Anna Bell talks tells us about her work for Classics for All and the truth of the saying "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger".
I am the London and South East Coordinator for Classics for All, a charity that provides funding to teach Classics in state primary and secondary schools. They believe that every pupil, regardless of their ability or background, deserves to benefit from the learning, enjoyment and inspiration that Classics provides. Since their first grant in 2011 they have awarded a total of over £920,000 in grants reaching 700 schools across the UK, benefiting more than 40,000 pupils. I started with them in September 2017, working 2 days a week, and my role is evolving gradually – it is a mix of supporting schools already funded by Classics for All and recruiting new schools.
The work is varied and interesting and I like the flexibility of being able to work from home and going out into schools. I love being able to continue working with schools and teachers and Classics, without the pressure of being the teacher myself. I love passing on my experience, energy, enthusiasm and resources to other teachers, and spreading Classics to students from all different backgrounds and abilities. I feel like I have just got started with it all, and I’m excited to see how the role develops and where I end up going with it.
My current working life is rather different to how I started out, and not entirely where I expected to be at this point in my career! I read Greek and Latin at UCL and, after spending a year at the St James school in New York, completed my PGCE at the University of Cambridge in Classics. It was a tough course and I had a few knocks along the way but, as the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and I stuck with it. I had decided that I wanted to teach in the state sector and I am very pleased I made that decision.
I taught in two state schools, as a teacher and secondly, at St Marylebone Church of England School, as Head of Department, where I was given the opportunity to create and expand the department. I was at Marylebone for 7 years and loved it! Our peak year was 2015, when we had the whole of Year 8 (150 students) studying Latin for the first time. At this time Latin was being taught all the way up to GCSE and A Level, A Level Classical Civilisation was thriving, and I had taken a number of trips to Greece, including a wonderful trip to excavate in Athens with 5 amazing Year 13 students. It was during my time at Marylebone that I heard about Classics for All. I went on maternity leave in October 2016, and had a baby boy called Theodore. While on maternity leave I was offered the job to work for Classics for All. I knew I didn’t want to work with the same intensity as I had before, so this sounded perfect.
For me, I think the most significant part of my St James education was being exposed to Classics, as well as developing the ability to be still and steady in myself. When we left St James we were given a piece of calligraphy with a quote from Hamlet, “This above all to thine own Self be true…”. This quote has stayed with me since then, and is a message I have always passed on to my students, either by example, or through the advice I give them. I have always felt that by being true to myself I cannot go wrong in what I do and this has given me a sense of inner confidence that has helped me in many situations.
If anyone was interested in going into a similar area I think the key ingredient is truly loving what you do and loving your subject! Having the enthusiasm and belief in it yourself is a key aspect of being able to sell it to others, either as a teacher or as I do in my current role. If you don’t get the job you want straight away don’t worry: the right job is out there! Facing rejection for the first time was tough, but it made me stronger. Marylebone taught me never to give up and to fight for what I believed in, and I am hugely grateful for my time there, without it I wouldn’t have ended up working at Classics for All.
If you would like to know more about the charity, either as a teacher, or to support the work it does, visit: https://classicsforall.org.uk/
or if anyone is interested in introducing Classics in your school, you can email me at email@example.com
. Any support is gratefully received, and it would be great to hear from anyone keen to find out more!