Believe it or not, teaching has been a funny thing for me. I come from a family of secondary school teachers, and as a child I always wanted to be a geography teacher. I spent loads of time getting work experience at schools, as a cub, scout, and venture scout leader, and of course, bossing all my friends around!
At the age of 20 I got a place at Charlotte Mason College in the beautiful Lake District to study for a BSc Hons (QTS) in Primary Education and Environmental Science and Outdoor Studies. But it wasn’t meant to be, as my college failed its OFSTED inspection and my teachers didn’t get contracts renewed, and I was very nervous about spending so much money on tuition, only to find my degree was worthless, so I made the hard choice to leave.
But the fates smiled on me, and at the same time, I landed my ultimate job (the one which I was attending college to get everything I needed to apply for it!). As an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor with the Bendrigg Trust, an Outdoor Education Centre specialising in outdoor education and personal development courses for young people who were disabled or disadvantaged. Taking people in wheelchairs climbing, abseiling, caving, and doing all sorts of things that people thought they would never have the chance to do.
Bendrigg Trust was the making of me, and really helped me to overcome my troubled teenage years, working with the most amazing staff and young people, and learning all sorts of new things. I started a degree in Psychology with the Open University and became interested in Mountain Rescue, and acquired brain injuries. This took me into developmental and later, forensic Neuropsychology, and then into Medicine, and specialising further in diving and space medicine.
After some 17 years with the NHS and after the death of my grandfather, I took some time out to visit Georgia to teach English to children in Public Schools, and suddenly remembered everything I had loved about teaching. Only this time, with the advantage of a few more years and a lot more confidence under my belt!
The children in Georgia were a totally different kettle of fish than I was used to. Hard to control and very loud and free range, lighting fires in class, shouting out all the time, and none of them having even a pen to write with. School had no electricity, lights, heating, and school was a significant health trap. But I loved it, and the kids had this really raw kind of enthusiasm and energy about them. They were eager to earn, they bought me sweets to every lesson, I arrived to hugs, and they made me cards and hearts, because they were just happy to have a native English speaker at their school.
They followed me home everyday, like I was the pied piper, and they would be really excited and nervous when meeting me in the street. It was the same when I came to the big city after my village school, only this time, the kids were tougher, and we had ‘mandatores’ (school police) in the corridors. I taught them English too, and over time I became great friends with my teachers and the students, to the point where I really missed them, and couldn’t wait to see them at school each day.
I found a creativity in me that I had long forgotten about, and suddenly I found myself being challenged to find them more and more activities to help with their learning. This is what I had loved at Charlotte Mason, and what had been missing all of this time!
Sadly, my school was closed, but I ended up landing my perfect job. In a private school, with electricity and white boards, and where children could afford to bring a pen and notebook to school. Suddenly, I was a geography teacher, but not just with young children, no. Now I had the best of all worlds, primary and secondary Geography. My own class, my own lessons, and based on the British Curriculum, teaching them about my country and about the English language too. Great!
I love being a Geography teacher, especially in Georgia and I love getting to know my kids. Its a huge learning curve for me, challenging, fun, tiring, and sometimes difficult. I have the freedom to try new methods in my teaching practice, and my geography, and also have the support of my other teachers and superiors if I need it. I’m still learnng, and I have a long way to go. But I also know that already I have achieved so much, not just as a teacher, but also as a human being.
I love being around the kids. Seeing things from their perspective, and trying to come up with keys to unlock their potential and to help me compromise on what is acceptable behaviour by both British and Georgian standards. But, I am still learning, and they are still enthusiastic, and that makes life sweet.
I would love to share my school stories with you, and I hope to share these with all other teachers and geographers around the world, if you would like to join me. You can follow others on their teaching journeys here in Georgia through the TLG blog: http://teachandlearnwithgeorgia.wordpress.com/ I am also a guest blogger for TLG: http://teachandlearnwithgeorgia.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/life-after-tlg/ and have been invited to blog for TEFL in England, Wales, and Scotland, more on that to come!!