At YGAM, we’re proud to work with thousands of inspirational teachers every year. Teaching is a special profession that helps shape the futures of our young people. Our charity was founded by a teacher and our team consists of many former teachers. Kyle Riding, Head of National Programme at YGAM reflects on his teaching days and the important role of school education.

“Why did you become a teacher?” Well one thing for sure it wasn’t to become a millionaire!

So why did I become a teacher? Sometimes I still ask myself that question, but now when I reflect back I understand the answer more clearly. Yes, the working day extends way beyond 8:30am-3:30pm (contrary to belief). You work weekends, have sleepless nights worrying about children, you catch every possible illness going and you break the bank making sure everything is just right for your lessons. The pay leaves something to be desired, but all of that for me was about one specific purpose; to make each child want to be in the classroom.

The experience of seeing the comfort that schools brought to so many of the pupils that I taught was enough to make me stay in the profession for almost 7 years, for many it’s a safety blanket. As teachers we wear various hats and undertake many roles; those of nurse, parent, carer, dentist and, social worker to name a few, but being a positive male role model to many, and often to children without one in their lives, was by far the most rewarding element. It meant they had someone to help protect them that they could open up to, who they could learn the skill of taking initiative from and learn to relate to others who were both similar and different to themselves. It wouldn’t be a true reflection if I said that a school isn’t a tough and sometimes even unbearable environment to work in, especially when you take into account the responsibility of the job and the immense pressure teachers continue to be under, but having that one pinnacle moment of success with a pupil, is enough to stop you still in your tracks and simply smile and breathe, knowing you have made and continue to make a difference to so many, often without even being aware to what extent.

This leads me onto how I personally define what makes a good teacher. Progress? Attainment? Assessment? Exceeding targets? Frequently it was none of the latter; whilst they held considerable importance for me, other areas definitely took precedence. The well-being and happiness outweighed any of my ‘duties and responsibilities. Having a pupil struggle with a numeracy question for example and working through their boundaries to enable them to overcome specific obstacles, seeing that huge sense of achievement spread across their face, when they got the correct answer and finally understood, is something that is quite addictive! Having pupils realise that there is no such thing as ‘can’t’ and have them start to believe in themselves and the fact they have infinite potential is compelling. Sharing moments that many others don’t get to share with children, (if you’re as fortunate as I was to work with an outstanding higher level teaching assistant in my latest teaching role) is what I could only describe as magical. Both having that realisation daily that we have made a difference and will continue to do so. Knowing that the pupils within your care feel safe, celebrated for who they are, loved, nurtured and appreciated gives you an immense sense of satisfaction even after marking 35 extended writes on a Friday evening!

It’s only whilst sitting typing this that I realise how many positives there were and times when I wish I had written down the hilarious one liners many pupils say, as I am sure I would be a top selling author now giving J.K. Rowling a run for her money! I’m fortunate my personal experience of primary school was positive, and I had an amazing Year 4 teacher that I admired. I also got to work with a number of other inspirational and unbelievable professionals on my teaching journey, who I continue to be in awe of. Working predominantly in Key Stage 2 and then early years was insightful, eventful, stressful at times, challenging but gratifying and that journey is one that has allowed me to fortunate enough to be in the position where I am today with a huge number of fond memories.

It’s no secret that I didn’t go into teaching for the money (or the school dinners for that matter), but I can honestly say that I am rich in many other areas due to knowing that I have and will continue to make a difference for so many young people. Do I believe I was successful as a teacher? Yes, because each child in my class wanted to be in school.

It is now a privilege to still work with so many wonderful teachers through the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme. We’ve trained over 2,000 teachers already this year and we’re set to support thousands more during this new academic year. Education has an important role to play in preventing harm. Together with teachers, we’re educating and safeguarding future generations.

If you are a teacher and would like to find out more about our FREE CPD training on gambling and gaming harms, then please visit www.ygam.org/book-a-workshop/