Did you always want to be a teacher? It was not a clear trajectory for me, though my secondary school work experience placements were in a specialist provision. I was the first in my family to go to university and being unsure of what my career aspirations were, I opted to study Sociology before embarking on my PGCE. As is the case with all new teachers, the learning continued ‘on the job’ in my NQT year but I had a thirst for more. That’s when I took the plunge and started my first Inclusion Manager role and another period of study, this time for the National Award for SEN Coordination. I knew two things at this early point in my career: I wanted to make a difference for children with additional needs and I wanted to continue learning.
Working with Educational Psychologists was a fascinating part of my job, and one EP, in particular, sparked my interest in the career in my first year of being an Inclusion Manager. I worked with her briefly again recently, a decade on, and told her that she’d inspired me. My only Psychology qualification was a poor A-Level grade (I sadly didn’t have the same love of learning when in school!) so I knew I needed to do a conversion course but it had never been the right time in the ten years since developing an interest in Educational Psychology. When the first COVID lockdown hit in March last year, it gave me an opportunity to reflect on what ‘the right time’ would look like or if it actually existed. That’s when the research into courses and finance options became serious because let’s be honest, there’s no time like the present to follow a goal.
I needed flexibility in order to manage study alongside my part-time job as a primary Assistant Head/SENCO, and secured a place on a fully online Psychology Masters with the University of Derby. I applied for funding through the Student Loans Company and it was all fairly straightforward, meaning that finance wasn’t an obstacle either. I started the three year course in September 2020 so it’s the start of a long journey but it has been brilliant to challenge myself and I am enjoying the content of the modules; even the statistics! The pride I felt gaining a Distinction for my first module was the push I needed to keep focused when things were tough to juggle.
Though my course isn’t related to my work in school, it has had an impact on my practice and conversations with colleagues and outside agencies. Anything that broadens our perspectives as educators can only have a positive impact on the children, staff, and communities connected to our settings. I’ve also had to develop a smarter work attitude in order to commit to the recommended study time and weekly activities, as well as juggling family life.
If you’re thinking of embarking on Postgraduate study, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Keep the goal in mind when things get tough, as it is a challenge to learn anything new when life is already busy. For me, the stepping stones are the feedback received from submitted pieces and the coursework grades. The end goal that I visualise is my children seeing me graduate, and I hope that this will teach them that lifelong learning is a positive thing and a fantastic opportunity for personal growth.