I was going to start this post by telling you about the time I volunteered to help with a Y7 class as a way of escaping the pressure to take further maths at A-Level, and I was going to say that’s what started my journey to where I am today. Then I realised that wasn’t quite true.
I was eight when my mum agreed to take some girls with SEN into our Brownie Pack. That’s my first experience of SEN, and Mary, Stella and Jenny have a lot to answer for! They were just like the rest of us, and from then I’ve never thought twice about helping or working with people with disabilities. At the time, my stepmother was also teaching cooking to adults with additional needs and we went along to the occasional lesson when we were off school and she was not.
When I was 15 I was invited on PHAB camp by one of my teachers – a bunch of late teenagers looking after young adults with disabilities of all sorts in the middle of a field. Amazing fun, but I can’t quite see ‘Health and Safety’ allowing it now. We lifted, we fed, we changed, we socialised, we laughed…and we all got a little drunk.
That’s what got me started in my desire to work in the disability field, and I swore for years that I never wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t. I fell into it by accident.
When I was at Uni, studying Physics – because I can be stubborn at times and my Physics teacher, having encouraged me to do A-Level Physics told me he wasn’t sure I’d cope at uni because we did Nuffield…and because Uni was the expectation from school and I couldn’t face a life of my dad telling me I’d wasted my brains by going straight into care work – I volunteered at a respite home for children with learning disabilities. We had such a great time, that when I graduated some three years later I was offered a contract and worked there. I also worked with adults with LD in their own homes, and one of these attended ‘Gateway’. It was after twelve months of shift work that I had a long conversation with another Gateway volunteer, who convinced me that I should be moving in to teaching if I wanted to be in the best place to work with people with LD. The alternative was social work – but that involved going back to uni for even longer. I’m still involved in Gateway, it will be 15 years in October, and I’m now treasurer of the club and proud to count the members as my friends.
Post PGCE I took a job in mainstream, as I had been advised that completing my NQT year there would be better than in special. I intended to stay for two years and then make the move across, but life got in the way. In my nine years at my first school I got involved in a range of SEN activities – I took the lead for HI and VI students, I got a qualification in ASD and another in G+T. I then decided that I wanted more, but didn’t want to move out of the classroom, and became an AST until that programme started being phased out, although part of that role involved providing regular support for Science teaching at our nearby special schools.
There were many reasons for leaving – the overwhelming one was a desire to travel, the other was the way our most able students were being treated and I was powerless to help make the change needed – and I handed in my notice without a job to go to. It’s a small city, and word got out – I was offered a year maternity cover before I left to travel at a special school I had wanted to work at for years, and cut short my plans to return for September. The contract became permanent and I stayed for another two years, working with the most able students in the SLD school. I did enjoy it, but I don’t have the imagination of a primary teacher and I felt that I was failing the students. Having spent a term on secondment to SLT, that was the way my career was going (I didn’t plan it, these things just happen) and then a position at my current (MLD, soon to be broad spectrum) school arose, working alongside someone I had got on well with professionally at the SLD school. Like I said, it’s a small city!
And now, here I am. AHT (Inclusion) which includes the SENCo role. I’m teaching Science two days a week and loving it. I’m running Annual Reviews which might even be the best part of my job. And I’m overseeing KS3, where I am privileged to work with an amazing group of staff. We might be in RI, but we’re making progress every day.
As for the future…I’m not sure.