When I was a little girl there were three things that I wanted to be. 1. A lawyer 2. A teacher 3. A mother
I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought that the female lawyers on a TV programme called LA Law looked really smart and kicked butt. They power-dressed in monotone corporate skirt suits and carried terribly important looking briefcases. From somewhere I managed to get an old briefcase and I remember filling it with lots of pieces of paper, envelopes, pens and pencils.
I wanted to be a teacher because I liked ticking the registers I made, carefully writing out lists of names on squared paper, checking that all my dolls and teddies were in attendance. My mum was a teacher and my grandmother before her. It ran in the family. I enjoyed helping mum make lesson resources in the evenings and I often went with her to school early and stayed there late when she was working.
The desire to be a mother, for me, was purely instinctive. From a very early age I simply wanted to be in charge of my own household. I've always been extremely independent and despite having a loving family I moved out of home as soon as I possibly could.
Fastforward to the end of A-levels and I was totally fed up of academia. I wanted to be (more) independent and get earning with a 'proper' job. Thus the world of law was not to be (at that time) and I made the sensible decision that a teaching degree would set me up with a rewarding and flexible vocation that I could fit around having a family someday.
I qualified as a Primary School teacher (with an English specialism) and shortly after started my family with a daughter. I was fortunate to work in great schools where mentors and head teachers enabled me to find my way as a teacher. I was given early responsibilities such as planning, implementing and developing two Early Years Foundation Stage units from scratch. I learned a huge amount during that time but knew that I needed to move on and gain more experience in other schools, and in teaching across the age ranges.
There are never enough hours in the day for all the learning we need to do. Abigail Steel
I went on every CPD (Continued Professional Development) course I could and took up every opportunity I came across. I got involved with Local Authority projects; worked during the school holidays with Roma-Gypsy communities and ran holiday clubs for children with PMLD (Profound Multiple Learning Difficulties). I wrote articles that were published in Teaching & Learning magazine.
There did come a point where the teaching climate I was in became very negative. I found myself in schools with senior management who shouldn't have ever been allowed within 100 yards of a school. There was bullying. There was scrutiny, pressure, a lack of trust and respect. I was saddened because I loved teaching - and I knew I was good at it - but I wasn't prepared to risk my health or home life for it.
My husband said, "If I had a magic wand what would you want to do?"
So I went back to school and qualified as a solicitor with a Business Law specialism. Whilst it was interesting to learn about, helped me to set up my own business and satisfying to tick off the third childhood dream, it also taught me that life as a solicitor was going to be pretty dull compared to working in the faster paced industry of education. I missed education and I speculated that the daily commute on the underground in London plus dry cleaning all those power suits was soon going to lose its glamour and become a chore.
I love education, I think it is so incredibly and utterly important in every sense. Abigail Steel
Back to education it was (sorry husband) but this time the plan was to continue to hone my teaching expertise, continue to learn and specialise and then use my knowledge and experiences to help children, their teachers and their parents by providing my own training and resources. I signed up with supply teaching agencies to work in as many different schools as possible. While I had been studying law I had also started delivering teacher-training workshops and INSET days and also gained accreditation as a trainer for Phonics International Ltd.
I established Blackberry Education as a way of consolidating and demonstrating the services I offer to schools, teachers, parents and publishers. After working with literally hundreds of children in schools and hundreds of teachers at training events I have now migrated further over into the field of publishing. I am currently focusing on helping parents, teachers and publishers though consulting, project managing, writing and online training.