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From the Classroom to the Office

11/02/2008 Joanna

Fiona Lewis tells how working on supply through Teaching Personnel turned into managing one of our biggest London branches.

In 2002 I qualified as a secondary school Drama teacher from the University of Wales. Following a two-year break traveling, I decided to undertake a period of supply teaching. Nothing quite prepares you for the role of the supply teacher - the highs, the lows, the rollercoaster of emotions and adventures! The abilities to think quickly on your feet, to be adaptable and to read a map are mastered at great speed! 

As a secondary day-to-day supply teacher you are expected to cover all manner of subjects, in all manner of classrooms, in all manner of schools! I enjoyed the challenge and variety of teaching different subjects; after all, a good teacher can teach anything, right? Not that I would ever have described myself as a good teacher, but I was particularly proud of a French lesson when the children asked, "Miss, have you done a degree in French? - the answer being, most definitely "Non!", I just remembered it all from when I studied French in school, over a decade ago! I was not so proud of the Science lesson where the first actions the students undertook was to turn on the gas mains and all the gas taps. Imagine my delight! 

With the lack of full time Drama teaching posts in South Wales, I made the decision to quit the delights of supply teaching and flip to the ‘other side'! Working as an Education Recruitment Consultant was a natural change in career from teaching. When I was offered the position at Teaching Personnel in Cardiff, I knew that this was the beginning of my new career! Although the role was very different, the knowledge and experience I had gained from supply was invaluable. I quickly established an area and really enjoyed building relationships with schools and teachers. The team I worked with were supportive and fun to be around; and there was not a gas tap in sight! 

Through hard work, determination and a sense of fun, I was promoted to Senior Consultant in Cardiff. After only fifteen months with Teaching Personnel, I was then asked if I would like to relocate to West London, to manage the Ealing Branch. Two years previously, while working in one of the toughest schools in South Wales, I would never have anticipated the opportunity arising of being able to work in London, let alone within a management role outside of the classroom.  Managing, it has to be said, is not too dissimilar to teaching! 

I look back with fond memories of my time as a supply teacher, and now as I look out over London from Teaching Personnel's Ealing office, I certainly miss the many amusing stories and anecdotes you hear and incidents that occur when teaching. I am, however, proud of the experiences I have had and the journey I have undertaken, from supply teacher to manager. I love working in education recruitment and believe that my experience as a supply teacher enables me to truly understand just what is required to help teachers find the type of work that best suits their needs. 

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