A Mansfield woman has revealed how she took the brave step towards realising her dreams of becoming a teacher by enrolling to take ‘A’ Levels at West Notts College.
Twenty-six year-old Sally Clayton was working at a Michelin-star restaurant owned by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White as a floor manager in a high-pressured role which included training younger staff members and controlling a busy dinner service.
She said: “I had been incredibly lucky to secure the job.
“While I was working at a restaurant in Oldham, where I moved to aged 18, our head chef received a visit from his friend – who happened to be Marco Pierre White’s manager.
“He was impressed by my skills and I guess you could say I was head-hunted.
“I had already had seven years’ experience already in the industry and had been a successful manager in a number of highly-respected restaurants, so this was a dream role.”
Sally excelled in her new role, yet one evening after working a 17-hour shift, she began to wonder if this was something she could continue to do all her life.
“I wondered how much longer I could maintain this lifestyle.
“A few weeks later, I was at a party with some of my ex-classmates. The first question we all asked was, ‘What are you up to these days?’
“There was an engineer, a pharmaceutical scientist, a nurse, a GP, two bankers and a physics teacher.
“That was it - teaching. This was the inspiration I had been waiting for – I think this just planted the seed and immediately appealed to me.”
As a young girl Sally had showed mathematical promise. She could count long before she could string a sentence together and by the time she started primary school she had worked out how to do multiplication by counting out Lego blocks.
It seemed natural to her when considering a new career that a job involving numbers should be the path to follow.
Sally added: “After some deliberation, and hours Googling how to become a maths teacher I applied to study A-Levels in law, maths and physics at West Nottinghamshire College.
“The first few weeks of my return to education were somewhat emotional and testing. It had been eight years since I last sat in a classroom, and learning did not come as easily to me as it had before when I attended Brunts Upper School.
“But once I got into a routine, things got easier. It was a challenge juggling studies with a full-time job but I just worked hard and with determination. Some mornings I was so tired I could have rolled over and gone back to sleep. “Tutors were very understanding and gave me a little leeway every now and then, realising I would deliver in the end.”
Sally soon settled in at the college, where, aged seventeen she had some experience studying on a catering course, so she felt she was in familiar surroundings.
It was not long after starting her ‘A’ Levels that she secured a placement at Birley Community College, near Sheffield, observing and assisting in classes ranging from year seven to eleven.
Sally said: “It gave me an insight into how a modern secondary classroom works. I learned lots about teaching, but more importantly I learned things about myself.
“I had more patience than I previously realised. I built up a good rapport with the pupils, and commanded a reasonable amount of respect and was able to explain mathematical concepts in a way the pupils understood.”
And, with the great support from tutors, Sally managed to do well in her studies and continue working as well.
“People have always told me I am brave,” she said. “I was brave for moving away from home to work at the age of seventeen. I was brave for going travelling alone at twenty-one. Now I am brave for wanting to be a teacher.
“Of course, I do not consider myself to be brave. I am just an opportunist. I am going to take every opportunity life throws at me.”
Now Sally is waiting to discover her ‘A’ Level results which she hopes will fulfil her dream to go to Sheffield Hallam University.
“I am nervous about my results but hopeful. As long as I get into university I will be happy.
“I need a B in maths, possibly a C. Ideally I need 240 points overall. At Sheffield Hallam I can do the maths degree and PGCE at the same time so I could train to be a teacher in just three years not four. I cannot wait.
“I think the main draw is the challenge that I know teaching will provide. It is a job that will keep me on my toes until the day I retire.
“Education is a fundamental right, and it is one of the main ingredients that shapes a person’s future. Hopefully I can have a positive effect on students’ lives and that will be more reward that I could possibly wish for.”
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