My Job: Explained (Primary School Teacher)
Name: Harriet Mackinney
Job Title: Primary School Teacher (Year 2)
Describe your role:
If you look up my role it says that as a primary school teacher I plan lessons in line with curriculum objectives, which are set out by the government. I facilitate learning by creating a good working environment, providing high quality resources and having positive relationships with the children in my class. I have to develop and foster the appropriate skills and social abilities to enable children to develop.
To ensure development is occurring I assess and record progress through various activities and tests. I provide opportunities for children to link previous knowledge to new knowledge and encourage further exploration of passions or misunderstandings.
If you asked my children about my role they’d tell you that I am an artist, builder, singer, scientist, dancer, writer, actor, doctor, historian, judge, geographer, superhero and many other jobs that I have to take aspects of to do my best each day!
How long have you worked in the industry?
I have been a qualified teacher for 1 year and have just completed my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year. This is a year in which you are assessed against the Teachers Standards and will either pass or fail. You have to pass your NQT year within 5 years of gaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) to be a qualified teacher. I have also had many jobs within schools since I left 6th Form in 2015.
How did you get into this role/industry?
To teach in a UK state school, you have to have a degree, and a recognised teaching qualification. What most people don’t realise is that to teach in a private school you don’t need to have any teaching qualifications, and most people teaching in private schools don’t!
For most teaching jobs you apply directly to the school by filling out an application form and writing a cover letter. This is a letter which is usually no longer than 2 pages explaining why you are right for the role at this school.
I discovered my school through a program which introduces teaching graduates to schools. I met with the head teacher and two phase leaders in a box at Elland Road (Leeds United ground) and essentially they tried to sell the school to me and I tried to sell myself to them. I was invited to interview, something that pre-covid is a requirement for most teaching jobs. The school asked me to deliver a short lesson to a year 2 class, I then met with the senior leaders and Governors for a short interview. I was phoned on my way home from the school and offered the job, which I accepted straight away!
What's the best part of your job?
As cliche as it sounds it’s the kids, you can’t become a teacher without having an innate love for working with children. They seem to know how to make me want to cry and laugh all within one sentence, and will say the most hilarious things without even meaning to be funny!
What's the hardest part of your job?
I think there are two aspects that I find the hardest, the first being the unappreciated hours. I don’t drive so to get to school from my old house I would leave home at 6:25am and be at school for 7:30am. I usually wouldn’t leave until 6ish most nights. Usually I would get home for 7-7:30pm (on a good night). This left me permanently exhausted and I would have to explain to friends why I wasn’t able to do things on the weekend or after school because I was so tired.
The second hardest part of my job is seeing children go through difficult times. I work near the city centre of Bradford which has a lot of deprivation, my children have been through more than I could ever imagine possible. Seeing them suffer and have to learn to be resilient at such a young age is very difficult.
What skills would you say are necessary for this role?
I could write a list of about a million things but I’ve narrowed it down to my personal top two:
Organisation - I used to think I was an organised person until I met the other year 2 teacher. I have learnt an incredible amount from her but most importantly how to organise my working and personal life.
Confidence - To stand in front of 20+ children every day you need a level of confidence in your own abilities. I’ve also found that being confident has helped me get along with other staff quickly which is a saving grace when you need to ask people questions or want to observe a lesson.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering this industry?
Try and get some work experience in different age ranges. Primary schools are split into Early Years (EYFS), KS1 and KS2. Most people have a preference as to which age range they want to go for, for example I did a degree which allows me to teach from 3-11 but I specialised in EYFS/KS1. It’s important to have had some experience with different ages because that’s how you discover where your preference lies and it’s always a bonus in interviews to say you’ve had experience working with a range of children.
What surprised you most when taking on this role?
How much it would consume my life, in a positive way!! Now whenever I’m out shopping I think "oh that would be perfect for my reading corner" or I’ll be in the park collecting sticks for an art project. I make sure I do all my work at school so that the only ‘work’ I do at home is thinking of things that would look good in my classroom!
Are there any things that you didn't expect to be doing that has been asked of you?
I think university prepared me for the range of additional tasks that come with being a teacher. The only thing I can truthfully say I wasn’t expecting was having to provide online learning for the children during the pandemic, sadly university did not prepare me for that! Of course that was the case for everyone at school. Myself and the other teachers that weren’t shielding at my school worked 2-3 days a week on shift throughout lockdown whilst also providing learning for those at home. We would ring our parents every 2-3 weeks to see how they were getting on and do distanced visits to those that needed to see a familiar face. It has been a bit of an odd experience!
If you weren't in this job, what else would you want to be doing?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher so I hadn’t really thought about this till now. I suppose I would say something like social work, although I do think I would struggle to not cry all the time at difficult cases. Maybe working with animals in a sanctuary, although again I would probably end up crying at the animals because they are so cute.
The My Job series was created to help those unsure on the industry they want to go in, so this is an insight on the day to day life of different people in different industries. If you would like more details on working in this industry please drop me a message and I'll direct you to the interviewee! If you would like to get involved, please let me know.