In the Classroom with Miss Cooper
Although it's often described as one of the most rewarding professions, teaching, like any career, certainly comes with its challenges. We've recently been fortunate enough to speak with a series of incredible UK teachers to discuss all-things-education.
This month we sat down with Miss Cooper, a Computer Science teacher based in Yorkshire, to chat about those behind the scenes aspects of teaching that people outside of the profession have little to no knowledge of.
Good morning Miss Cooper, thanks for chatting with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about your role in the school?
I teach Computer Science to Key Stage 3 to 5. Currently I'm the acting Subject Lead covering maternity leave.
A lot of teachers we've interviewed talk about their 'calling' to teach. Some have had a life-long aspiration to teach, while others found they fell into the profession before realising it was exactly where they belong. What was your experience with this?
Part way through studying for a degree in Law, I realised that Law was not the field I wanted to head into as a career choice. Whilst picking the option modules in my final year at university (and disregarding all of the trainee barrister/solicitor topics), I was left with a choice between a dissertation or a 'school experience'.
At this point, teaching was never something I had considered before; however, I decided to take the leap and go for it. The course involved preparing lessons and going into a range of both primary and secondary schools throughout the city delivering the content. Fast forward to the end of my degree year and it was confirmed that being in the classroom was exactly where I was meant to be.
Now the subject I teach, really was a 'fell into' moment. After getting in touch with the headteacher at my own secondary school to organise some work experience, I spent time in all 4 of my A Level subject departments. However, ICT was no longer an option as it had been replaced by Computer Science.
A brand-new subject which involved a lot of algorithms and programming, something I had never even heard of before. Long story short, I chose the most challenging option there was, deciding to train to teach a subject I had never even studied before. After a very challenging training year, learning how to teach whilst also learning the subject myself, I graduated as a fully qualified teacher, Outstanding in all 8 Teacher Standards, with PGCE and QTS&...and I have never looked back.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job, personally?
Workload. Just an insane workload. There aren't enough hours in the day, I don't know one teacher that doesn't work over their hours and take work home with them, too.
What do you think are the key challenges teachers face right now, either in or outside of the classroom?
Lack of Subject Specialists. With the recruitment and retention problems within education currently, it is a real problem that there is such a lack of subject experts delivering curriculum content. Secondary schools tend to patch this issue by using their subject specialists at exam year groups (Y11/13).
Do you think there are any common misconceptions about SEN pupils, and if so, what are they?
That the TA is responsible for that student. Every teacher in the classroom has a responsibility to adapt their lessons and their classroom environment to suit the needs of the students in the lesson. It's a huge challenge. You could have a class with both the highest and the lowest attaining pupils in some year groups, so creating lesson plans that can challenge both abilities at a reasonable level is tricky. Even the most experienced teachers find it a real challenge.
The TA is absolutely there for support, which is an invaluable asset to the classroom, but my job as a teacher is to provide the content that the TA aids with. You have to find the right balance so you're not boring higher achievers or alienating lower attaining students.
In a perfect world, what change would you like to see for pupils, schools or our educational system in general?
A Subject Specialist in every classroom. I'm sure a lot would say a pay raise or less workload, and they're definitely a given. But in my experience, these Subject Specialists are an absolute necessity that we're falling very short on providing to our students.