Primary teacher Increase Eko is so addicted to learning she spends her weekends doing A-level maths papers. This is from the Guardian…
Teaching wasn’t something I set out to do. I had just finished my master’s in information science at City University when I had an accident and fractured my neck. I wasn’t able to work for a year and a half after that. So when all my friends were running around getting jobs, I had time to reflect. Being in hospital with all these people helping me changed my mind about what I wanted to do. I began to realise I didn’t want to be in business, I wanted to help people in my career as well.
But teaching wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be an educational psychologist so when I was better I phoned the Institute of Education but they told me I needed a degree in psychology and two or three years experience teaching. I decided to start by training as a teacher so did my PGCE at the University of North London (now the London Met). I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and after three years I enrolled for an MA in the psychology of education. Meanwhile, I became a Senco in my school and got to work very closely with educational psychologists. That’s when I realised that career wasn’t for me. Educational psychologists would come and set up schemes and plans for teachers to carry out and then visit the school and in many cases teachers would tell them what they wanted to hear. I realised I wouldn’t own my career. I finished the course but now knew I wanted to stay in teaching.
I was born in Cameroon. My mother got married young. She was so intelligent but wasn’t well educated and I could see her frustration. She had eight children and was very aspirational for each of us – it was a given that we would get high grades and go to university. I came to England to go to university after my A-levels and I’ve lived here ever since.
I’m always learning and for most of my career I’ve always combined teaching full time and studying. In fact, I’ve just handed in my thesis for my PhD in inclusive education and am waiting for my viva. My mum used to say you can only empower yourself by educating yourself and it’s something that’s stayed with me.
To me it’s natural to keep learning all the time, I’m just conditioned that way. How can you teach if you don’t know how to learn? This is going to sound quite sad, but every Friday afternoon I print out GCSE and A-level maths papers so I can do them for fun over the weekend. I love teaching maths but you only go to a certain level in primary school. I believe that once you are a teacher, it’s possible to teach anything. The mind is something that you can train if you cultivate it. With a subject like maths if you leave it for too long you can soon forget all those formulas and equations so you have to continually do them to keep up.
My motivation for teaching is that every child can do it, with the right support. I know there is poverty and deprivation as a backdrop, and I’ve spent my teaching career teaching in poorer parts of London: Hackney, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and now Lewisham. But I always have in my mind the children I went to school with in Cameroon – some of them had no shoes and walked miles to school but these kids were brainy and they succeeded.
A child needs food and love but when they are at school, as a teacher, I believe I have the power and the responsibility to change a child’s life. Just starting the day with a smile and having high expectations of the child goes so far, I know they can learn. And they do it…