Name: Andrew Orphanoudakis, 29
University: Southampton University. Philosophy, 1997 (2:2)
PGCE: London Metropolitan (2004)
Job: Newly qualified teacher, Gayhurst Primary School, Hackney, London
I was organising tours and tour guides for London Walks for three years. Before that I was in banking which wasn’t much fun at all. I thought teaching might be more rewarding.
Why primary teaching?
Younger children are a bit more open-minded and you get to teach a variety of subjects.
Best and worst parts of teaching?
Working in an inner-city school, the ups and downs are huge. Sometimes you struggle to get a class in order. At other times, it’s exhilarating and you get a huge kick from the lessons.
Be sure you want to do it, be firm and remember not to befriend the kids too much as they are here to learn.
Andrew adds that ‘Don’t smile before Christmas’ was a catchphrase he learned when he first switched from a corporate career to teaching.
"But these days I find it difficult to go 10 minutes without smiling," says the 29-year-old, who is form tutor to 26 eight-year-olds. "The alternative is that you become a robot and the kids hate it."
Yet he has hardly found teaching a breeze. "At times I’m good with classroom management, but you have to crack down on bad behaviour early on," he says. "Looking back, this year my mistake was to be too easygoing, which made things an uphill struggle for the rest of the year. Next year I’ll be changing that."
Like any job, experience works wonders and Andrew is learning gradually how to manage the workload of a newly qualified teacher. "I try to make Saturdays sacred – to have one complete day where I’m doing no school work at all," he says.
Although Sunday is taken up with planning, Andrew is hoping to reduce the amount of time he works outside of school. "I find it quite difficult, but I think it’s down to organising skills. You have to set your own timetable."
Unlike some mature entrants to teaching, Andrew was unfazed by returning to university for his PCGE: "Compared to the hours and stresses in my last job it wasn’t a problem. I loved the lectures and psychology sessions, but during the year you get placed in two schools, and you’re under a lot of scrutiny – people check up on your lesson plans and observe you, so it does have its stressful moments."
Eighteen months on, Andrew reflects that he made the right career choice. "The main thing has been getting a job at a good school. The staff and head are really supportive and that’s crucial," he says. "I know people from my PGCE who are in schools where this isn’t the case – and they are struggling."