After years as a successful businesswoman, Mel Muldowney finally achieved her childhood ambition and trained as a maths teacher. This is from the Guardian…
The reason I eventually trained as a teacher really is simple as this: I wanted to know some point in the future someone would sit back when they were 40 and think of me as someone who made a difference to their lives.
My parents were first generation immigrants to the UK, they came just after the second world war, my dad from Yugoslavia and my mum from Cyprus. My mum had a corner shop and I was brought up with a really strong work ethic. I was always in the back of the shop reading books to keep me quiet. I come from quite a rundown, working class area of of Newport. I was working from the age of 13, first a paper round and then as a part-time bar waiter by the age of 15. I think all those jobs built confidence in me.
Originally, I’d always wanted to be a teacher. But I think I was put off by the 1980s strikes. No one ever explained to me what the strikes were about and all I remember is having endless days off, which I didn’t like. I wanted to be an engineer and I was the first person in my family to go to university.
I had planned to go to university back in Wales but my grades were better than anticipated so I did a BSc in manufacturing systems engineering and business studies at Warwick University. On my first day I turned up in my pink shellsuit (that’s what we wore in Newport) and all the students were grungy kids who looked totally different from me. I met people from all walks of life. I’d never come across anyone who had had money before.
My eyes were opened to all these things but in the back of my mind I thought I’d go back to my boyfriend in Newport and train to be a teacher (I’d gone back to this idea by this point). In my final year my boyfriend and I broke up but I still planned to come back to Newport. I got a place on a PGCE course there after my degree.
While I was doing my degree I worked part time in a bar in Leamington. That’s where I met my husband just after I graduated. Six months later we were married and and instead of doing my PGCE in Newport, I set up and ran a thriving pub with my husband in Leamington.
My mum was killed in a hit and run accident when I was 26 and that really made me stop and think. I realised I was sick of being a glorified barmaid, however lucrative it was. I wanted to apply my degree in a corporate situation and became a regional manager for Bass and later director of operations for an electrical contractor. My corporate career was rewarding personally and financially but something was still missing. I just felt it was all about money and I got to the point when I thought I’m not really making a difference to anybody. I stopped and thought is this really what I want to do? I’m 36, if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to to it.
So four years ago I decided to finally train as a teacher and got a place on the PGCE course at the University of Worcester.
Doing my PGCE was the most humbling experience of my life. It was so different to what I was used to and my recollections of being at school myself. I was no longer the “go to” person. Let’s say it brought me down to earth with a bang. I’m sure I’m a nicer person five years later than I would have been if I hadn’t trained as a teacher. I’m definitely calmer and more laid back.
In my corporate jobs, I used to stand in front of 300 adults to give seminars with perfect ease. In my first teaching practice I was in front of 25 kids with sweat running down my back, my mouth clammy. I didn’t get over the nerves until my NQT year…