Cosmocreole caught up with Jacqueline, a French teacher and Head of the Modern Language Department at a Comprehensive State school in the UK.
Jacqueline is married with a twenty-five-year-old daughter and she is originally from La Louise, Seychelles. She emigrated to the UK 18 years ago in search of a new life after experiencing a very personal setback. Jacqueline is a firm believer of “You are the creator of your own happiness, the author of your own life story and setback is just that-a setback.”
Let us start by talking about your job. I am currently teaching in a state secondary school in Romford, UK. My teaching career started in Seychelles and span over 26 years of which 18 of these years have been in the UK. I currently hold the post of Head of Languages and my role is to lead the French department of the school. My duties include overseeing the implementation of the school’s strategic policies and working towards developing and improving teaching and learning in the French department. I also manage the department’s budget and expenditures in addition to carrying out the professional duties of a teacher.
What qualifications do you have?
I hold a bachelor’s degree in education from UCL (University College London) Institute of Education. To support my subject specialism I have a diploma to teach French as a second language from the Université de Franche Compté in Besançon, France and Advanced Diploma in French from the Open University in the UK. I also hold a National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML). It is a qualification to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and behaviours that you need to be a middle leader in schools.
Describe a typical day at school for you?
During the week, a typical day is me getting up at half five to get ready for work. I usually leave my house very early as I like being at work early enough to start my day smoothly. I do not like the stress of being disorganised, as I consider myself a very meticulous person. Although I am Head of Department, I still teach, so I spend a lot of time during the day with my students in my classroom, which is the best part of my job. I normally leave school quite late because I prepare for the next day and also take the time to carry out my administrative HOD duties and of course, to mark books.
At the weekend, I enjoy cleaning my house on Saturdays; a habit I have acquired as a typical Seychellois and on Sundays, after having attended the church I take the day to relax. I enjoy catching up with what is going on TV or simply reading.
What are your greatest achievements both professionally and personally so far?
First and foremost, being a very humble woman coming from a small island, I was very proud of myself when I achieved the UK Qualified Teacher Status as a teacher in the UK, which enabled me to apply for any teaching job in any educational institutions of the UK. Being appointed as the Head of Modern Foreign Languages and being given the opportunity to lead what has been described as ‘an excellent language department’ is also another of my greatest achievements. Last but not least, when I was given the keys to my own home, the joy and pride I felt was a testament of my hard work so that is also a huge achievement for me. And of course, I feel fulfilled being married to a very supportive husband and having a great little family, I couldn’t do what I’m doing without the support of my husband and daughter.
What’s next for you in your personal life and career?
I would say that at the moment in time I am content with what I have achieved so far. I have a family that I love, a job that I enjoy and a home that I like coming to every day. Therefore, I will say that I feel that I have achieved what I wanted to at this point of my life. Leading a department in a UK school is giving me a lot of transferable leadership experience and skills and I am content with what I am doing at the moment. I am always being encouraged to aspire to be a senior leader in a school but at the moment this is on pause; it is a good feeling that others can recognise your drive and ability. I am currently working towards acquiring a master’s in Educational leadership and maybe after that I might have a change of heart and go for that senior position.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your career you now know?
As you know, teaching is one of the jobs where nothing is the same every day, due to its varied nature and always never knowing what to expect in a day, I love being a teacher in the classroom but however what I wish I had known at the start is just instructing and inspiring your learners in the classroom is not the endgame. You have to be prepared to be an administrator with extreme accountability, a social worker, counsellor and careers adviser and even a parent to the students in your care. If you want to be a great teacher, you cannot separate all this from being a classroom practitioner- this can sometimes take its toll on you and unless you are ready to do all of it, you will not have longevity in the teaching profession. We must never forget the stress that comes with the rapid changes and expectations in a teacher’s duty. Many teachers across the globe have just experienced such in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching had to quickly take another dimension and we had to rapidly become accustomed to new ways of teaching with advanced technology being at the heart of everything. Teaching from home has been a learning curve and a valuable experience. It has been stressful to keep everything going, away from our normal setting, however, it is an experience that I will never forget-no one saw this one coming. However challenging the profession is, I will never change my teaching career for anything else as long as I have the energy to continue. The rewards are always greater than the setbacks.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
A very difficult question to answer when you consider yourself happy and fulfilled in your everyday life. However, I would like to lead an outstanding language department with innovative practices to enhance teaching and improve the learning experience of the students studying a foreign language in my school.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a teacher?
Teaching is a very rewarding job but you need to have the patience of a saint and be prepared to work more and longer than in many other professions. Your work does not finish when you end the final lesson of the day. Under no circumstances, let the prospect of half term breaks and termly holidays be your motivation to aspire you to be a teacher. You have to be dedicated to the commitments entailed throughout an academic year, as the unpaid overtime is never-ending and it does not balance the holidays a teacher gets. Only sign up to the profession if you are willing to make a few sacrifices.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in life?
My mother is my greatest inspiration because she has been my role model in many ways especially when it comes to lessons in life. The fact that she has worked hard and succeeded in her very difficult life through hard work and determination has inspired me to do the same. The way she has overcome every obstacle in her life is commendable and a great example to follow. My mother has always encouraged me to be the best I can be and not settle for anything less and she has always supported me in all my endeavours when I was finding my feet as a young adult. Though my road in life has not been an easy one, she has always encouraged me to overcome my obstacles, be my own person and strive for my very own success and happiness.
Finally, happiness is…having everything you NEED in life. Feeling fulfilled, content and having the absolute peace of mind. I will end by saying that I consider myself a happy woman- my definition of happiness is being me with no apology.