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Career Focus - The World of Teaching

Primary School Teacher - Angie Salmon

Angie has two daughters and juggles family life with being a very busy teacher at The Manor Preparatory School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

 Angie Salmon

The Interview

Name Angie Salmon

Location Abingdon, Oxfordshire

Family Two daughters aged 13 and 15

Job title: Part-time Youth Development Worker

How did you become a Primary School Teacher? What is your background?

I had a private education in girls' schools. I thought about teaching ballet and dance but decided it was too narrow. Discovered I enjoyed explaining how to do something new to fellow Girl Guides and helped teach adults how to swim at evening classes. I went straight to college after A levels. Sadly gap years hadn't really taken off then!

What training route did you take?

I went to St Luke's Teacher Training College in Exeter. After one year the college merged with Exeter University. Completed a four year B Ed Honours degree, specializing in Art and Design, Education (Junior/Middle age group) and Psychology. Two teaching practices of five and ten weeks (far more use than a lot of theory taught by people who haven't been in a classroom for years and have probably never taught primary age children).

What training courses have you done?

I've attained several NVQ's in Youth Development Work and also individual modules related to sexual health teaching, sexuality and conflict management. These are day courses at my local college with child-friendly hours. Most youth work training is at weekends and evenings and 'on the job'.

How did you choose your specialism?

As a primary teacher you have to be a "Jack of all trades". I enjoy art and it is very useful not just for teaching but also when putting up displays, designing magazine pages, making activities for the children, putting on plays etc. Psychology is fascinating and may provide ideas for understanding what makes children, parents and colleagues tick.

How did you find your first job?

I applied for all sorts of jobs all over the country. Scanned the T.E.S. (Times Educational Supplement) every week. Advice from tutors about letter of application proved to be useless and eventually received help from a Head. Then managed to get two interviews and subsequently my first job.

Where do you look for vacancies? Are there specialist websites? newspapers/magazines?

T.E.S., local papers, online. If restricted to a specific area, I would visit or phone local schools, possibly do supply work.

How does the job fit round your family life?

After teaching in several different schools for ten years (following my husband's career round the country), I stopped work in order to have children and be with them at home while they were little. I then did a Return to Teaching course in the evenings and managed to procure my current job. Both girls also came to my school so we were all on the same site for a few years. This was a huge help because teachers start early (8.15 at the latest in my case) and although the pupils leave at 3.30 there is still a lot to do at the end of the day. Also there are frequent meetings to attend. I now have to dash out the door at 4.15 to collect my 15 year old (feeling guilty and hoping that everyone watching me realizes that my huge bags are full of work which I will be doing when I get home, often till 11 or 12 at night). My husband collects our other daughter who goes to a different school and does prep till 6.45 most evenings. This works well until there is a change of plan i.e. my husband is on call and can't collect younger daughter or prep is cancelled. I am then supposed to literally be in two places at once! Then if the traffic is bad the problem is multiplied. Unfortunately school buses don't come near our village and sharing school runs has not proved possible either. However, we cope. Our daughters are very different characters and one school therefore does not suit both of them. It is worth the extra effort to see them both happy and fulfilled in their respective schools...and it's not for ever! The big advantage of teaching is being with the girls during the holidays.

What is the biggest challenge you find with teaching?

You have to put your own children first but teaching is a very demanding job and sometimes you feel as if your pupils are actually taking priority over your family. My worst dread is when my own children are unwell. Sometimes they are dosed up with paracetemol and shoveled off to school, when I know if I wasn't working they would be much better off staying at home to recover. As a teacher, I am really cross when children are sent to school when they should be tucked up in bed at home but here am I doing the same thing. I teach 4-5 year olds and they really do need their Mum or a loving carer when they are poorly. It is slightly easier when the children are older but it still leaves me squirming with guilt.

You have to be prepared to compromise-there simply isn't enough time in the day to have an immaculate house, long walks with the dog, gourmet meals, a beautifully manicured garden etc. You have to let go of less important things and prioritise. Some people manage to have a social life and put make up on but I haven't managed this yet! Fortunately my husband is a great cook and can make an edible meal out of almost anything but we have been known to resort to kit-kats for breakfast once, when the food shop didn't happen. The children were sworn to secrecy and made to promise not to tell their teacher!

Is the job rewarding?

Oh yes! Why else would I put up with having my lunch sneezed on, having my varicose veins stroked, head lice, sick on my skirt etc! Seriously though-seeing the children develop and achieve so much during the year is completely wonderful. Teaching a child to read and write: in September they might not be able to even hold a pencil or recognize a letter. By July the penny is beginning to drop, the bits of the jigsaw you have been teaching all year come together and they can start to enjoy reading and have a go at writing. When some enthusiastic children start to bring in stories, lists or letters they have written independently at home, you know they are inspired. Some parents are very appreciative and enjoy the magic of this big step forward in their childrens' lives.

What is the best thing in your opinion about being a teacher?

See above...and the variety. You never know what is going to happen each day even when you think you have everything planned. Meeting all sorts of characters and being an important part of their lives for a year (at least). Sharing hilarious moments with colleagues...you have to have a sense of humour when working with young children.

Do you think it is a job that fits in well with being a Mum with young children?

Partly depends on your support. Do you have grandparents nearby who would be willing to bale you out in emergencies? Is your husband or partner able to share the load? Before I had my own children I felt that the last thing on earth I wanted to see at the end of the day, was a child! We had twins next-door to us and I used to hide from them. You have to be so patient all day and then when you come home tired and thinking of all the work you have to get done that evening, you still have to find enough patience to deal with your own children. Personally, I am glad I never taught pupils who were the same age as my own children.

Do you think Mums can returning to teaching (if they are already trained) easily after having children?

Before having children, I used to be in school from 8 till about 5.30, then take home work to do most of the evening, only stopping for supper. Now I have to attend to the family till about 10pm and then get my schoolwork out. I may not be as organized in school but I do understand what it is like to be a parent and that is invaluable, especially with a Reception class. I've been through food fads, night terrors, potty training, biting etc so I can genuinely empathise.

When applying for a job try to find out how supportive the school would be to you as a parent. I am very fortunate where I teach and have never been refused time off for taking a daughter to the orthodontist, doctor etc. Some schools may be less helpful.

Any advice for a Mum or Dad wanting to start training?

Buy some magnetic clips from Lakeland Plastics, one or two for each member of the family. As soon as any details from your childrens' schools come home, write them in the diary and peg them onto the fridge or somewhere visible. Juggling all your different commitments needs organization. I have a school diary, a home diary and a calendar. I also write out all important dates and potential clashes at the beginning of each term for my husband to put in his work diary.

Any other advice?

if you don't know already, learn how to use a computer! Once you start teaching, you won't have any spare time! The holidays are spent trying to catch up on all the things you have had to ignore during term time. You are so busy it makes you wonder how you find time to teach in term time. Essentially, you live two different lives but not at the same time!

 

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