Kerry Anne Richardson is a teacher at the Ridge Employability College in Doncaster. Even when lacking in confidence initially, she explains why pushing herself to undertake her Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) gave her the boost she needed to be far more confident in her teaching abilities.
I was pregnant at 17 and had my first child at 18, so my career didn’t really start until quite late on in life. My dad died in 2011, which really made me want to do something with my life. By this point I had two children, both of them with disabilities – my oldest has autism and learning needs, and my youngest has Asperger’s Syndrome, so I always knew in my heart that SEN is where I needed to be.
A very good friend of mine told me about a midday supervisor job vacancy at a SEN school. I went along for an interview, not realising that the job I got was actually my dad’s old job! From there I started volunteering in the classrooms and then I decided I wanted to become a learning support assistant. I gained my Level 2, 3, 4 and came over to the Ridge Employability College on the day it opened, four years ago. My boss took me under his wing and supported me as I did my Level 5, and then in 2019 I completed my QTLS status.
I am going to be honest – I never wanted to be a teacher. This is not how I saw myself 10 or 20 years ago, because I never thought I would get here. However, once I had done my Level 5 I decided I wanted to set my kids a good example – there was only one more step left for me to be a teacher, so why wouldn’t I give it a shot? I wanted to show them that no matter what life throws at you, we can all achieve if we just put in the hard work and dedication… and this is exactly what I did. They are very proud of me, and I am very proud of myself too.
What were the highlights of undertaking QTLS?
I really enjoyed the QTLS journey because it made me evaluate my practice as a teacher. From the very first assignment where we are asked to talk about how we started this journey, right through to the end where you evaluate the whole process and the professional discussions along the way, I found it very interesting. It was challenging, but I found myself wanting to push myself further and try harder to answer certain questions.
I had lots of support here at the college, and I have to say that they were fantastic. They knew that it was an investment in me and my professional development. They also knew that by supporting me to undertake QTLS it would make me a more confident teacher, which in turn gives back to our learners. When I told my learners that I had been awarded QTLS, they were so supportive, so overall it was a very positive experience.
What impact has QTLS had on your practice and your organisation?
I feel a lot more confident now – beforehand if anyone used to ask me about what my job was I used to say I was a tutor hoping to become a teacher, and then when I got my QTLS I very confidently say, "I am a teacher". It has given me such a boost, especially because I’ve evaluated myself so much with all the courses I’ve done. QTLS has also given me a better understanding of what is expected of me – I come to work for the learners, so every time I am learning, they are gaining.
The organisation itself has given me the time to do it and as a result they have gained a qualified teacher out of it. Everything I have learnt, they are seeing the impact and outcomes of. QTLS is not a one-person journey – I wouldn’t have been able to do it without everyone supporting me. Even though it is about you, you need other people to have the time to do your professional discussion. When I was evaluating myself, I was very quick to put myself down, which I think a lot of us do, when in actual fact I was very good at what I was doing – it just took someone from the outside to say, "You can do this". I will sit here now and tell you that I am good at some things and I can teach. There were times when I felt like giving up, but I knew I could do it and positive thinking goes a long way.
My advice for anyone thinking of doing QTLS
I would recommend it to anybody! If you are considering doing QTLS, stop considering it, and start doing it – it is the best thing you can do. Give it the time and the dedication, even if you do have a lot of paperwork and meetings to keep up with, it is worth putting aside a couple of hours here and there. My home life is very hectic with a 21 year-old and a 12 year old who have their own needs, but I still managed to find time to set aside for it, and I think it’s very important that you do find that time for yourself.
I can see Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) coming up in my future, but for now I am going to be taking everything I have learnt and giving straight back to my learners.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?
I have got two guinea pigs – one is called sugar and one is called Honey. I love nothing more than letting them run around our living room. I also give them some very whacky hairstyles!
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would they be?
Ant and Dec – I love them. They just make me laugh so much.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
I am about to turn 40 and although that may feel a bit older to be starting this journey, it just shows that anyone can do it. I seem to have done everything backwards – maybe one day I may even get a driving license. On my last lesson I nearly drove into a church, which is when I put my driving on hold!