Jess Galloway

Created on: 07 Feb 2024 | Last modified: 08 Feb 2024

Jess Galloway

How would you describe the past year in three words?

Rewarding, absorbing and a whirlwind

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Having worked in politics for quite a while, I felt incredibly burnt out by the unhealthy work environment and constant sense that nothing I did seemed to be making a difference. The one part of my work I did always enjoy, though, was giving trainings. The final push I needed was when my niece was born.

Spending time with her always gave me so much energy and a sense of purpose, and it helped me to see a whole different side to myself. I am incredibly grateful to now have a job where I can see so clearly how I am making a difference every day, and there is so much joy in being able to share in the awe and wonder with which children approach their world.

Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?

Miss Wood – we were her first class and she had us for three different years throughout primary school which built a great connection. She always encouraged us to be ourselves and to see the value in our idiosyncrasies, and she truly made you feel seen. I often think about the Dr Seuss quote “Today you are you, that is truer than true…” and she really lived that in her approach to teaching and interacting with us.

What’s the one thing you’d like to change about teaching? 

As in so many sectors nowadays, the precarity and casualisation of contracts is a real worry. Yes, there’s the guarantee of a job for one year through the teacher induction scheme, but after that being on the supply bank seems to be normalised. Building meaningful and lasting relationships with your learners is at the heart of the job, and it really concerns me that both children and teachers alike really suffer when there is that instability and worry hanging over you.

Why do you think it’s important to be an active member of a trade union?

If it wasn’t for being in a trade union, I don’t think I would have ended up in teaching myself. My first foot in the door was doing my college qualification in Education and Training which was organised and funded by the STUC, and the professional development programs offered by unions are such a valuable part of their work.

More than that, though, in today’s society it is so important to be part of something bigger than yourself. EIS has been fighting the cost-of-living crisis with their campaign to extend free school meals and by pushing for better pay for their members. 

Moreover, their latest campaign, Stand Up For Quality Education, is set to tackle the biggest challenges facing teachers at the moment. Being part of the union means you get to be part of setting that agenda and making the real changes we need to see in our sector.

Any embarrassing teaching moments?

On my first placement, a girl came in with no coat and I couldn’t let her out to break without one as it was too cold. I had no idea where to find her a spare one so, long story short, a miscommunication later and I accidentally sent her out with another teacher’s coat (it’s not my fault it looked like
a child’s coat!).

Any new school I go to now, first place I want directed to is lost property – I’m not making that mistake again!

What advice would you give to a student starting their teaching course?

Be open to what you can learn from everyone you encounter – and yes, that very much includes the children! You’ll likely hear this a lot but being willing to reflect on and adapt your practice is so important. My final assessed lesson went disastrously but, by being able to demonstrate to my tutor that I understood where it had gone wrong and what I would do differently next time, I still somehow passed. 

Take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone (just not necessarily for your assessed lessons!) because that is how you will learn most quickly what works best for you. In amongst all the conflicting advice you will receive during your course, sometimes you just have to stop and trust yourself because only you know what kind of teacher you truly want to be.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about teaching so far?

Make time to focus on the positives. On one of my placements in particular, there was a lot of very challenging behaviour and I found that nearly all of my time was taken up firefighting with a handful of pupils. My biggest regret when I left that class was that I had not given enough time to celebrating the positive behaviour and achievements that also went on in that room of children.

Managing your time is admittedly a learning curve, but I have found that being intentional about having a positive moment with each child every day makes such a difference to the way they respond, but also to your own mental health and the energy you come home with at the end of the day.

Very best of luck!