When my alarm clock beeps, I’m never tempted to hit the snooze button – whatever day it is, I know there’s going to be something good happening. I like variety and find that it keeps me on my toes, so I feel fortunate to have a position that offers me the chance to mix longer days with easier ones, whether I’m teaching in class or working from home. No two weeks are the same and the flexibility suits me. Some days are challenging, others are more relaxed giving me time for my other role. I’m a mum too, with a five-month-old and time spent with him is precious.
Yesterday I worked from home, close to those I love, but still doing work that’s helping others to progress in their chosen careers. Today, however, will be one of the longer days. I look in on Jasper when I wake. It’s 4.30 am and he’s sleeping peacefully. I tiptoe out of the room and gather my bits and bobs, and as I leave the house, I’m already beginning to feel the excitement. I’m delivering a training day in London and working with our course delegates always leaves me feeling energised and inspired.
My train’s on time, but it’s busy. There’s no room to work on my laptop, but it’s not an issue. I’m well prepared for the day. I’ve been through the resources several times. I’ve tweaked presentations and have some new fun activities to stimulate learning. I’m looking forward to catching up with this group of learners. They’ll be waiting for feedback on their last assignments, bursting with questions that hopefully, I’ll be able to answer. I use my time going through my inbox, making notes for later in the week, catching up with a few articles that I’ve been meaning to read.
I’m at the venue just after eight, and my first task, as always, is to prep the stage. Teaching is three-quarters preparation and one-quarter performance. The prep’s done. Now I can’t let the performance suffer if the projector doesn’t work or if there’s no paper on the flipchart. I check the technology, set out my resources and wait for the first eager learners to arrive.
This is a CIPS group, studying at level 5. They’ve already shown impressive levels of commitment. They’re bonding as a group and learning from each other as well as from me. Our conversations explore their workplace challenges. They proffer solutions. The mood can range from intense concentration to hilarity. Sometimes I ask them to work on something in break-out groups and I’ll wander around the room picking up on the ideas being generated, gleaning insights from students on the course.
The hour after lunch can be tricky as energy levels drop, but I’ve got an activity that works well. I ask the delegates to form pairs and sit back to back. One describes something and the other must draw, unseen – the item being described. We learn three things. 1: Listening is a skill. 2: What you say may be interpreted in any number of ways by the listener. And 3: None of us has the talent to switch from procurement to a career as an artist.
I mix things up so that those who thrive in a collaborative environment get as much from the session as those who favour more formal or visual methods of learning. We use PowerPoints and videos. We study sections of text from manuals and explore the lessons within. We share experiences. There’s a bit of banter – I’m a Northerner in London – but it’s all good-natured.
I always enjoy the latter part of the afternoon. Any apprehension that delegates may have had early in the day is forgotten. The atmosphere is upbeat and positive with healthy debate. I see those who started out shy, now confidently presenting to their peers. I see students helping to motivate others in the group, talking about the way they fit study time around their other responsibilities. It reminds me of my days as a student, juggling lots of priorities, facing assessments and sometimes wondering whether I could cope. Having been on the other side of the fence, I know how important it is to feel that you’re supported, and I do whatever I can to help delegates learn, grow and thrive. There’s a small glow of satisfaction when I’m thanked at the end of the day.
I walk back to Victoria, get the tube to Euston and make it onto the northbound train. Tonight, there’s a quiet corner. I grab a coffee, make a call to check on things at home, and then start work. I’m SRSCC’s Apprenticeship Manager and have a stack of reports from our team of mentors about our learners. These people aren’t numbers, they’re individuals – often older people returning to study after years in their career. Some of our learners are right on track. One is relishing the opportunity and blossoming as an individual. Another is clearly struggling to find the seven or eight hours in the week needed for her study. One young man has asked for a pause in his studies because of a family crisis. I make some notes, and tomorrow, I’ll follow everything up.
My car is one of only a few still in the station car park. I drive home reflecting on the day, on the things I’ve achieved and the seeds of growth I might have planted. But as I drive, my focus shifts back to the family. I can’t wait to see my son, and to my delight, he’s still awake. I sort his bath while my partner finishes preparing supper. After we’ve eaten, we talk about the upcoming weekend and our plans to explore another section of the Leeds–Liverpool canal. The forecast looks fine and I’m looking forward to the three of us getting outdoors together.