Vicky Forster, 31, is a newly qualified maths teacher at Notley High School in Braintree, Essex.
She has been there for three years, starting off on a voluntary basis, shadowing maths lessons. After A-levels, she did a degree in law, but decided not to go into the profession. After marrying and having two children, she did a maths degree through the Open University. Rather than doing a PGCE, with one year studying, she did school-centred training known as the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP). She was employed by the school, and worked there four days a week, with one day training. The idea is to build up teaching over the year, with a few hours at first; then ending up doing what is expected of a full-time teacher. With the PGCE you get a training grant, but the GTP appealed because you earn while training with an annual salary of Â£13,500.
What was the training like?
It was a bit different for me, because I had been at the school for a year before I started GTP. While I was training I had my own classes. The support I received was excellent. On my training days we would have general training in the morning and then subject-specific training in the afternoon. I also have two mentors at the school, including a mentor within my department. They are there to provide support and to check I am meeting the standards required.
Why did you want to go into teaching?
I’d always considered it. For years I wanted to be a PE teacher. I made a mistake at 18 with the law degree, but it wasn’t a waste of time. It has proved quite useful. And then when my baby was small, teaching seemed like an excellent option. You do get a lot of time off even though you work through the holidays. Friends of mine have difficulties with childcare through holidays, so from that point of view it made sense.
How do you cope with negative classroom behaviour?
Fortunately, there are not many behavioural issues at our school. But I know things can be very different at inner-city schools – you often get pupils carrying knives, for example. That kind of thing doesn’t happen here. Usually, the worst you get is a bit of name calling. But that’s no skin off my nose, most teachers can cope with name calling.
What are the best parts of teaching?
Definitely when somebody says: "Oh! I get it!" That’s the best; someone can come into the classroom not understanding something, then leaves feeling like they have achieved something. Also, teenagers are good fun; some of the conversations we have are good, we often go off on a tangent, and discuss aspects of life. If you’re the sort of person who loved school, you’ll enjoy it because it’s like being at school again.
What are the worst parts?
Frustration – when you’ve put a lot of work into teaching something, then after a test it seems like they haven’t learned a thing. I always get excited when I get test papers back, but sometimes I have unrealistic expectations of people’s ability to retain information.
What advice would you have to someone considering becoming a teacher?
The best thing you can do is go into school, shadowing somebody for two or three days to get a feel for whether you’re cut out for it.