Portico P_black


Lessons for life

Becoming an inspirational teacher takes time, practice and a lot of hard work. Here, three alumni of the Institute of Education recall the learning curve.

Words Kate Hilpern Illustration Lee Woodgate


It was all so inspiring and developed me so holistically. I think that intrinsic love of teaching is the greatest thing I owe to that time at the IoE

Sarah Seery (née Campbell) (UCL Medical School 1963) is Head of the School of Horticulture and Landscaping, Capel Manor College. She studied a PGCE at the UCL IoE in 2009-2011.
By my early 40s, I’d reached saturation point with the desk jobs I’d had and decided to turn to a passion of mine: horticulture. I did a diploma, and after I joined a big commercial nursery, the college I’d studied at asked if I’d consider teaching horticulture myself.

I chose IoE to do my PGCE because of its reputation. If I was going to spend two years studying I wanted an outstanding course – and that’s what I got. The highlight for me was our teacher, [Dr Ian] Wilky. He brought teaching alive because he looked at it from a very organic perspective. We learned through peer discussion, using resources to support that – and the resources available at the Institute were amazing.

The students were a great bunch. The youngest were in their 20s and the oldest in their 50s, all from very different backgrounds and teaching completely different subjects. It meant our learning was diverse and rich, with a broad range of thinking and ideas. We had a lot of laughs and supportive discussions in the student bar, and now we’ve left we try and keep in touch through things like LinkedIn, but our jobs and families make it hard to do more than that.

It was tough managing my workload of teaching full-time, attending the course on Wednesday evenings and writing long assignments at the weekend. But it was very worthwhile and I’ve since learned that our teaching was far more in-depth than at other colleges. As such, I think it’s made me a much better teacher.

Mark Hartley is Headteacher at Barnes Primary School. He did an MA in Educational Management and Administration in 1993-1995.
Having returned from a bout of travelling looking for work, I wound up with a job in a Hackney primary school. It was a baptism by fire and although I did a couple of courses to help, it just made me realise how much more there was to know, so I signed up to the two-year, part-time MA course.

Particularly memorable was the two weeks I spent in New York schools. I saw a range of teaching practices – from the grossly unfair to the truly outstanding – but it was a fantastic experience. I loved the way the course gave a picture of how schools in more challenging situations can still be successful.

Quite soon after I’d finished the course, I secured a deputy headship and within a year after that I became acting headteacher. And because I’d got a taste for learning, I did an MBA, as well as a diploma in dyslexia and specific learning difficulties. In fact, it was the teaching around continuous improvement that probably stayed with me the most – that idea that you never really reach your destination and even as a leader, you are on a journey.

Recently I saw Peter Mortimer, who was director of the Institute when I did my course, dropping off his grandchild, who goes to my school. I stopped him to talk and we’ve since become friends. I always remember what he said that day: “Make sure they have fun.”

Tessa Augustyniak is Music Director at Berkeley International School. She did a PGCE in 2004-2005 and an MA in Music Education in 2011.
As a musician, you always know teaching will be part of your career. For me, that meant wanting a really thorough understanding of the teaching process, and that’s why I chose IoE both for my PGCE and my Master’s in Music Education.

I remember being initially surprised about how much teaching theory I had to get my head round. There was a big emphasis on the theory to back up everything you do in the classroom, as well as understanding the development of music education – that’s a lot to take on board. But I loved the social life, too. We developed close bonds and being musicians, we had some great jam sessions. Music was so alive.

It was all so inspiring, and developed me so holistically, that performing no longer felt like the be-all and end-all. Instead, I just felt really excited about the idea of teaching. I’m now at an international school in Bangkok, but I think that intrinsic love of teaching is the greatest thing I owe to that time at IoE.

I loved the way that the course really challenged us to analyse our motivations and practices. If you’re not careful it’s too easy to become stagnant, and the fact that the course encouraged the reflective practitioner model has had a direct impact on my teaching.

The Institute of Education joined UCL in January 2014 – DARO warmly welcomes its alumni to the UCL family.

  • Contents 2015/16Contents 2015/16
  • DeconstructedDeconstructed
  • InboxInbox
  • A UCL beginner’s guide to…A UCL beginner’s guide to…
  • Free RadicalFree Radical
  • Alumni Network launchAlumni Network launch
  • Jeremy Bentham SpeaksJeremy Bentham Speaks
  • The Strong RoomThe Strong Room
  • Extra CurricularExtra Curricular
  • CloisteredCloistered
  • Life, the Universe and EverythingLife, the Universe and Everything
  • This Radical LifeThis Radical Life
  • Paper ChasePaper Chase
  • Beautiful BacteriaBeautiful Bacteria
  • CitiesCities
  • Hello London!Hello London!
  • Lessons for lifeLessons for life
  • In Bentham’s footstepsIn Bentham’s footsteps
  • This idea must dieThis idea must die
  • London  vs  WorldLondon vs World
Portico Issue 2. 2015/16