A day in the life: Secondary school teaching with Now Teach
After 18 years as a diplomat, Lynda Burns swapped her life of international crisis planning for the classroom. She now teaches Spanish with Now Teach.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
Now Teach offers a path into teaching, tailored for later career changes. When I saw the advert it sounded ideal for me. As a diplomat, I travelled the world and worked with all kinds of people. For the last 9 months everything I’ve learned has been put to the test teaching teenagers at my local academy.
Lynda giving a keynote speech at an international banking event in Cyprus
What's your working week like?
I teach three days and attend training for half a day each week. I’ve swapped the London commute for a 20-minute drive. I’m up at 6.30am and out by 7.15am, beating the traffic and leaving my husband to wake the children and get them to school.
When does the working day begin?
At 7.45am I set up my classroom and prepare everything for the whole day, which begins at 8.20am when the bell rings and the students arrive at my door. A teacher’s day is pretty intense – all my classes are doubles, so 100 minutes long – and it takes all my energy and communication skills to keep 30 teenagers motivated.
I teach Spanish, which lends itself to engaging lessons. I use songs, videos and games whenever I can, and the highlight of my first term was a room full of Year 8s dancing and singing to Despacito! Once a week I am on morning break duty in the playground – a great chance to talk to the students out of lessons and find out more about them.
Do you get breaks?
I need to be super-organised as we have a very short morning break at 10.35am, and 35 minutes for lunch, which can easily disappear setting up or tidying for the next class. My diplomatic career and being a parent have both helped me to be prepared for anything.
Lunch is at 12.40pm and my colleagues bring healthy and exotic home-made lunches – the staff-room smells amazing! I look regretfully at my boring sandwich – but the conversation with my colleagues makes up for it.
What are your afternoons like?
Afternoon lessons run from 1.20pm to 3pm. I find this the 100-minutes when the students have least energy, so I need to redouble my efforts to keep them learning. Sometimes I will throw in a quiz about Latin America, or a video about the running of the bulls, to keep their questions flowing.
At 3pm, unless we have training or have put someone in detention, we are free to go. I choose to stay until 5pm, and do all my marking, lesson-planning and other tasks at school. I’ve never taken work home and can completely switch off and focus on my own two children.
How does family life fit in?
I collect my kids from primary school at 5.30pm and they tell me all about their day, after-school sports and what they ate for tea. By the time we get home they have recharged so, after a quick dinner with my husband, it’s active family time. Trampolining in the garden is the current favourite, or Rounders in the park.
I’m ready for bed by about 9, but convincing my kids is a challenge! Usually we will all read in bed together, and the whole family is always asleep by 10.
Lynda ensures she maintains a strong work/family balance – and good general balance!
Challenges of being a Now Teacher
Teaching is a challenging career. No two hours are the same and things can change in an instant. You need to be resilient, ready for anything and able to adapt and put the students first.
I learned early to reset my assumptions each week – the student sent out of my last lesson might do some great work today, so I must renew my faith in him or her.
Likewise, the keen student might have a bad day and need more of my attention. The holidays and work day can seem family-friendly, but you have less autonomy over your time; this will be the first year I can’t take time off for my children’s sports day.
What do you love about your job?
I love teaching Spanish and giving students a broader, international perspective on the world. I also see in real-time every day how I can make a difference to children’s lives. One of my students, who passed a mock GCSE paper we set, called me back twice to check his score as he didn’t believe he had passed. Another, who struggles with writing, can roll his Rs like a true Spaniard – I always ask him to stand up and model words like “arriba” and that is his moment to shine in front of his peers.
The moments when a child gains confidence, is proud of an achievement, or asks a great question, are priceless building blocks in their lives and I feel lucky to help them on their journey.