Why did you become an English Teacher? / Did you always want to be an English teacher?
Whilst I've not always been an English teacher, my career has always been based on words and using them effectively. After graduating with a Linguistics and English language degree, I became an advertising copywriter, before moving into broader marketing communications and eventually consumer PR. It was when juggling national client accounts with family life became untenable that I decided to use my language skills in a different way and retrain as an English teacher. As much as I loved my previous career, I do find enabling young people to discover and develop their own language skills far more rewarding.
How do you differentiate your instruction to meet the diverse needs of your students, particularly those who may struggle with English language skills?
Before you can differentiate effectively, it's important to really understand the needs of each and every pupil that comes into the classroom. That's something that Aysgarth does so well. Thanks to the support and guidance of our highly experienced Skills Development staff as well as the time we all get to spend with pupils both in and outside of the classroom, getting to know what makes each individual 'tick', differentiating according to interest, ability and learning styles becomes second nature. We are a close-knit department and we work together to share ideas for what we've found works best to engage pupils and to accelerate and extend learning at both ends of the ability spectrum.
What is the one thing you would encourage parents to do to help develop a love of reading in their child?
Read to them, with them and in front of them! It's so important to model good reading habits: children learn by mimicking and then doing, so if they see their parents reading for pleasure, they're more likely to want to read for pleasure themselves. Children love sharing and talking about stories too, written or spoken. We have a wonderful tradition of aural story-telling in this country so I'd encourage parents to start sharing tales with their offspring even before they begin to share written stories with them. Children of course have wonderful imaginations so I'd encourage parents to tap into that by asking them to make predictions about what might happen next in the story they are sharing, or exploring what the characters might behave in situations outside of the plot. (What might Matilda's favourite chocolate bar be? What career will Harry Potter have when he's grown up? What kind of birthday party would the Gruffalo have?)
Your favourite book?
How can I possibly limit it to one! The books I return to time and again are:
- Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham (It's bonkers but phonetically inspired!)
- Hardy's Tess of the d'Ubervilles (Its subtitle A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented explains why)
- Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (Elegant existentialism)
- Bryce Courtney's The Power of One (Who ever thought I'd fall in love with a book about a boxer?!)
- My current 'read and repeat' is Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (I wonder what 1950s chemist Elizabeth Zott would have made of Tess D'Uberville?)
Which book should everyone read?
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. "All grown-ups were first children. (But few of them remember it.)" It takes a little boy to remind us all that we have a responsibility to others and to the world that we live in. As pertinent a message today as when it was written 60 years ago...
What makes a ‘good day’ at school?
It could be as simple as a smiley greeting in the corridor from one of the boys, or that sense of community we share in the chapel every morning; it could be seeing or hearing the successes of the OAs I have taught, but mostly it's those moments in my classroom when a pupil realises that 'I can't' has become 'I can'.