Story/Interview September 19, 2019
With a love for English Literature and making a difference to young people’s lives, Julia became a teacher at King's InterHigh and has not looked back since. She teaches from Year 7 until Year 13.
"Teaching with King's InterHigh gives more time for what I love most about the job – teaching."
Why did you decide to go into teaching?
I’ve always had a passion for literature and writing. At school I was published a few times for stories about my sporting achievements and my disability. I went on to complete a degree at the University of Wales in English Literature, but after graduating I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I loved books!
During University, I set up a business selling clothes and jewellery. My partner and I set up shop at festivals after I left University. Sadly, my partner died the year after I graduated and I felt unable to continue with selling at festivals alone.
I went to the careers centre in the local library for some advice and I was encouraged by the careers advisor to look into teaching. I could do what I loved (read and write) and help others. I soon applied and was accepted onto a teacher training programme at Brighton University.
What is it that you love about teaching?
After qualifying, I taught as a teacher full-time. I could share my love of literature, be around young inquiring minds and make a difference to young people’s lives.
Teaching seemed the ideal career to continue with after I had children. I still had a passion for teaching, and I had the same holidays!
What was your teaching experience before joining King's InterHigh?
Whilst teaching at a bricks and mortar school, I increasingly found that the demands of the job were interfering with my own family time. I knew I had to make a change for my family, but the school I was working for at the time were limited as to what they could offer me to make it work.
What inspired you to make the change to teaching at an online school?
One of my colleagues from the PGCE course in Brighton told me about her new job working at an online school, with a more flexible approach to both teaching and learning. She encouraged me to apply.
I soon applied and began teaching at King’s InterHigh in 2015, I have never looked back.
How is teaching with King's InterHigh different to teaching at a bricks and mortar school?
No more sending my own children out to early breakfast clubs and late after school clubs, or my guide dog, Esme, having to be tied to a desk as now I teach from home. Plus, there are barely any issues with behaviour and no issues with uniform! Teaching with King’s InterHigh gives me more time for what I love most about the job – teaching.
I can build up closer relationships with students, which did initially surprise me. You can private message a student in the middle of class to clarify misconceptions or if something doesn’t seem right with them. Students feel able to email you about homework concerns – something that rarely happened in mainstream schooling.
Online notebooks are used so I can see what students are doing in real-time, or students have the option to handwrite their notes and send in a picture of their notebook at the end of the lesson. I have a visual impairment so this really works for me as I can enlarge anything on my screen. I can see much more of my students’ work during the lesson than I could in a bricks and mortar classroom.
How does the King's InterHigh online platform enrich lessons for both you and the students?
Using the online platforms, polls can be used and saved for future reference for any key teaching points – you are able to post a question in a poll and students can instantly answer and any misunderstandings can easily then be addressed.
Students can also work at varying paces far more easily than in mainstream school. If a student is falling behind, they can work at a slower pace and I can keep track through private message or notebook without holding up the rest of the class. Similarly, the more able students can access stretch and challenge tasks and again, I can advise through private message without impacting the rest of the class.
Feedback for homework is one of my favourite parts of a lesson; I love the reaction from students as they see their work displayed in the classroom within the slides, as well as being shared on the learning platform (only by prior agreement with the student of course!).
Ultimately, there is more time to do what I love doing – teaching.
Would you recommend King's InterHigh to students who are struggling in mainstream schooling?
My daughter started secondary school in 2018 and by Christmas of that year, she was struggling and was a shadow of her usual self. She felt like she was a ‘cog in a wheel’. She was also struggling with anxiety and self-worth, as well as being accepted. She also had struggles with some friendships, and I needed to do something – King’s InterHigh seemed the perfect solution.
She has just started Year 8 and is loving it even with having Mum as her English teacher!
How do King's InterHigh teachers encourage outdoor activity?
The school run an exercise class which my daughter enjoys; she also swims in the local swimming club and plays for the local netball team. She is about to start horse-riding.
By giving the students the ability to share the sports they do within the classroom and through the social networking platform, they inevitably encourage each other as well as make friends with those students with similar sporting/leisure interests.
As an online platform, do students miss out on the general rules that are generally put into place in a bricks and mortar school?
Students still have to pick up on the social aspects of learning in an online school.
They have to be respectful to each other in the public chat and wait to speak on the mic by putting their hand up. Students learn they can’t simply leave a classroom before the teacher has ended the class – it would be just like walking out of class whilst the teacher is still talking in a bricks and mortar school.
Students are encouraged and supported to learn the best way to communicate with other students and their teachers for the best learning experience.
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching?
I love attending poetry readings, plays and author talks and sharing these within the lessons. Most recently I took my own children to the Globe Theatre in London to watch ‘Romeo and Juliet’, as well as to a performance of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. The students enjoy hearing about these trips and seeing the photos! This often motivates them to see what is around their area.
Have you any proud sporting achievements or charity involvement?
I am a keen swimmer and used to swim internationally as a teenager – making it to the World Youth Games at the age of 14. Recently I raised money for Marie Curie by completing a 5KM swim – it was lovely that students sent me messages of encouragement and support and I know I inspired some of them!
What would you say to parents or students consider joining King's InterHigh?
I am relieved to have discovered King’s InterHigh when I did – not only for myself but for my daughter too. I would love for my other children to be able to attend in the future.