Posted in Education Help and Advice, Misc

Career Choice: It’s okay to change your plans.

I was always the kind of person who changed their career plans very often. I believe the first ever job I wanted was a lollipop lady (if you’re not from the UK this is the person who helps children to cross the road safely) when I was around 6 years old. During our high school years we are told we need to know what we want to do, what path we wanted to take and what we needed to do to get there. But the truth is, sometimes we can take steps towards a certain goal to then decide to cast a wider net and not just stick to one path.

I wrote a blog post not too long ago about my desire to teach and lecture. The truth is I don’t think I want to put myself in such a bubble to not try new things and potentially find something that I love and never thought I would try before. I have applied for something which I never thought I would go into and I’m actually excited about it! The point is, you don’t need to know what you want to do, it doesn’t need to be set in stone forever and it is more than okay to change your mind!

Posted in Education Help and Advice, Life as a Research Student, Misc, PhD Journey, Psychology

Finding what I wanted to do with my life: Journey into Teaching and Research.

Ever since I was little I have always wanted to be a teacher – although an odd dream for a child to have – I was adamant it was what I wanted to do. I would “play” school with my friends and would give them notepads to write in, I even had a whiteboard in my room that I would use to “teach”. Although I absolutely loved everything about teaching; the marking, the delivery, the organisation, helping students… there was just one small problem, I lacked any form of confidence to stand in front of people and I also had no idea what age or subject I would teach.

I was always one of the smarter and well behaved children – I would do my homework on time, was never in trouble and I enjoyed learning. Unfortunately, this led to me being bullied through-out my entire time of primary and high school. This led to the very little confidence I did have being completely destroyed, even meaning I would beg my mum to speak for me in shops, on the phone or anything which involved interaction with a stranger. Although being able to teach was a dream of mine – it seemed impossible. How could I stand in front of a room of strangers if I couldn’t even talk to one?

My college years led me to a subject which I absolutely fell in love with – Psychology. Prior to this History had always been my favourite subject, and I chose to study this in my A levels along with Maths (which I received a high grade in GCSEs) and graphic design, which I enjoyed. Psychology was simply a randomly chosen subject as I needed a fourth! I started to jump around a bit at this point with the kind of job I wanted – forensic psychologist, clinical psychologist, counsellor… I just knew I wanted to be able to keep learning about psychology.

When it came to doing my undergraduate degree (which I, unsurprisingly, did in psychology) my confidence grew, I made friends with people on my course and I was pushed into doing presentations and group work. The maturity of students at university level was something I had been surprised about – everyone was so nice, everyone was in the same boat and everyone wanted to learn because they were doing a subject which they had chosen to do. This was the time that I discovered research and I fell in love. I always received a first (70% +) in my research projects and I always really enjoyed doing them.

One of my interests in psychology was education, I was interested in helping students to learn better and how people learn differently. This led me back to wanting to pursue my original dream – teaching. I mentioned to my undergraduate dissertation supervisor in level 6 that I had wanted to go into some form of teaching and as she knew about my love for research, she suggested perhaps I should go down the route of a university lecturer as it combined two things I loved. She discussed options with me and told me that I would need to do a PhD but that they are incredibly competitive. That night, I went home and I was researching what my next step could potentially be.

I decided that I would go into A level Teaching. I had found a course at another university that was still within commuting distance of my home. I figured I would teach for a few years and then go onto pursue a PhD when I felt ready. Amazingly, I got an interview for the course, where I also had to do a simple maths and English test, and I was offered a place to which I accepted.

Being an incredibly organised person, I decided to email my undergraduate programme leader (who I had met several times) to ask if he knew of any psychology a level teachers who I could potentially talk to so I could do some prep over the summer – to my shock, he replied with an offer of a PhD instead! He told me how another department in the university was looking to recruit a psychology student to do a PhD in educational psychology and my dissertation supervisor had recommended me – I was over the moon.

I remember the first meeting I ever had with my director of studies where she was explaining to me about how a PhD worked and she asked me if I was okay with doing some teaching and marking during the course of my PhD, I couldn’t have been happier!

The first time I ever taught was a lecture on how to use endnote to a class of masters students. I was incredibly nervous, I had prepared weeks in advance and practiced over and over again. Now, a year on, the Teaching doesn’t make me nervous in the slightest, it makes me happy, I love when students give me positive feedback (just before Christmas I was told I made a boring subject interesting!) and I feel as though I’ve made tons of friends in my students. I absolutely love what I do and I really hope I am able to continue into lecturing from my PhD.

I have found what I want to do with my life.