Soma Dey is an English as an Additional Language Teacher for the EAL/GDSS Service at Battlefield Primary School. She qualified as a PGDE PRIMARY TEACHER in Strathclyde University.
I was a single mum when I decided to start a BA in Marketing. My intention was to teach the subject after several years in industry. But the experience of going back into education completely changed my life: as my confidence increased I wanted to give back to the community. I ended up, by accident, in a primary school and I decided there and then that the best place to start to have a real impact on the lives of people is by having an influence in a child’s early years.
Studying for my teaching qualification was a stressful and difficult time. I had two young children and decided to cram everything into one year by doing a PGDE. Thankfully, my family supported me. And it was worth it!
My first experience of being in front of a class felt pretty natural. I was super excited to have full autonomy over my own class and I was full of enthusiasm and eager to make the journey fun and full of learning for my pupils.
My headteacher at this time really inspired me. She told me that the children from this school who are in an ethnic minority group would never have seen a young Asian teacher; I was in a position to influence them and be a positive role model. Many of the Asian girls in my class knew nothing more than what their mothers did, which was to be a homemaker. My position may offer them the notion of trying new avenues.
I brought my South Indian Pakistani culture into schools whenever I could link it to an area of the curriculum and add value to the learner’s experience; I sought School Management Team (SMT) support in doing this. I arranged visits to Gurdwaras, opening up the learner’s experience; I did Diwali Assemblies; and arranged International days. I wore my saree at any given occasion, which sometimes shocked, but I was not afraid to show who I was. In fact, I was proud.
Glasgow City Council have always been supportive of taking religious days off – you are entitled to three – and most of my schools were open to this. However, very often I used to feel like I was not entitled to my full three days, as I might upset the other staff and SMT. I do not feel like this anymore.
My advice to people from a BAME background who are considering entering teaching is to be yourself, be proud of your culture, have a voice. Use your ethnic background, culture and knowledge to engage, broaden and add depth to the learner’s experience. It took me a long time to assert my voice but when I did I felt liberated, valuable and part of the team.