What or who inspired you to go into teaching?
I am one of those people who has always wanted to be a teacher – as a child, my Mum tells me I made registers of my toys.
I was lucky enough to have many excellent teachers, both at The Winston Churchill School in Woking and then at Woking College. Mr Clarke at Winston and Mark Rhodes at Woking College were both English teachers who inspired me to love English and to want to teach the subject. I did slightly unusual A Levels – English Literature, Biology, Chemistry (plus French at AS Level), and chose my degree subject based on what I thought I would prefer to later teach.
My Chemistry teacher at GCSE tried to warn me off teaching, suggesting I “do something else first” but I didn’t really listen and – apart from a brief stint in event management and customer service in France – I am proud to say have taught for my entire career: 17 years so far.
Why have you chosen to work in a sixth form college?
I started my teaching career in secondary schools – first in Cambridge and then central London. I did enjoy teaching across the secondary age range but prefer A Level because of the ability to engage in greater depth with the subject I love. I also prefer the atmosphere in a sixth form college and the fact that we can focus on the needs of this particular age group. I think the most important aspect of our role is ultimately to ensure that they are ready to take their next steps when they leave us at 18 – whether this be to university, to enrol in an apprenticeship or to go directly into employment.
What's your favourite topic to teach?
I really enjoy teaching Poetry. In English we tackle unseen poetry in the examination – I enjoy helping students to gain the confidence to value their own interpretation of a poem and their thoughts and feelings about it.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Apart from my two lovely children of course, personally I was very proud to complete the London Marathon in 2016. I am not sure I will be doing it again any time soon though!
Professionally, I am very proud of how the college guided students through the challenging years during and after the pandemic. We all had to show enormous resilience during this time and it is not an exaggeration to say that the educational landscape has changed forever – in some good ways as well as some more challenging ones.
When you were younger, what teacher inspired you the most?
In primary school, my headteacher Mr Davies once led an assembly about how precious life was which featured him smashing lots of eggs on the floor. I’m honestly not entirely sure what his purpose was but I will always remember it!
What book or film has inspired you the most?
This is a very difficult question for an English teacher – there are just so many options. I generally prefer reading poetry, plays and non-fiction to novels – but I have always loved books with strong female characters who challenge what society expects of them.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë is probably a fairly predictable choice – and I am not even sure I would say I “like” the novel nowadays. There are some problematic attitudes in it in terms of gender roles, relationships and race which we can now see as prejudiced. I first encountered this novel at age 15 – it was a GCSE text – and I absolutely adored it as a tale of a young woman using her intellect, tenacity and sense of what is right to triumph in a world where her gender and class put her at a significant disadvantage. It’s also set in Yorkshire, where my Mum’s family are from.
The thing about books like this is that your attitudes to them change as you grow older and as society develops – the way we interact with books is not static and that’s one of the things I love most about Literature.
What words of wisdom would you give your 16-year-old self?
I would say “don’t worry so much – most of the things you think are important now won’t matter so much when you are 25. Also, no decision or choice has to be forever – you can always change your mind.”
Plus – university is lots of fun and you will love it!
Anna Young is our Director of Progression Guidance and Careers. She joined the English Department at Esher in August 2013 and was Head of Department for six years, before being promoted to head up our progression guidance team.
Read about our Employers and Volunteering Fair which welcomed a range of local employers and organisations to the College this term.
For advice and support, help with applying to University, our Oxbridge Programme and our Esher Alumni visit Esher Careers and Progression.