Replanting my roots

by Deborah Owusu

As a Ghana-born migrant into the UK, I have always tried to cultivate a sense of purpose in what I do and how I can use my skills in other places and one day, hopefully, to replant my roots in Ghana.

I have always been a person of many interests which is why pursuing a career as an educator spoke to me. I am currently in my second year of training with TeachFirst and here are some things I have found on my journey to building my career as an educator.

Nothing worth having comes easy

My vision is to gain the qualifications I need to teach around the world and one day set up my own school in Ghana. I know that this vision takes time but what I did not expect was the number of hurdles that were presented when wanting to actualise my vision.

I am someone who has always been academically astute. I remember assisting my friends with their own coursework and helping to mark or improve upon others’ work. Success in my academic endeavours came somewhat easy to me and so I expected that pursuing a career in teaching would be the same. However, I was greatly mistaken.

I had to apply for the TeachFirst program three times over the space of two years before being accepted. The setbacks did not sway me however, it was a reminder that you don’t know what gaining something really takes until you attempt it.

Although I succeeded academically, my other qualities and skill-sets such as interview practice, life experience and understanding of the education sector did not come as easy. I also thought that the skill of teaching would come as naturally as that of learning however, that has also proven not to be true. Which brings me on to my second point.

Every great teacher must always, first, be a student

At this point in my career progression, I have a unique perspective of being both a student and a teacher. As a student, I learn the best pedagogical practice from University College London (UCL), I write essays and attend occasional training days. As a teacher, I try to replicate best practice, inform students on particular subject topics namely, History, Sociology and Geography and I assess student progress.

In my development as a teacher, I have learned that to be effective in your role, you have to constantly learn and to gain this knowledge, one must also constantly learn in the same manner you may expect your students to. Although the psychology of teaching and learning are worlds apart, they share knowledge in common.

I have seen the greatest impact on my development through the current research that I’m exposed to and allowing the research and learning always inform my teaching. I believe this principle applies to many roles, for instance, every great leader must know how to serve, and so on.

You cannot remember things you are not emotionally connected to

Real impactful learning has to engage a person’s interest. In my time training with UCL, I came across a quote that struck me, “The healthy brain does not waste energy thinking about things that does not matter to the individual” (cited from Immordino-Yang, 2015). Research has shown that it is quite difficult to retain knowledge that has no emotional connection to the individual.

As a History teacher, this is very important because some students may choose to engage or disengage with certain topics of History depending on how interesting they find it. It is why I have to make my lessons as engaging as possible, so that my students have a greater chance of retaining the information.

All in all, I am enjoying my journey of being an educator and I am taking the role of the student when it comes to my career. I hope to one day implement these teachings and skill-sets in Ghana, my home country.

Works cited:

Immordino-Yang, M. H. (2015). Emotions, learning and the brain: Exploring the educational implications of affective neuroscience. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Deborah Owusu is an educator in her second year of training as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) with TeachFirst and UCL . She studied History and Sociology at the University of Warwick. Outside of academia, she has interests in the creative arts including spoken word, theatre and music.

Image shows Deborah teaching students in a classroom in Ghana