My name is Bobby Seagull and I’m currently starting a Doctorate in Education specialising in Maths at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, as well as teaching Maths at Chesterton Community College, a state secondary school in Cambridge. My school was awarded an “Outstanding” inspection result from Ofsted recently so the school community is understandably buzzing right now!
After my undergraduate degree in 2007, I initially started my career in the fast-paced world of business. I was a financial markets trader at the American investment bank Lehman Brothers (went bankrupt during my time there but nothing to do with me!) and then a similar role at the Japanese bank Nomura. I then worked as an accountant at PwC.
However I have always been drawn towards the power of education being a great force for allowing young people to reach their potential and become happy and fulfilled adults. In 2007, I co-founded OxFizz, an educational social enterprise that supports sixth form students applying to top universities. In 2014, I became a trustee at UpRising, a charity that works on youth leadership development for 16–25 year olds.
In 2014, I decided to take the plunge and move into teaching full-time. I took time off work and spent five months observing lessons in many schools in my home London Borough of Newham. I then completed my PGCE teacher training at Hughes Hall in Cambridge and completed my Masters in Education in specialising in Maths alongside completing my NQT year in a London state school. I’ve now moved back to Cambridge to be both a student and a teacher (so I can still sympathise with my students who are set homework!)
Numbers have been so important to my life, and I want to share my passion for the subject with students. I think of how Jamie Oliver used his positive energy and national profile to help drive a change in attitudes towards healthy eating in schools. I would love to have a similar impact that Jamie Oliver had in healthy eating in schools (and with adults), but for maths education in this country. I’ve recently become an ambassador for National Numeracy, a charity that focuses on works on improving numeracy for everyone, particularly adults. Other ambassadors includes Rachel Riley and her Countdown predecessor Carol Vorderman, so I’m excited to support an organisation that promotes numeracy. I believe that all adults need to be numerate to function effectively in the real world.
Those of you who follow University Challenge know that I adore a good fact (I’m even writing a general knowledge quiz book with my friend Eric Monkman in time for Christmas!) So I also want to encourage students (and adults) to keep on learning. I believe that continually learning about the world we live in can help us comprehend it a bit better and see how we can contribute.
So as someone who recently made the move into teaching, I can say that it’s a profession that can be both the most incredibly rewarding one and at the same time, it can be a challenging one too. Very few things can beat the satisfaction when you see a student reach that “a ha” or lightbulb moment of understanding (especially if you’re teaching simultaneous equations!). However teaching can be demanding too and I have three “Seagull Suggestions” that I would tell myself if I had a time machine and could travel back to my first day of teaching!
1) Don’t reinvent the wheel
As a new teacher, a lot of time will be spent planning lessons. And it’s understandable that you’ll want to try to create your own lesson plans and Powerpoint type slides from scratch for your classes. However other teachers have been on the same journey as you before, so please do ask if they have resources you can share. And consult as much as is possible. It’s likely that another teacher in your school will have asked the same question early on in their career.
2) You’re in charge
Teachers should be able to instil a love of their subject into their students. This can only happen if you’re in control of your class. Make sure that you understand your school’s behaviour policy and how to apply it. I’ve heard some teachers say that you shouldn’t smile into Christmas with a new class. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with this, do set the tone early on with high expectations in terms of behaviour and what you expect from their written work and verbal contributions in lessons.
3) Accept that “good” is good enough
As educationalists, we can often strive for perfection in our work. Aiming for the perfect lesson plan, the perfect set of marked books, the perfect homework sheets. Whilst this is admirable, it can mean that you’ll spend so much time outside of the classroom preparing that you will be too tired to deal with students effectively in your class! I’d say to aim for a “wow” lesson, one that really, really inspires your students every so often. But most of time, if it’s good lesson and children are learning, accept that is good enough and ensure you are awake and alert to teach.