Case study

Primary school teacher — Olivia Schwartz

After studying the Primary Education (ITE) course at UWE Bristol Olivia is now a year two primary school teacher covering maternity leave

Why did you decide on a career in teaching?

Mostly because I enjoyed school so much and really bonded with my teacher and I felt like that relationship affected my learning. I would like to have that same kind of relationship and have the ability to encourage the children to do well.

How did you get your job as a primary school teacher?

I got a supply role at the school through Protocol Education and then heard about the year two maternity cover job

I applied through ETeach and then after a week I was invited for an interview. I had to teach a 30-minute lesson followed by an interview with the teacher, the deputy head teacher and the governor that covered areas such as safeguarding.

As I already knew the school I heard back within one hour that I had been successful and then I started two weeks later.

What qualities are important for a career in teaching?

  • Patience - I have about ten kids that queue around my desk every day, considering I've told them not to queue at the desk and it still happens.
  • Be strict - This is not about being mean or shouting all the time but setting boundaries to keep their behaviour in control.
  • Sense of humour - The children really bounce off that and you build a good rapport with them.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

Definitely seeing them understand an objective within a lesson. We've been doing division for the last couple of weeks and it's been really hard for them to understand. Then in one lesson we put everything together and it just clicked and everybody is getting it.

It's also nice to see the relationships they build with you. I had one child tell me they wish I were their mum, which was really nice. Things like that do brighten up your day especially when you’ve had a really good day with your class and they've been absolutely lovely and completed all of their work.

What are the challenges?

The planning, especially in this school because there's no previous planning and everything is fresh and new, as we’ve changed over schemes to White Rose and Rosenshine. This complete overhaul of our maths scheme has been a lot to suddenly take over.

The job is also much more than Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm. I stay here most days until 5.30pm and I come in at 7am every morning because I have loads to do. I probably spend at least one day at the weekend doing work. So that is very challenging and it does feel like you really have to find that balance between your social life and your work life.

That is one thing I would say to anybody, whoever enters this profession is that it's a lot to handle.

Teaching is a demanding profession. How do you strike a work/life balance?

Sometimes you can't. Sometimes it literally takes over. For example I have stayed up until 1am some nights doing work leaving me really tired the next day.

You sometimes have to let it give; some days you feel you should stay and do marking, but then you think, actually I'm going to leave it for the next day. Yes that means double the work the next day, but it also means I get to go home and have an evening to myself or I can go swimming, go to the gym, go out for food or do something that's not work related.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to work in a school with more than one form so I have got other teachers that I can use and we can bounce off for planning.

I would love to become a curriculum lead on something. My specialism was art, so I wouldn't mind doing something like that. Definitely just move up the ladder but stay in the career that I'm in, just gain more experience.

What three issues are facing the teaching sector?

  • Lack of funding - We struggle to get equipment and resources that we really need. It also means we don’t have as many staff as we require, particularly in my class where I don't have a teaching assistant and also have children that need one-on-one support.
  • COVID-19 - This created the biggest gap you'll ever see in learning. The children across the whole key stage are extremely behind and the work's not where it should be. They're not going to be ready for their SATs exams.
  • The push for SATs - We've done practice tests and some of them are scoring zero to four out of 25-35. And it's ridiculous that they're even being pressured to do SATs this year when half of them have missed all the content.

What advice would you give to other aspiring primary school teachers?

  • Find a work/life balance as I think if I didn't have that, I would struggle a lot more.
  • Rely on others as much as possible as making those friendships with other teachers, teaching assistants and admin staff is key.
  • Build a good rapport with the kids so they feel they can come and talk to you about anything.
  • Don't get too stressed and have that day off from what you should be doing so you don't burn out.

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