas!
How did Amethyst help find the right role for you?
I doubt I would have found such a good teaching role without Amethyst Education. Qualifying as a teacher in 2021 was a really tough year on the job market, and I had attended lots of interviews from jobs I had applied to myself. I always performed well at interviews and was complimented on my skills but lost out to more experienced teachers who weren't straight out of their PGCE. Lisa at Amethyst set me up with a school that was a good match for both my values and my specific historical specialisms, which also happened to be in my top choice city. I felt much more confident going into the interview because Lisa had already told the school about me and vice versa so there was already that feeling that we would be a good fit. So signing up with Amethyst Education really got me where I am today.