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A chance to cherish our region's teachers

By Heather Large | Walsall | Education | Published:

It's a profession that sometimes gets a bad rap, often associated with long hours, high stress and poor pay.

Today marks a worldwide celebration of those who heard the call to teach

But for those who relish the challenges, teaching can be an incredible rewarding and full-filling job.

Many of us will remember a teacher from our school days who stood out either for their memorable lessons and teaching style or for the support they may have given during a difficult time.

Teachers say they enjoy helping to make a difference to children's lives and sharing their passion for their favourite subjects.

They also like offering guidance and support to help pupils fulfil their potential and take great joy in seeing them succeed.

Although a career in education is not without its challenges, for many who enter the profession, these are usually far outweighed by the benefits teaching can bring.

And today the hard work of teachers is being recognised around the globe with World Teachers' Day - a UNESCO initiative celebrated in more than 200 countries, which aims to highlight the contribution teachers make to society.

In the UK the Government is also working to encourage more graduates into the profession following a decline in numbers recently years.

Latest figures showed there were 451,900 full time equivalent teachers working in English state schools in 2018,compared with 457,000 in 2016.

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As part of the recruitment drive, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently announced plans to increase starting salaries for teachers, saying: "I want the best talent to be drawn to the teaching profession and for schools to compete with biggest employers in the labour market and recruit the brightest and the best into teaching."

I can’t think of a job I’d rather do

Katie Dowen, 47, from Aldridge teaches at Hydesville Tower School in Walsall

Katie Down at Hydesville Tower School in Walsall

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“I feel a bit like a football manager at times – you have to learn how to get the best out of the children” says reception class teacher Katie Dowen.

She relishes the opportunity to help youngsters settle into their first lessons at Hydesville Tower School in Walsall.

Katie, who is also the school’s Early Years Foundation Stage coordinator, qualified five years ago having previously been a parent helper and a teaching assistant.

As her two sons got older, the 47-year-old from Aldridge decided to return to her own studies to earn her PGCE and hasn’t looked back since.

“I can teach children to read and write – I never get bored of that. It’s quite thrilling and a great responsibility. At this age they are like a sponge and make massive progress.

“I like the challenges and working with parents to solve any problems. It’s nice to learn about the children’s different characters. You have to think on your feet. I like the level of commitment it takes to get real progress.

“It’s a challenging job and it takes a lot of energy. You have to be very organised and be able to work under pressure.

“If you want a child to do their best you need to know their next steps and be able to take them there. Being well organised is key. You have to dedicated and be prepared to work long hours as you can be working around the clock,” says Katie.

“I can’t think of another job I’d rather do. You’ve got to be committed. If you didn’t enjoy it, you wouldn’t last,” she adds.

It’s very much a lifestyle choice but it’s a great one

Joe greaves, 37, from Sedgley teaches at Joseph Leckie Academy in Walsall

Joe Graves at Joseph Leckie Academy in Walsall

Joe Greaves’ parents tried to discourage him from following in their footsteps by becoming a teacher to no avail.

But the head of history at Joseph Leckie Academy has no regrets about joining the profession and says he enjoys “making a difference” to young lives.

He is also head of sixth form at the school where he has worked for the past 15 years.

“Every day is different. It’s absolutely never boring. Kids come out with the most wonderful things and the most ridiculous things.

“You genuinely feel that you are making a difference whether that’s delivering my subject and the joy of young people being inspired by my subject like I have always been or dealing with a pastoral issue and helping that person with their life,” says the 37-year-old from Sedgley.

Like any job, it does bring its challenges which Joe says include “knowing when to switch off”.

“I’m head of sixth form and I feel like they’re my own children. Often I take their problems home with me,” he adds.

Finding enough time to fit all of his duties in can also be a struggle.

“You never have enough hours in the day. You have admin work which you can’t do when you’re teaching – you want your teaching to be the priority,” Joe explains.

He says he would “absolutely” recommend teaching and believes everyone has the ability to become a teacher.

“Lots of people can teach. Teaching is not just a long-term vocation, it’s something people can contribute to in the short-term like people coming out of industry or politics and sharing their experience – that’s what gives young people new horizons,” explains Joe.

He says anyone wanting to teach has to accept that it will mean putting in extra hours outside of the school day but he believes the rewards are more than worth it.

“People say that teachers work 9-3 and have six weeks off in the summer and yes that’s true but I work 9-3 and I’m always here until 6pm. I take work home at weekends and work in the holidays. When you are a teacher, you are committing to the lifestyle. It’s very much a lifestyle choice but it’s a great one. You have a family beyond home. The school – the staff and the children – become your family,” he says.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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