Diversity amongst teachers is key to cultivating future generations of confident, well-adjusted and passionate learners; all children need role models who inspire them. Ark Teacher Training brings you the story of Harvey Aspeling-Jones, who gave his career a shake-up by enrolling in the programme and becoming a trainee science teacher. Ark's Campus Ambassador for University of Oxford, Beth chats with Harvey about the paths he took and where he is today.
How did you get into teaching?
I studied Biochemistry at Oxford, and graduated in 2009. After I left, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so went into random jobs. I worked for two years as a project manager but after a while I decided I wanted to use my degree to do something worthwhile rather than just working for money. Originally, I went down the research route and studied a masters and PhD at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I realised that I enjoyed the teaching aspect of academia more than anything else so thought teaching was a sensible route. I researched School Direct teacher training programmes and came across Ark Teacher Training. Now I am training to be a science teacher at Ark Globe Academy in Elephant and Castle, south London.
What is the biggest myth people have about teaching which you want to challenge?
People don’t realise the amount of skill that goes into teaching, and how much a teacher is doing. What you see when you step behind the curtain is just how much work the teacher is doing to make sure that all the students are engaged, they all understand what is being taught and that they’re really starting to develop a deeper understanding. There is a lot of manipulation going on that you don’t realise until you’re doing it. When the teacher is stood in front of the class, the student assumes he is just talking but it is a much more interactive process. If it was easy, why bother with teacher training?
Do you find living in London on a ‘teacher’s salary’ sufficient?
I didn’t go into teaching for money – I don’t think anyone does – but I’m not struggling. I feel like I am getting a good deal given the amount of teaching I do and the amount of training I get and the fact that my school are paying for my training. I never feel like I’m not getting paid enough.
What attracted you to Ark Teacher Training?
Ark offered more than any other training programmes that I looked at. It was clear that Ark had an established programme with a clear structure of what your training year would look like.
But it was more than just the stats on the amount of training I was going to get, (which are great by the way!), it was also the ethos behind Ark. I was attracted to Ark’s sense of purpose around tackling education inequality by providing a high quality of education to young people who were previously missing out on that, and giving them the opportunities they wouldn’t normally have. It’s nice that at my school there is a real sense of everyone being there for the same reason.
I also like that there is a positive openness in the staff room and a good level of understanding about the strains of teaching in these conditions. Our senior leaders do a great job of recognising both the emotional and time demands on teaching in this context. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to lie or cover up how I’m feeling, if I’m struggling or need extra support.
What was the biggest shock when you started teaching? Was it more challenging than you realised?
I knew it was going to be hard – everyone told me it was going to be hard – but teaching anywhere is a tough job. I did find dealing with challenging behaviour trickier than I thought I would though. Every class will start testing the boundaries after a while and it can be quite difficult and demoralising at times, but the support from my school and Ark Teacher Training means that at no point have I felt like people have been criticising me for the behaviour that happens in my classroom. Expectations are set at the right level for the trainees – you’re never made to feel like you’re failing if behaviour disrupts your lesson.
What would you say to people who are thinking about a career in teaching but aren’t sure?
I have done a number of things, but this has been by far the most rewarding. Even if I have a day of classes which feel to me like a complete disaster, when I get it right and you can see that kids are grasping something important – it’s a great feeling and I don’t know where else you would get that. To anyone thinking about it as a career, get yourself into a school, talk to teachers, observe what they’re doing, see it from the other side of the curtain, it’s very different than it is sometimes portrayed.
Inspired by Harvey’s career change? Find out how you can follow his footsteps with Ark Teacher Training.