I have had a very varied teaching career and must be one of the few people who have worked with pre-school through to adults. I started as science teacher in a large comprehensive in Ipswich, but in the days before cars were common I had to take three buses and an hour and a half to get to school. We were not allowed to wear trousers or long skirts so I arrived feeling frozen in winter. I hated that school so resigned. A Primary school was desperate so they asked if I would go there for a term - I stayed two years before leaving to have my son and daughter (at that time you had to resign - no maternity leave).
I next became a play-leader and became involved in local playgroups and this gave me experience with young children, but I knew that was not along term solution so did some work teaching Science at a local high school. Here I was converted to maths teaching, and decided to re-train by applying for a post in a junior school and being appointed by Peter Reynolds who was on Cockroft committee. The school merged with the infant school and I became in charge of both IT and Maths in the larger school and had many contacts with the maths and IT advisory teams. Suffolk was recognised for being to the fore-front of maths education and we spent many happy weekends 'doing maths' at Belstead House, a seventeenth century manor, training centre. It was here that I first learnt about the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) and the Mathematics Association (MA) and how maths can be taught without a textbook. I attended a ten-day course put on by Suffolk LEA with Cambridge Institute of Education and there met Angela Walsh who encouraged me to convert to an Advanced Diploma. When she moved to QCA I was also invited to attend consultations meetings about the National Curriculum as Key Stage 2 and the initial tests. At Key Stage 1 my school was part of a pilot where we looked at a skills based rather than a paper test. It was good and told us a great deal about the children, but the tasks took a lot of organising and time so would have been difficult and costly to implement. I added two other modules for the Advanced Diploma, 'Managing Disruptive Behaviour in the Classroom' and a research module on 'Able Children and Mathematics'.
A change of head encouraged me to move to a middle school. The Head there was very keen that we should become a successful school. The school is in a rural deprivation area, many children had not been to the nearest main town 25 miles away. There was little value placed on education but we changed that and this was reflected in maths SAT scores going from 49% to 71% within the five years I headed the department. He encouraged me to do the masters degree with Open University and also to continue to participate in the national scene. For this I studied primary planning and assessment which I based on the mathematics curriculum and researching mathematics classrooms. this taught me how to be reflective on my practise and to not assume that I always did things the best way. Here I was also in charge of ICT and training staff to use both hardware and software. We were one of the few departments that could offer students the chance to carry out any of the IT activities in the Numeracy Strategies. We even had a set of TI graphics calculators.
Another change of head who was bad news and the threat of middle schools being closed led me back into high schools. Here I found that the students were less able to use ICT in their lessons and they did not have the facilities I had provided. In the first school there was a more open curriculum, but the second being a 14 to 18 school was exam driven and textbook led, with little room for manoeuvre. This I found very restricting and I did not have the authority to implement change. The students found the syllabus as uninspiring to work to as teachers did to teach it. It was a time to change and following a suggestion by Sue Johnston-Wilder I enrolled to do a part-time PhD, something I could only have dreamt of doing a few years ago. So here I am at Warwick.
A contact asked me if I would like to work in Adult Education with the Local Authority and it is here that I met students who had failed to achieve a 'C' grade GCSE but were motivated to turn up once a week to achieve a level 2 qualification as they wanted to have a career or to help their children in school, a few were arts graduates. For several, English is a second language and for some of the woment the first time they had experienced education. What was very noticable was the number who had dyslexic tendencies and/or had 'bad teacher/pupil' experiences. What they did like was being involved in the maths (no textbooks) through activities and discussion, something that is not always easy to do in some large secondary clasrooms! Another group I was offered had learning difficulties and I was asked to develop thier money skills so they could help in the shop that had been opened on their premises as a social enterprise called Poppy's Pantry. Many have achieved Entry Level in Numeracy and Financial Management qualifications and have been learning how to use a computer and develop their own small craft enterprise, the motto of the class is "WE CAN .....". This is the fourth year and they have come a log way from learning the value of coins!
A brief spell back in the middle school to cover the loss of a member of staff then daily supply work. This gives flexibility and is out of school politics. Once the dust has settled regarding the curriculum, I might go back, but having had the taste of being free to go to conferences ... I'm not sure yet. Writing does appeal.