Alice Bloom, an English teacher at the Oxford Spires Academy
Exeter taught me the value of hard work, determination, and self-belief. When I left, I felt like I could do anything.
I came to Exeter to read English in 2012. I was the first person from my school to go to Oxbridge in years and was from a low-income background, and I was very nervous about fitting in. Despite these initial worries, I made some wonderful friends and had the opportunity to study an amazing breadth of literature, from Anglo Saxon poetry to the works of Virginia Woolf. Exeter is Oxford’s most beautiful college, and I always feel nostalgic when I walk along Broad Street and look up at my third-year bedroom window!
Initially after graduating, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’d always maintained that I wouldn’t be a teacher, especially as I’d seen many negative articles about the stress of the workload and the profession’s high attrition rate. But I began to miss my subject, and I had enjoyed private tutoring before. I was accepted for the SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) in Oxfordshire, and in the summer of 2016 I began training as a secondary English teacher.
I am now in my second year of teaching. My school is very diverse: we have a high proportion of students with English as an additional language, and several refugees. Many of our students have challenging home lives and struggle with poverty; at the other end of the scale we have children from very affluent backgrounds. We recently published a poetry anthology, England: Poems from a School, a heartbreakingly beautiful book which reflects our broad social make-up.
I am never bored at work. I adore my students, I love teaching them to appreciate the study of English, and I feel like I am using the knowledge and cultural capital I acquired at Oxford for a very special purpose: to educate the adults of the future. As teachers, we often underestimate how important we can be in children’s lives, and the influence we can have on their paths in life. Someone once told me that, with an Oxford degree and about to start an MA, I am overqualified for teaching – but there’s no such thing as being too qualified to nourish curious young minds. And I get to have a hand in inspiring future Exonians!
Exeter taught me the value of hard work, determination, and self-belief. When I left, I felt like I could do anything. The prestige of my degree has undoubtedly opened doors for me, but that is nothing compared to the treasured memories of my time there, and the academic independence and intellectual curiosity which it fostered. English at Exeter taught me how to think about texts in new ways, and there is nothing better than being able to share a little bit of that with my students every day.