Becoming a Masters Student made me a better Teacher

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By Rachel Sullivan (Doctoral Student)

As most students, after completing my PGCE and securing my first teaching post my focus was on ‘getting going’ with my career and settling into life in a new city. Moving from leafy Gloucestershire to working in a large comprehensive in West London was a bit of a culture shock which took me a while to get used to!

But once I had settled into my job role and new home, I began to look for new ways to challenge myself at work.  This included taking on extra responsibilities, leading whole school events and seeking opportunities for promotion but alongside this I took up the opportunity I had been given to continue studying for my Masters in Education. I ended up taking a break of a couple of years but finished my MA whilst working as a Lead Teacher in Teacher Education and leading on Girl’s PE in my department.

As many teachers will know, the term ‘work-life balance’ is one often grappled with when marking, fixtures, clubs and other school related tasks pile up (particularly if you have a pastoral role where anything can happen at any time!), so it took some organisation to find time to fit in my studies alongside work.  Choosing assignments and modules which fitted alongside my work and social commitments helped- this was before online learning was common so often included travel back to Gloucestershire for seminars or meetings. However just learning to manage this made it easier when I gained more responsibility at work and enabled me to balance the demands of a middle leadership role alongside classroom teaching, fixtures and clubs.

In addition to the time management skills I developed, studying alongside my teaching role gave me time to consider my practice and think about my teaching from different angles.  I have always enjoyed professional development courses as I feel they gave me time and space away from my normal daily routine to think about and evaluate my teaching practice. Studying gave me this experience but for far longer than a one-day course; module reading encouraged me to think about my pedagogy more deeply and from other perspectives as well as to consider where my practice and beliefs sat amongst the department and school as a whole. Giving me time to step back from the busy day to day life at school and really consider my philosophy and my career goals.

Looking back, completing my masters whilst working in school has helped me to develop as a teacher and enabled me to progress more quickly in my career.  I was able to immediately put into practice things I had learned form the course and was able to bring real world examples and critical thinking to discussions and assignment questions.  Despite having had a break from studying I found transitioning back into ‘student mode’ quite enjoyable and now the increase in technology available it is even easier to access resources and teaching online which would have saved me a lot of petrol money! I would highly recommend continuing study to both new and established teachers as it makes you a better teacher as well as offering a wider range of job opportunities in future.

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