Herald reporter explores the hidden side of teaching

Nathan and Katherine Hollisey-McLean at Shoreham Beach Primary School S18044H12
Nathan and Katherine Hollisey-McLean at Shoreham Beach Primary School S18044H12

WHEN my husband, Nathan, decided to change careers and become a teacher, I couldn’t help feeling a bit envious.

If I’m being honest, I thought he was signing up for an easy ride and endless days off, leaving me to make do with my – in comparison – paltry five weeks of holiday each year. Why hadn’t I thought to do this?

But as soon as he began his one-year PGCE teacher training course at the University of Brighton, in September, 2010, it became abundantly clear the common ideas about teaching were complete myths.

I barely saw him for that year, because if he wasn’t in lessons, or on a work placement at a school, he was studying in the library.

And while he has been home just a little more since he started working at Shoreham Beach Primary School in Shingle Road, Shoreham Beach, teaching is definitely not the jolly I thought it might be.

Nathan, 32, said it was a common misconception.

“It does frustrate me that people assume I just finish at 3.30pm every day, and have loads of time off, but I think it’s just because they have no idea of the amount of work that goes into each day,” he said.

“Most teachers work 10-hour days and then do more planning in the evenings and at weekends.

“Even when you’re on holiday, or at home in the evening, it’s always on your mind. You’re planning ahead for the next day, the next week, and the next half-term, even.”

But for all the hard work, Nathan said he is really glad he made the move into the profession.

“The job is very challenging, but it also brings lots of rewards, which definitely make the challenges worthwhile,” he said. “It’s great to see the children progress throughout the year, and I can say I have a job I’m very proud of, which is what I wanted.”

On the morning I went into the school, Nathan’s year-one class started the day with a PE lesson.

When I heard they were to learn about ball control, I had visions of 30 children running around the room screaming while launching circular missiles at each other, but I’d forgotten the teacher’s job is to prevent exactly that.

Before the class was allowed to practise each skill – whether it was throwing and catching or kicking a ball – Nathan explained what they were to do, and asked questions to make sure they knew how to do it and why they were doing it.

Expectations were also given to make it clear each task should be carried out safely, and because of that, the lesson went very smoothly, and most importantly of all, the class loved it.

After break, it was story time and Nathan read Hansel and Gretel to the children.

They were completely engaged, and Nathan managed to fend off any excited calling out, while still making the story flow. After 10 minutes of discovery time – where children in the younger years are allowed a short break to play, write or draw – the class moved on to phonics where they were learning about words with an “oi” sound in them.

Each child had their own white board to write words onto, and if a mistake was made, Nathan made sure everybody understood why.

The morning flew by, and before I knew it, I was heading back to work.

Teaching had not been what I expected. I felt really tired and I hadn’t even been leading the class.

Until you observe a teacher at work in the classroom, I don’t think you can fully appreciate how you have to be totally focused at all times.

And until you live with one, I don’t think you will ever understand just how much planning is required to ensure a class of 30 five- and six-year-olds progress at the expected rate.

Going into the school was a great experience, and one which will definitely make me feel bad when I joke to Nathan about how his job is one big holiday in the future (but perhaps not enough for me to stop doing it – sorry, Nathan!).