Rikki started out in Conservation Biology and looked first into Environmental Education. She found the work really rewarding, but as it was reliant on volunteers and was very poorly paid, she wanted to find something with more stability. While she decided what to do next she took up a position as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in a secondary school.
At that point Rikki hadn't considered teaching in the traditional sense but while at the school she gained huge insight into the students' difficulties and educational needs and learned a huge amount while observing in the classroom. She mostly supported Science and Design and Technology and enjoyed them both. It was there that the children told her that she should be a teacher.
Having decided to take the plunge and do a PGCE, Rikki picked Design and Technology because it combined Art and Science and offered lots of variety.
Rikki chose to study at the Institute of Education because she was aware of its great reputation for teacher training and it was conveniently nearby. Two other LSAs had also applied that year, so she knew she would be amongst friends.
With the PGCE being an intensive course and a mix of university study and school placements, Rikki said:
"It was the most demanding year of my life, but every one since has shown me how worthwhile it was. The resources and practices I built up have seen me through and I've since adapted and improved them year on year. Having a close cohort made all the difference. We'd get together for a drink on Friday and share our woes and our wins. We always knew there was someone around to bounce ideas off of when we were stuck."
Rikki really enjoyed the hands-on projects provided by the Course Leaders Graham and Mel such as screen printing, building architectural models and chairs out of newspaper, making soup and visits to places like the Pitt River's Museum.
Reflecting on how she has changed and developed in her time since her teacher training, Rikki says
"I have relaxed. I allow the children to learn through failure, I've relinquished the death grasp control from PowerPoint, I chunk tasks better and manage the flow and happily use "lazy" techniques - sometimes I get to sit back and watch them work independently, that's a gratifying sight!"
Rikki felt the Course Leaders, Graham and Mel were amazing when things got really tough, mediating when needed and always available for help. She also had the opportunity to be on the student council which she really enjoyed.
"The variation and the kids - on Wednesdays I have year 7 Food Technology where I watch their faces swell with pride over bread rolls and knife skills, followed by year 9 Electronics where we solder PCB components and adhere laser cut decoration with acrylic cement, and I finish with GCSE Graphics and support them in their coursework as they succeed and fail and learn and adapt and give their all every time. It's a pretty cool job!"
So why do we need to teach Design and Technology in schools? Rikki's view is:
"More than ever in this dynamic and technologically-changing world students need to develop their creative, problem solving and practical skills. Design Technology is not only for our future engineers learning about the physics of bridges, but for prop designers shaping expanded polystyrene, your local chef with the skills to fillet a fish, surgeons having the dexterity to suture a wound and environmental conservationists working to remove the mass of microplastics from the oceans. We are shaping the future of our world one lesson at a time and, with it, giving every student the opportunity to use their heads, their hands and their hearts to do so"