I qualified as a secondary school teacher in 2003 after an ‘interesting’ PGCE course. I actually kept a type of diary of events back then, which is fortunate as otherwise I’d not really have any clue what went on on my PGCE itself. I remember the schools I worked at, and am still in touch with some of the young people whom I worked with — most of whom are now at or graduated from university, but other than this have no real memories of that time in my life.
My dad tells me I always wanted to be a teacher. I honestly have no clue if he is right about that or not. Whenever I run the phrase over and over in my head, it doesn’t feel right but who knows: I’m a considerably different person now to what I must have been back then.
Recent events in the last week have once again made me question my choice of career path. While I gave up full time teaching after my breakdown five years ago, I’ve been doing a couple of block placements in school recently that have seen me doing five days a week English teaching.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t enjoy it anymore. This has been underlined by the fact that I’ve also had the opportunity to do some AS and A2 Media Studies teaching, and the differences between KS3/4 English and English Literature and the Media Studies stuff is quite profound.
My CV states that I am an English specialist. I don’t think this is the case any longer. The English GCSEs have changed. The poetry anthologies have changed. Coursework has gone; controlled assessments are in. The fundamentals of reading, writing, and speaking and listening remain the same, but the content of the course is different.
And I have no training to deliver that content. I have a copy of the poetry anthology and I know a whole two poems in it. Two out of fifty or so.
Five years ago I don’t think I would have minded. Five years ago I think I would probably have welcomed that change. But now, after teaching those familiar poems for so long, its a massive change for anybody who teaches English to adjust to.
Five years ago I think I would have enjoyed learning new stuff. Now… now I have no interest in doing so. The current English curriculum doesn’t seem to connect with teenagers and, more importantly, the exams are pushed to such a degree that the basics are often overlooked.
So many teenagers cannot spell or punctuate properly. My grammar can be pretty atrocious at times, but it is depressing when year 12 students are still getting where/were/we’re/wear wrong.
My current apathy boils down to the fact that I simply cannot be bothered spending time to learn something that I don’t enjoy, when I could be learning how to do something I do — a feeling I’m sure many of the students I work with share! (Yay for irony?)
The Media Studies stuff I’ve been doing is really interesting and, rather than dwelling so much on our literary history as English does, it is rooted in the contemporary; the ever-shifting media culture that has exploded across today’s technological age.
Maybe it seems really interesting because it is new and I haven’t got a full handle on what the course entails, but it seems to blend the theoretical and the practical in a much more even basis than any of the English specifications have ever done.
Over the last three weeks or so I’ve mostly been doing practical stuff with years 12 and 13.
Year 12 have been working on magazine and album covers — researching how genre and representation work to sell a product successfully, and looking at the conventions of types of magazines or musical genres in order to create their own magazine cover and content, or album cover and promotional material.
Year 13 have researched the conventions and representation involved in music videos and film trailers — something that I actually touched on quite heavily with Year 8s in another school before Christmas. With considerable research and theorywork, they then storyboarded/scripted and filmed their own music videos (for an existing artist) or trailer (for a new film of a specific genre).
Year 13s I found difficult to help to start with as there was a software barrier to overcome — I had no experience using iMovie on the Macs to show them how to do what I was suggesting to improve their trailers. But after several lessons (and obtaining a MacBook with the software myself) they’ve produced some much tighter and more dynamic productions.
Year 12s were using the much-more-familiar Photoshop software, and it is here that I found the most enjoyment in teaching this course. There is something very satisfying about seeing the work of students improve exponentially thanks to having an expert with particular software show them how to do what they want to do.
While I always offer suggestions about what to improve to struggling students, I preferred the 12s to tell me what they wanted to do but didn’t know how. It was very satisfying for a student to ask me “Is it possible to…, because I want to ….?” and for me to help them realise that potential.
In many ways, I think this all means that I am interested in becoming a KS5 Media Studies teacher. I’ve always enjoyed teaching college/sixth form students more, but A-Level English never really appealed to me, so I put off looking into it.
Now I’ve found something I’m actually interested in, maybe it is time…