Joanna Hubbard

Early Childhood Studies BA (Hons)

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  • Year of Graduation: July 2020
  • Current Job title: Special Educational Needs Teacher
  • Industry sector: Education

Your Current Role

What is your current employment? What responsibilities do you have within the role?

I’m a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Teacher. I lead sessions, plan and teach, take part in CPD through the school, and handle difficult and tricky situations. I love everything about my job – even on the hardest days, there is still so much joy and so many rewarding elements.

Describe the aspects of your role you find most enjoyable and rewarding, and those you find particularly challenging.

The most rewarding aspect of my role is watching and seeing progress in my children. For SEN children, a small step for us is a massive step for them. Even just in my first term, I saw so much progression -academically, socially and emotionally. It’s so rewarding to see this and even more enjoyable to learn each child’s individual quirks that make them the stars they are. I also love how most of my day is spent smiling or laughing with the children, the statements they come out with are brilliant and it makes me wish I was a child again. The most challenging element has been handling stress and managing my time and work/life balance. I’m a massive perfectionist, worrier and overthinker, which has often resulted in me feeling worried that what I’m doing isn’t enough, however, I’m lucky to have an incredible Senior Leadership Team, who are the best at talking to me about any worries I may have.

Your University – Career Journey

Describe your career progression so far, and any plans or hopes you have for the future.

Before University, I knew I wanted to work with children but I didn’t know in what context, which is why the Early Childhood Studies course was perfect. The programme is perfectly curated to cover many important aspects of working with children, including law, health, child development, diversity, SEN, inclusion, pedagogy, working with parents and professionals, managing and mentoring adults, and creativity. Since a young age I’ve also had an interest in SEN, but I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to teach, so I decided this course would be perfect as it had many different gateways. I have friends from the course who have gone into safeguarding, mainstream teaching, 1:1 support, social work and counselling. During my course, we were given three opportunities to go out on placement (three or four weeks each year). For the first placement we weren’t given a choice of location, but we were for the last two. For my first placement I went to a pre-school, which I really enjoyed. I was asked to work part-time as bank staff and this really helped my career development. For my second placement, I asked to be placed at a SEN school. The course placement team were amazing and got me into a SEN school and I absolutely loved every second of it. At the end of my placement, I was asked to work part-time as bank staff and of course I said yes! My manager advised that this was definitely the career path for me and I totally agreed, so I worked as bank staff there until I left university. My third placement was at a much larger SEN school, and again I loved it. I was so lucky that my course a choice of placements – these opportunities supported my career progression and confirmed that I was on the right pathway for me.

How do you think your time at UON helped your career or personal development?

I can confidently say that my time at UON helped me grow into the adult I am today. I went to nine open days in total, but something was so different about UON – I got this massive sense of comfort and support when I first stepped onto the campus and I knew it was the right place for me. Before I started university, I suffered with anxiety and depression, so a university that was going to support me was incredibly important. At the open day, I had a panic attack in one of the course taster sessions. Instead of making it a big deal or leaving me alone, one of the lecturers sat with me and calmly spoke to me about something different. Their compassion and warmth made me feel so comfortable and I just knew that I was going to have the best three years. Everyone who knew me before university says how much my confidence has grown and developed and I can see in myself how much I’ve developed personally.

I was given so many career opportunities while at UON – careers fairs, placements, talks from professionals, a vast array of modules, and training sessions (paediatric first aid, Mental Health Awareness and Partnership with Parents). In terms of personal development, I really don’t know where to start. As a Student Life Ambassador, I was given opportunities to lead talks to hundreds of people at open days, which hugely supported my confidence. I accessed the free and confidential counselling service for the whole of my first year and I joined the dance club, which was free, where I was on the committee for two years as Vice Captain and Captain (as well as choreographer), which also developed my confidence. I made friends for life at UON, who I still speak to every day. I loved my time there so much and would do anything to do it all again!

Which skills and knowledge/understanding gained during your degree are useful in your role?

All of the skills, knowledge and understanding I gained during my degree are incredibly useful in my role. The course was incredibly vast in learning opportunities – I learned about so many important elements of working with children, including safeguarding, the law, partnership with parents and diversity and inclusion – we covered everything from birth to age eight. Having this as a foundation for my training was incredible and meant that I knew the important areas in a classroom and how to make it an enabling environment. Every single module has relevancy when working with children. I’m so glad I chose this course – the underlying knowledge and experience I received was incredible.

What did you most enjoy about your course at Northampton?

I most enjoyed the friendships I made. Being a small course of under 40 students, we got to know each other really well and our studies supported this by providing relaxed lectures full of group work, discussion, conversation and debate, as well as opportunities for group lunches and BBQs. The course was just amazing, and so were my incredible lecturers. There were times I would feel stressed or overwhelmed, but I always felt I could go and speak to any of the lecturers for support. I also enjoyed the range of modules and assignments on my course, which enabled me to do group presentations, essays, PowerPoints, posters, scrapbooks and role play.

How would you describe the academic team?

My lecturers were incredible, my personal support tutors were incredible, and my dissertation supervisor was incredible – I have no bad words to say about them. They put so much hard work into us and did everything they could to provide us with informative and engaging lectures, even when these were moved online. They even made a little virtual graduation party for us! The team of academic librarians and development staff were also amazing. The development staff often came and did lectures for us on essay writing, or how to present a PowerPoint more effectively, and we also had the academic team come in to show us referencing, or how to find certain texts in the databases. UON is full of support.

Your Advice

What advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this work, e.g. tips on gaining entry, accessing opportunities, anything you wish you’d known earlier?

Get as much experience as you can! Try to choose a course that offers placements and try to get a part-time job or some volunteering experience. When working with children or applying for a job in this field, they want to see experience, so boost that CV of yours. Do anything and everything you can while at university, as this will provide you with skills and knowledge like teamwork, confidence and leadership. At University I had three different part time-jobs, I was on the dance club for three years, I went clubbing with my friends at least once a week and made lifelong friendships, all while I slaved away at my assignments and regularly got high marks. I graduated with First-Class Honours, and secured a career role, but still did lots of things at university and gained so much more than just a degree! It taught me to balance my life, to make time for everyone and everything, while still having days to chill. I’d also recommend joining a sports club or society, it’s free!

How would you summarise your University of Northampton experience?

The best three years of my life! I wouldn’t be the person I am today without UON and I still wear my Northampton hoodie with pride. I needed the university experience to prove to myself that I could be independent, live alone, cook, clean and communicate with important people – all the things that as adults, we’re just expected to do. I made the best friendships and memories, had the most amazing opportunities and am so grateful for the experience – I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m completely myself now, and this was encouraged by everyone around me, from the academic team, the SU, the lecturers and faculty, to the student ambassador team. I embrace who I am and I’m so glad that I choose UON.