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Marie - history teacher
Name: Marie
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: H.E. lecturer; secondary school teacher
Year of graduation: 2004
Date of Interview: 12/06/2008

Now Playing: Marie - history teacher
Marie describes her work and life as a teacher at a well-known boarding school.

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Where do you currently work?

I currently work at a very well known boarding school in London, a secondary school from 13-18, an independent school.

And what's your role there?

I'm a history teacher and I coach a variety of sports.

How long have you been working in that particular position?

In the current job, this is my first year, just coming to the end of my first year and then in teaching I was at another school in Reading for two years before the current job.

Can you tell me in some detail what your job involves on a day to day basis?

Yeah on a day to day basis it involves teaching all aspects of history to a range of boys, at the moment between the ages of 13 and 18. Obviously teaching them, marking, lots of marking, getting them ready for exams. But then as much as you do that, I also spend almost the same amount of time coaching them in sport – be it football, tennis, cross country, Duke of Edinburgh, that sort of stuff. In terms of the topics, obviously different topics because I teach A level, so that involves more specialist stuff that I'm interested in.  But I've taught all sorts of topic, stuff that I've never done in my life, so it does involve a wide range of things. Oh and sorry, on top of that as it's a boarding school, I also do duty in a house one night a week. I'll go up to a particular boarding house and go round and see my tutees and just see that the boarding house is fine and no-one is wrecking the place.

Are you quite tied to the school in your free time?

Yeah, it is because the school provides accommodation so you kind of do feel that you're on site quite a lot but all the same there's no registrational stuff so you do your lessons and then the rest of your time is free time and of course you get really long holidays which is a huge bonus and attraction.

How is your week structured?

Monday to Saturday we teach Saturday mornings, do sport Saturday afternoons. Um lessons obviously in the day, Monday to Friday, sports Tuesday afternoons and Thursday afternoons and then it is quite a big tie because you end up marking till about eight or nine O'clock at night, so I do about 12 hour days at the moment, that should get better by my second year though.

Are there a lot of meetings and admin?

Um, it's not too bad at this particular school, it's not so bad but there's lots of report writing, like twice a term you have to write about 40 reports on different boys so its quite hard in that sense, but not in terms of registrations, they don't do registrations here, it's all done in the houses so that's quite easy, so it could be much worse. It's a really big commitment in terms of time because obviously the boys are here twenty-four-seven and someone's got to look after them at some point and it's a six day week – you don't finish 'til Saturday at 8 o'clock, at the same time I'd say a big advantage over, well, a state school is that the particular school I'm at, the boys are bright but also if you form relationships with them outside of the classroom it makes it so much more rewarding both inside and outside the classroom, so I would go to a boarding school for those reasons and most boarding schools do offer free housing which is also obviously, you know, another 10-12,000 pounds a year.

Can you tell me what your physical work environment is like and what the working culture is like?

Um people work exceptionally hard at this school and it is quite competitive, quite a lot of Oxbridge people who come and teach here. Well this school is fantastically equipped; they've got smart boards in most classrooms, there's beautiful historic buildings, in term of sporting facilities they've got a full athletics 400m running track, they've got an artificial football pitch, they've got two Astroturfs, they've got, 20 tennis courts. The facilities are second to none as is the accommodation they provide. The physical environment – you couldn't actually find a nicer place to work in those terms.

Do you have your own classroom?

Yup I have my own classroom; it's a bit small because I'm the most junior member you get the worst classroom, it is a bit small but it's part of quite a well known historic famous building which has been used in Harry Potter and stuff, so I mean the culture there is fantastic in history.

And how big is your department?

Um department's got six members in the department, one or two members are part-time so it's a medium sized department I suppose.

And in terms of the working culture amongst your colleagues?

There's not many females at this school; because it's a boys school it's very dominated by men and that can be a barrier and on the whole it's fine, there are some other older teachers who you kind of get the impression that they're a bit sexist, but on the whole very supportive and people are fine even though I'm not from Oxbridge, well this is where the PhD came in. I think that certainly helped in kind of gaining respect amongst peers as well as amongst the boys themselves.

What are the best things about your job?

This one current one? Um just because it combines everything that I love; my two main loves in life are history, which I get to you know do all the reading, buy any books I want, so just carry on doing what I was doing with the PhD without the stress um plus the sport which means that I can coach it to a good standard now and I've also got all the facilities because I still play where I can train and do exactly what I want, plus the long holidays.

And what might be the drawbacks?

Um, I can't think of any horrific drawbacks; I mean there are some of my friends who have PhD's who've gone on to extremely well paid jobs in the city so I suppose if anything you could talk about finance um but in saying I'm quite happy with the amount of money I get and the lifestyle I lead so I don't think there's any. I suppose the only drawback is you do have to work hard in term-time and, you know, I don't get Saturdays off, I do work weekends which is quite intense.

Are there any particular challenges in the school you work in? 

Yes because I think they don't suffer fools, the boys I teach are quite intelligent, they don't suffer fools gladly so you do have to make sure that they're confident that you know what you're talking about, that you do know your subject inside out, and that's a challenge especially when you get some of the brightest kids perhaps in the country challenging and asking you questions, I mean some of the questions I get asked are well beyond those I got at university so it is challenging in that sense.

Do many of your colleagues have PhDs? 

Um in the school I'm in now, quite a few do; I'd say there's 80 staff, I'd say about 15 do, the last school I was in I'd say about three people.

And would most have PGCES?

At the school I'm at, it's quite an old generation still here and hardly any of them have PGCEs but the new ones that are coming in, you see more people coming in with PGCEs or doing QTS which is qualified teaching status. Things are changing, private schools kind of looked for the PhD before the PGCE always, I think that's changing now, I think the emphasis is on – you should have a least a PGCE. So I think that has started to change. Still, saying that, the school I'm in now has employed someone who has just done a PhD and they don't mind that he has no teaching experience at all.

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