Emily knew when she left school herself that she wanted to be a PE teacher. Her love of coaching sport began while she was doing her Duke of Edinburgh award and she was volunteering to coach a local basketball team. She loved it so much she knew this was something she wanted to do as a career, and PE teaching offered her that opportunity. After completing her probationer placement in her home city of Glasgow, Emily saw a PE teacher role advertised for Tobermory High School on the Isle of Mull and she decided to give island life a go, a decision that turned out to bring huge rewards both personally and professionally.

“I knew when I decided I wanted to be a PE teacher that it was going to be a challenge as it’s a popular career choice, but with the experience I’d built up I was able to secure a place on the PGDE course at the University of West Scotland. It also helped that I’d completed a undergraduate course in Sports Development, with my dissertation focusing on education, and before that I’d completed an HNC and HND in sports coaching development at college.”

“After completing my PGDE I did my probationer placement at Knightswood Secondary School in West End of Glasgow. It’s one of the largest secondary schools in the city with over 1400 learners, so lots of indoor and outdoor facilities, with large departments. Once that placement was completed I started to search for my next role. I saw the role advertised at Tobermory High School and I just thought ‘Why not?’ and I went for it. It was a massive difference from my first school with just 250 pupils in total spanning from nursery age, through primary and into secondary.”

Even though Tobermory High School was a much smaller school, in many ways it has afforded a lot more opportunities.

“In my first school, because of the size you do tend to stay working within your department. At Tobermory there are only one or two members of staff in each department and so we work together a lot more across the school. It’s also a campus, with the early learning and childcare, primary and secondary pupils which gave me the opportunity to teach across all three. There aren’t many places that are like that, and it brings a big community feel.

“It was quite daunting to start with but at Tobermory I have had to teach at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher level, which has helped me to mature quickly as a teacher, it’s like being on a bit of a fast track!

“I’ve also had the opportunity to teach outside of my subject. For example I was able to teach the Powering Futures programme, which is equivalent to a Level 6 qualification. This gives students the chance to take on real-life sustainability challenges and come up with a solution. I’ve also become one of the markers for the programme and so I’ve been able to develop those skills as well. So it’s definitely given me experience that in a bigger school you wouldn’t ordinarily get.”

Emily explained a bit more about what it was like adjusting to island life.

“When I took this job it was the first time I’d left home so that was a big adjustment in itself. The community were immediately very welcoming, which made a big difference to me as I moving up by myself. Actually the local Facebook page helped me find somewhere to rent which is only a three minute walk from the school and so that’s been really handy!

“You’re obviously further away from some things – to get my big supermarket shop in it involves an hour and a half journey and a ferry trip but I soon got used to it!”

Three years into her career, Emily has already learned a lot about herself as a teacher, and now has a clearer idea of where she wants to go in her career.

Working in a smaller school has really given me a lot of confidence. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone at times, having to teach such a range of qualifications from National 5 up to Advanced Higher, but it’s really changed my outlook on my career. Eventually I’d like to become a Head of Department, and the skills I’ve gained teaching at Tobermory have made me feel positive about achieving that.”

Emily has this advice for anyone considering a career in teaching in a remote school:

I would say if you get the opportunity then go for it, give yourself a chance. I would definitely do this all over again if I could!”

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