Spartacus Marlow is a GTCS-registered primary teacher with 18 years’ teaching experience and a degree-level qualification in their chosen subject, who is being supported by their Local Authority to gain registration in an additional sector.

Further information is available on the GTCS website.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Readers of previous editions of the SEJ will remember that, with the support of my employer, I have undertaken the task to gain GTCS registration in an additional sector. I can hardly believe that it is now May and I am almost at the end of an academic year working as a teacher in the secondary sector.

Like many probationers I will soon be celebrating my achievement of gaining registration with the GTCS as a secondary teacher (of English). It has been a year which has brought many challenges and it has certainly been hard work, but without a doubt, it has been one of the best experiences of my life.

There are a number of factors that have made this new teaching year such a wonderful and worthwhile experience for me. The first is undoubtedly the interaction with secondary aged pupils and the opportunity to see them grow in confidence and ability, to see them flourish and to witness them achieving positive outcomes.

Without question, the same opportunities arise in the primary sector; the difference for me is in witnessing first-hand how secondary pupils show their ability and willingness to voice their thoughts, share their feelings, and respond to the teacher on a level which perhaps only comes with the maturity of older pupils.

The second aspect which has made this experience so enjoyable and valuable for me is my colleagues in my department and across the school as a whole.

“No one is self-sufficient. And it’s not a one-way thing – generosity of spirit from one side provokes a response in kind from the other side.” – Desmond Tutu

I have been fortunate in coming across a group of colleagues who are generous beyond belief: generous with their time, generous with resources and generous with advice. There is a striking degree of camaraderie in departments within a secondary school, perhaps borne out from the knowledge that supporting each other is vital in order to cope with the various pressure points that arise relentlessly throughout the year: tracking and reporting deadlines; final submission dates for written reports; parents’ night consultations; assessments; timed assessments which potentially form evidence for SQA appeals; folio work and of course preparing pupils for their National Qualification exams.

Excessive workload has the potential to cause strife and adversely affect colleagues’ wellbeing but the camaraderie that I have found in such evidence within the secondary sector – which has been so amazing to see and quite wonderful to be included in – has helped tremendously in dealing with the extremes of stress and constraints of time and workload with which we grapple. It is a testament to colleagues’ dedication and resilience that I have found that we consistently encourage and assist each other when the stress we are experiencing is almost tangible.

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Lastly, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention the third facet that has made this year such a positive and happy experience for me, and that is the support of management that I have received, in particular the PT of my department. Having worked all my adult life – almost 30 years – in schools and other environments, I believe I have encountered almost every style of management there is: from the laid-back and hands-off; to those who are more autocratic and authoritative; and indeed, everything in between!

Imagine then, if you will, a line manager who has been, without exception, cheerful, approachable, helpful, supportive and practical; who is always willing to give their time and advice; who has been thoughtful enough to consider my mental and physical wellbeing throughout the year in a sincere and genuine way; and who has provided a safe space in which I have been encouraged to grow, innovate and yes, sometimes falter and fail, but with the knowledge that I will learn something useful from the experience. It is my sincere wish that at some point in their career everybody has the good fortune to be mentored by someone as equally kind and competent as my PT.

“Today is your day. /You’re off to Great Places! /You’re off and away! /You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” -Dr Seuss

So, in some ways whilst this feels like the end of a journey, the truth, of course, is that I am just at the beginning of an even more exciting adventure – that of putting my new qualification to good use teaching in the secondary sector, my re-training from a primary to a secondary school teacher now complete.

The thought of this is both daunting and exciting. I am aware of how much more I have to learn and that many skills can only be honed with experience. Yet I am buoyed to be teaching in Scotland, because I believe that Scotland’s teachers are amongst the best in the world, second to none in their dedication to the profession, and determined to do their very best for Scotland’s children and young people.

I look forward to turning the page and writing the next exciting chapter of this story, which is, of course, as yet unknown.