Do you ever feel bored or dissatisfied with your job? Are you looking for some excitement after graduating? Why not teach in Essex? When we at BEC Teacher Training ask local teachers why teaching is such an exciting job, many of them tell us it’s the variety they enjoy, and the opportunity to provide young people with unforgettable and enriching experiences is a big part of that, so we asked some teachers to tell us about their most exciting teaching experiences.
We started by talking to Fiona, Head of Sixth Form at an Essex school, who leads World Challenge trips every summer. She told us it’s a privilege to be able to broaden students’ horizons and give them unforgettable, empowering experiences. Students and staff have enjoyed horse riding over the Mongolian Steppe, sleeping the night in a Bolivian salt hotel on the Uyuni Salt Flats and zip wiring across the forest canopy in Swaziland. Most importantly though, they have learnt to use their initiative, to be independent and resilient, and have had their eyes opened to the wider world beyond the classroom that is just waiting to be discovered.
Dan, who is Head of History at a comprehensive in South Essex, agrees with her. He told us that when he came to teach in Essex travel opportunities were the last things on his mind, but he now travels abroad every year. For Dan, it’s the opportunity to enrich students’ understanding of the curriculum that makes the undoubted effort of organising extra-curricular trips worthwhile. ‘You cannot underestimate the importance of our annual trip to the WW1 battlefields in Ypres’, he tells us. ‘It is a long and tiring day but always made worthwhile by the student’s reaction to the Menin Gate or Tyne Cot cemetery. The A-level History and Politics trip to Washington DC also has a massive impact on the students. Seeing how they react to seeing the White House or standing in the very spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from which Martin Luther King delivered his iconic ‘I have a dream speech suddenly makes all the jet lag disappear. It can be a genuinely emotional experience when a student reveals that the trip is the first time they have ever been abroad and you begin to understand just how important these opportunities are for them.
Essex languages teacher Christine, who recently organised a trip to Beijing for students, completely agrees. She says: ‘Teaching is an exciting job, though it can also be a challenging one. Bringing in a week in Beijing at the budget so all our students could afford it was a real challenge, but it was worth it to give the students such a life-changing experience. Don’t forget standing on the Great Wall of China and the long-term friendships students developed with their Chinese partners have been invaluable in supporting classroom learning.
Pauline, who teaches in Essex and leads the annual trip to Normandy, concurs. The opportunity for students to engage not only with French culture but also with British history when visiting the Bayeux Tapestry or the D-Day landing beaches broadens their outlook and gives their language lessons renewed focus. Hospitality and Catering teachers also accompany the trip which gives students an invaluable opportunity to visit markets, artisan cheese makers and chocolatiers, and to experience bread-making as well as the full day at a French cookery school. It is so worthwhile, say the staff, as students really come back inspired.
For Patrick, it’s the opportunity to help students develop their self-confidence and learn new skills that is the motivation. Having never skied before, he was asked as a newly qualified teacher to join a school trip to Kitzbuhel. After what he describes as: ‘an exhilarating and exhausting week, but also one of the most intense and rewarding I had ever spent, he has since spent every February half-term: ‘enjoying that uniquely rewarding experience of teaching students a new lifelong skill in the beautiful mountain scenery.
We’d love to hear about your adventures in teaching, and we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have if you’re considering entering teacher training. Contact Christine at [email protected] to join the conversation.