I often blog about research I’m undertaking or ideas that are relevant to the Tute pedagogy. However, this week I am hi-jacking the Tute blog for some shameless self-promotion in relation to a charitable organisation and charity that I have recently become involved with. Since working here at Tute, I have been lucky enough to be given some amazing opportunities; going back to university to complete my Doctorate, attending conferences like the Festival of Education, support in applying to do research overseas and the amazing everyday opportunities to work in a pioneering online education environment that is unparalleled. Part of what I have loved about being here at Tute is the openness to new challenges and approaches and the support we receive in pursuing this. As a result of this support, I have just applied, been accepted and given a fellowship place to train teachers in Uganda.
This all came about when I came across this amazing project through a serendipitous viewing of a post on Facebook! I actually saw it and thought, ‘Wow! That would be a wonderful thing to do and a fantastic opportunity…for someone else.’ You see, I’d figured I was probably too busy with work and Uni, that as a mother of a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Eleanor, it was too big an ask to tell my husband I wanted to leave the country for a month and I doubted my employer would be entirely willing to let me have a month off. I was wrong.
I told three close friends about the programme, wondering if it might be something that they would be as enticed by as I was. I also read up on all the different locations and continued to research what the programme was about, although, at this point, it was entirely to satisfy my curiosity. A week and a half later, I was still thinking about the programme. Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel to a developing country and explore pedagogy from an entirely new perspective? How do teachers teach outside of the mainstream British education system that I have spent my career within? Would the pedagogical approaches I had studied as a teacher, during my MA and continued to explore as part of my current Doctorate in Education be transferable to an alternative culture and teaching context? How might the skills I’d developed in over a decade be of benefit to other teachers?
I’d always enjoyed taking on roles of subject and professional mentoring within a teacher training guise and for the last three years I had been working outside of schools for Tute, where I had grown increasingly involved in the training of new online teachers. I always found these elements of my job to be really interesting and rewarding, especially because I hold a strong belief that working with others on developing their teaching is the best way to reflect on and improve your own practice; watching someone else teach, identifying what they do and how they do it is a great way to gain inspiration and learn new techniques that make you a better teacher too!
So, after all this time obsessing, I mentioned it to my husband and my parents in passing, anticipating a less than favourable response. My husband, the man I would have to leave as a solo parent for a month, instantly told me to go for it. He has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. He hasn’t hesitated for a moment in telling me that we could make it work. He spent hours sat scouring the internet with me, checking facts and stats on safety and security in the fellowship countries. My parents were a little more surprised by the revelation, Mum in particular concerned about my safety, but they got on board as soon as I was able to allay their fears and even went so far as to donate the money required for the deposit for my place. I could not ask for better support from my family. My daughter on the other hand, thinks it’s a terrible idea…I’ve got six months to convince her mummy going away is a good thing.
No doubt this will be the hardest thing for me in taking part in the programme. I’ve never had more than a couple of nights away from my little girl. I will miss her so much, but my husband who is very wise sometimes (just don’t tell him that-he’d never let me forget it!), suggested that it’s not a good enough reason not to do this. I will be giving up 29 nights with my daughter, but how many other people’s daughters could benefit from the good this programme will do? How many people have an opportunity to participate in a charitable programme with the capacity to make such a huge difference? As much as being away from my daughter will break my heart, it will be amazing to explain to her why mummy is going and how the programme is helping other children and their teachers so that they too can have the kind of future I imagine for her. This is the sort of example I want to set for her and its why I will be able to do this.
With family support in place, I spoke to Vanessa and Sean here at Tute. It’s a big ask for a teacher to take a month off in term time, but then I work for a company that was established in order to make education more accessible and with the purpose of making the best teaching available to all irrespective of location or background. I don’t think there was more than thirty seconds between me dropping this bombshell and Tute agreeing to it and offering to make a donation to the fund! I shouldn’t really have been surprised. Tute always have supported not just me, but learners across the country and even globe in fulfilling their potential.
My interview went really well and within a week I had my place secured. So far I have been so very lucky in gaining support. It’s all seeming a bit too good to be true! But now the hard work begins. I’ve begun fundraising via my gofundme page and I am beginning to plan as many activities as possible for the New Year. The local paper (The Chester Chronicle) has even run a story about my plans! I will be keeping a separate blog as I prepare for the project and to update everyone (anyone who might be interested, that is) as I embark on my fundraising efforts, this can be found here.
Wish me luck everyone!
To read more on the project, please take a look here:
To make a donation, please visit here:
If you’d like to work for Tute, apply here:
By Sharon Smith
Sharon studied English Language and Literature at The University of Manchester, then went on to graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University with a PGCE in Secondary English and, later, a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning. She is currently undertaking a Doctorate in Education at The University of Chester. She is mum to daughter Ellie and when she’s not juggling being a working mum and an eternal student/proud, self-confessed geek, she enjoys consuming a little bit of wine and far too much chocolate.