‘I interviewed 21 teachers to find out what their jobs are really like’


At the end of June 2021, I was asked to interview a selection of teachers. The brief was simple – find out how they got into teaching and discover what it’s really like to be a teacher today.

I spoke with 21 teachers in total and all the stories are featured on the Love It. Teach It microsite.

Before I started, I have to admit I was cynical. It’s not a secret that teaching is a challenging career, so is it really possible to have a work-life balance?

But then, after my first, second and third interviews, I started to realize that my perception of teaching was changing. Teaching is varied, sometimes challenging, but always rewarding. And what surprised me was how teachers are achieving incredible things in and outside of the classroom.

When I finished interviewing the final teacher – six months later – I was left with the overarching feeling that anything is possible.



Gruffydd Evans knew he wanted to be a teacher from a young age

And that final interviewee was Gruffydd Evans, a 29-year-old history teacher from a small village outside of Pwllheli. He currently teaches at Ysgol Bro Idris, which is a bilingual comprehensive school for pupils aged 11–16. Teaching was always part of his plan, as he admits from an early age he knew it was the profession for him.

“I was about 13 when I decided I would be a teacher,” Gruffydd explained. “I think it was because I had a good history teacher and I quite liked the idea of ​​doing something I enjoyed as a profession.”

However, before setting into the profession, Gruffydd wanted to explore the world after completing his teacher training. He said: “I saw a Facebook post looking for teachers to go to Patagonia for a year. It looked like a great opportunity so I applied and ended up going in 2019 – thankfully the year before lockdown. There are a few Welsh and Spanish schools in Patagonia now and I worked in the one in the Andes.”

This Pantagonian adventure enabled Gruffydd to expand his horizons and fueled his passion for teaching when he returned to Wales.

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Elliw Haf joined Eryri Harriers, which is one of the largest running clubs in north Wales
Elliw Haf joined Eryri Harriers, which is one of the largest running clubs in north Wales

Going on an adventure is also important to Elliw Haf, a secondary school teacher from Gwynedd. The 33-year-old is a keen runner and has represented Wales in races across the world.

“I just can never sit still,” admitted the 33-year-old as she reflected on how she has juggled family life, running and her teaching career which spans more than a decade.

“I have a 15-month old at home, we have two dogs and my partner and I both run, so it is always busy. It’s just about being organized and focusing on time management though. You can be a good teacher and have hobbies too,” said Elliw, who currently works at Ysgol Eifionydd in Porthmadog.

But running wasn’t always part of Elliw’s plan, as she discovered this hobby later in life. During a year abroad in France, she decided to run the Paris Half Marathon and then didn’t stop as she is now part of the Eryri Harriers, which is one of the largest running clubs in north Wales.

“My pupils will always say I have a lot of energy, and that’s because of running,” she said. “I’ll go for a run before school and it makes me happier and more energetic in the classroom. I also talk about running with my pupils and it makes you more human. It means they know you are a real person and have a life – you don’t have to live under your desk.”



In 2015, Chris ran a campaign to save the Saith Seren Welsh Centre, which was facing financial difficulties.  The campaign succeeded and he was invited to join the board.
Chris runs Saith Seren, a community pub in Wrexham

Living under his desk is something teacher Chris Evans doesn’t have to worry about, as in his spare time he runs a community pub. Chris is currently head of psychology at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd and his passion for the Welsh language led him to Saith Seren, a community pub in Wrexham.

“You don’t hear Welsh much in Wrexham, but that’s why the community pub is so important, as it’s a symbol of speaking Welsh socially,” said the 53-year-old. “Any pupil that I teach will know I run the pub. It’s important that they do know because I think it helps them to see that the Welsh language is not just the language of school, but it’s used in the community too.”

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Football is another passion of Chris’ and Saith Seren has strong links with Wrexham AFC, which he supports wholeheartedly. Chris even made the news last year, when the new owners of Wrexham reached out to Saith Seren.

“We are very excited about all that,” said Chris. “The new owners are aware of the community pub and they even sent us a box of gin personally from Ryan Reynolds to thank us for streaming the matches during lockdown.”

His work with Saith Seren has given him great joy over the years and opened up opportunities in and out of school. Chris added: “I’ve met some wonderful people, made some great friends, and learned new skills which I’ve used in teaching.

“The recurring theme throughout my career is the promotion of the Welsh language and culture, which I am passionate about, and that of bringing the community together.”

Chris is a great example of how to make teaching work alongside a passion, and Ela Fflur Jones has started a similar journey. Ela is currently teaching maths at Ysgol Botwnnog, a bilingual comprehensive school in Gwynedd and the 23-year-old always knew she wanted to be a teacher.



Ela says her biggest achievement is becoming a mum
Ela says she has found a balance between teaching and farming

However, teaching is only one side to Ela. She has a passion for farming and her life recently took an unlikely turn when she saw a unique opportunity advertised on Facebook. The National Trust lets farms to tenant farmers throughout the year, but these opportunities don’t come up often so when they do, it’s time to act fast.

“My partner and I kept getting tagged in the Facebook post by friends and family so we just went for it,” said Ela. “Where we live it’s really tough to find a house, let alone a farm, so we were really, really lucky that our application was accepted.”

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Consequently, juggling teaching and farm life have been an adventure but Ela hopes she can continue both her passions.

“I’ve found what I really want to do in life and the balance between teaching and farming has worked well. Life’s too short and you’ve got to make the most of every opportunity,” she added.



Rhodri was inspired to be a teacher after seeing the difference an individual can make in the lives of young people
Rhodri has always loved a challenge

Finally, headteacher Dr Rhodri Thomas also played a part in my new positive outlook. He is currently on a mission after two decades of teaching, as he wants to make his school the best in Wales. Rhodri has big plans for Ysgol Penweddig in Aberystwyth and he’s ready to make them a reality after navigating his first year as headteacher during a global pandemic.

“People say I time things well,” he told me. “I’ve always loved a challenge. I don’t like being bored and teaching is never boring.”

For Rhodri, Ysgol Penweddig reminds him of his own schooling experience and it feels like he has come back to his roots. That being said, Rhodri doesn’t want to be comfortable and he has plans to strengthen the school after maneuvering it through the challenges of the pandemic.

He added: “My focus this year is the extra-curricular – the wider life of the school as that’s what pupils have missed out on this year. We need to get the community back, as although the academic side will always remain a priority, social development is really important too.”

Gruffydd, Elliw, Chris, Ela, Rhodri and all the teachers I spoke with left me feeling inspired and highlighted the extraordinary people teaching in classrooms today.

Teaching isn’t the end of their stories, it feels like it’s just the beginning.

To read the stories mentioned here and many more, visit Love It. Teach It.

Teaching in Wales is varied, sometimes challenging, but always rewarding. Whether you’re looking to take the first step or you’re moving on to the next stage in your education career, visit the Educators Wales website for more information and career opportunities.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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