For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a teacher (bar the few years I thought I could make it as a ballerina.) However, it took me until the age of 16 to admit this fact. Teaching is surely one of the noblest professions, with the desire and ability to pass on knowledge long being romanticised in literature and popular culture demonstrating the vast importance of the profession, which more practically leads to good job security and a perfectly adequate salary. So why did I feel like I was letting people down by wanting to be a teacher?
Perhaps it’s down to my family. Both my parents are doctors and people always assumed I would follow in their footsteps; a career considered the epitome of noble professions. Maybe a part of me thought that people were right, and I should become a doctor, although this would probably be impractical due to my disgust at wounds bigger than a papercut. Or maybe it was the fact my grandmother had no choice but to become a teacher, just because of her gender , when she would have much preferred to be an engineer. She still can’t understand why I want to be a teacher when I could choose to be anything I want. Or maybe it was the fact the I was noticeably painfully shy and awkward when I was younger, and I was worried people would think I would be a useless teacher. It was possibly all of these things, but me when I started to experience teaching and leading, be it in a Girl Guide pack or teaching a year one student to read, it became obvious that I was good at it, I was confident, and I loved it. I knew then that I couldn’t do anything else and I should probably start confessing my long-held secret.
The subject I want to teach has changed through the years from English to Maths to History, before finally settling on Biology. However, when it came to university I found another barrier to expressing my desire to teach. Academics. From being advised not to mention teaching in my Cambridge interview because “some academics think it would be a waste of a place”, to being frightened to confess my career choice to my (admittedly slightly scary) first year director of studies . Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon in many Oxbridge students and in my first year this was exacerbated by the feeling I was taking the place of someone more deserving who wanted to be a real scientist, like the countless people who told me their dream was to win a Nobel prize, normally within the first minute of a conversation . When I finally mustered the courage to tell the truth I then had to endure (in the loosest sense of the word) the constant comments about how I was surely wasting my time doing such an intensive course. I could have done a course with Saturdays off and still got a job.
However, I think that all of this is missing the point. A teacher without a passion for their subject is unlikely to evoke a passion for it in any of their students. Everyone can remember the passionate teachers who loved their subject and showed it. It was one such teacher who stirred my love for biology, it hardly matters that he was retired and my grandfather. For me the ability to pass on the desire to know how life works is one of my main motivations for becoming a biology teacher. I’m not naïve, I know most students will learn biology because they have to, but to just inspire one person would be enough. After all, behind every Nobel Prize winner is a teacher that lit the flame.
In the last few years I’ve moved on considerably and I’m now obnoxiously proud of wanting to be a teacher, normally mentioning it within 5 minutes of talking to someone new. In the past I might have felt like I should want to do something else, but now I’m a year away from starting to fulfil my dream and that’s good enough for me.