A journey to Classics teaching by Jack Oliver

After a fifteen year weightlifting career, I needed a change. I loved my time in weightlifting. I was able to travel the world, compete at the London Olympic Games in 2012 and win a Commonwealth silver medal. However, after more and more struggles against my own body, I decided that it was time to return to something which I enjoyed before I ever discovered weightlifting; and that was Classics.

I studied Latin in school and this led to a Classics degree which allowed me to learn not just the ancient languages, but also the Greek and Roman history of the Classical World. I spent four years completing my degree at the University of Leeds, simultaneously competing in the London Olympics and gaining a love of Herodotus in my third year. Thereafter, weightlifting became my sole focus until I eventually won a medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. After this, I stepped straight into teacher training.

I was accustomed to hard work, but the hardest bit about teacher training was the switch from being an expert to a novice. I had been running a coaching business for several years and I was used to giving the instructions and feedback. Teacher training completely changed this and I spent the year having to constantly adapt to the feedback of others. It was a difficult process to accept, but I understand that it was important and it helped me to continually improve my teaching.

What I did discover, upon starting my first teaching job, is that weightlifting and teaching are not entirely dissimilar. You spend a lot of time feeling busy and tired in both careers! Fortunately, this is balanced by the rarer but memorable “golden moments” as they were described on my PGCE. Instead of having the high of a good competition, I experienced similar feelings when a student informed me that they would be continuing the subject to GCSE/A Level, or when reviewing a student’s continually improving test scores. Even a simple thank you at the end of a lesson or a few unexpected words from a student to say that they had really enjoyed the lesson can have a real impact and make the long days worthwhile.

I’ve now begun my second year of teaching since completing my PGCE, and things are definitely going more smoothly and with less stress. I’ve also come to realise that my time away from Classics didn’t leave me clueless and even though I have to do plenty of research for my A Level classes, I have come to enjoy them the most. I can safely say that I have no regrets about making that first PGCE Classics enquiry.

You can watch the ACE interview with Jack here: