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Why I can’t wait to become a teacher and get in the classroom

Neil D'Arcy-Jones explains why his entry into the teaching profession might be a well-trodden path, but one he’s determined to complete with eyes fully open...

  • Why I can’t wait to become a teacher and get in the classroom

The slow death of the local newspaper industry seems to have been a net positive for the teaching profession.

Over the past 10 years, while working for my local newspaper group as its arts editor, I saw a pattern start to emerge – announcements of redundancies, reporters sad at having to leave their newspapers, reporters getting jobs as teachers, ex-reporters becoming infinitely happier.

So when the Sword of Damocles finally fell on me in December 2019, it was kind of obvious what I was going to do next, though I had more reasons than most for choosing to enter teaching.

Being the bad guy

For several years prior to my redundancy I’d been running a youth theatre group at a local secondary school, while also moonlighting as an exams invigilator.

Now, you might think that pacing round a sports hall, watching young people sit their exams and occasionally handing out the odd ruler and pen wouldn’t provide much incentive for becoming a teacher.

I was the bad guy, ensuring everyone was adhering to the rules, without any of the goodwill that would have come from actually teaching them the stuff they needed to pass the exam in the first place.

Yet it was doing this that made me think I might make a half-decent teacher.

Last summer I was placed in a separate room with students who, for various reasons, couldn’t sit their exams in the main hall.

Before the start and after the end of each exam I was able to work up a bit of a rapport with this eclectic group – making sure they were ready, that phones were turned off and that they had all the equipment they needed, as well as handing out tissues for sniffy noses and the occasional teary eye.

At the end of exams season, several of them came up and thanked me for making what was a daunting and uncomfortable experience a little more bearable. It was an odd feeling.

As a journalist, you rarely get emails from grateful readers. Instead, they’re usually complaints about missing apostrophes or how you’ve spelt ‘Aldeborough’ (Yes, I know – it’s ‘Aldeburgh’).

I can still remember the vicious letter I received many moons ago about my review of Harold Pinter’s The Lover, from a reader who accused me of ruining the play by giving away its ending.

I replied that The Lover was very different to films such as The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense, and explained why by detailing the iconic endings of both.

Unfortunately I never discovered whether I ruined those for him as well…

A ‘terrible decision’

The point is, within the short time I’d spent as an exam invigilator, I’d already experienced the glorious glow that comes from being actually appreciated.

Of course, I’m well aware that being a teacher isn’t all about the glow.

After securing a place on a training course to teach English at secondary, I spoke my many teacher friends – some of them ex-journalists like me – and every one of them told me it was going to be hard.

One told me, “At some point during your training, you’re going to think you’ve made a terrible decision becoming a teacher – but then something will happen in the classroom, and you’ll know you haven’t.”

I’m ready for all the hard work, trials, tribulations, ups and downs, because I know the rewards are going to be more than worth it. I’ve always had a fascination with the English language and how it can be used to communicate an idea, or an ideal, for that matter.

How it can be subversive, smart, even sexy.

I’ve therefore spent the last few weeks studying an online subject enhancement course, reconnecting with those old friends Shakespeare, Dickens, Browning and Orwell, which has further ignited my enthusiasm for the subject.

I literally – literarily? – can’t wait to get in that classroom and start waxing lyrical about why Animal Farm and 1984 should be essential reading for everyone, particularly in these bizarre times.

I’m especially interested in how non-fiction can help those students who don’t usually engage well with English, but hopefully more on that later.

Yes, I’m well aware that at some point this puppy dog bravado will collapse in a heap – but I know already that I’ve made one of the best decisions of my life.

Neil D’Arcy-Jones is a former local newspaper journalist currently undergoing teacher training.

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