An Interview with…English Teacher, Mrs D Sadler
Budding journalists, Emma Clifton (9B) and Lauren Poole (9C), sat down with one of Highfields’ longest serving members of staff, English teacher Mrs D Sadler, to discuss her career in education and everlasting love for her job.
Having spent 45 years in education, it’s fair to say teaching is much more than just a profession for Mrs D Sadler.
And with the same sense of enthusiasm today for the dream job she chose decades ago, it doesn’t look like it’ll be the final chapter of the English teacher’s career in the classroom any time soon.
Having attended the Municipal Grammar School from 1954-1959, she then got her first job with the Health Department, earning the equivalent of £4.50 per week, before moving to the Housing Department in Wolverhampton.
The 76-year-old grandmother - whose husband Jim is a former Highfields teacher who has dedicated his life to education in Wolverhampton - said: “There was a careers teacher who only ever offered one job – at Springfield Brewery! The rest of you had to find your own job, so I did.
“I didn’t teach at first. When I got married, my husband was a Maths teacher, and I thought it would be interesting to do the same. In 1971, I started at Wolverhampton College (day for teachers) and my main subjects were Maths (a subsidiary), English and History.
“I finished in 1974, but before then I came to work here at Highfields School as a laboratory technician while my children were little and then spent a few years away from the school at college.”
Her first teaching job was at Coppice High School, in Wednesfield.
She said: “I went there in 1974 and absolutely loved it. My first year was a baptism of fire. I taught English, History, RE and Social Education and Maths.”
The mother-of-two worked at Coppice for 17 years, and took on a number of roles throughout that time on top of her teaching job, including being in charge of the recreation money and taking on the role of Santa Claus for the annual Christmas grotto.
She also dedicated much of her own time to disadvantaged students who didn’t enjoy the same privileges or experiences as some of their classmates.
“We used to go out on a Friday night until the Sunday afternoon in Hereford, walking,” she said.
“I remember one teacher asking to join us on one of the trips but I don’t think she had realised how much walking we did. We did a 15-mile walk and all the way she was singing ‘Abide With Me’ because she didn’t think she would get there.”
By 1991, she had been promoted to Head of Year 8, and was in charge of the Learning Support department and Girls’ Welfare, before moving on to Smestow School.
She said: “I was Head of Years 10 and 11 and taught just English while I was there.
“I loved pastoral work. In fact, I used to try and see as many parents as I could. One young man, whose mother worked at Wolverhampton market, never woke up in the morning, so my first job was to ring John to get him out of the bed!”
She stayed there for five years, but left to care for her terminally-ill mother, believing at the time that her teaching career year was over for good.
“My mother was ill. She had lung cancer and she came to live with me,”she says.
“I didn’t intend working again as I had already done 30 years by that time.
“I thought I’d given it all up. However, a few weeks later I had a knock on the door. It was the Chair of Governors from Highfields. He said he’d been talking to a friend of mine and wondered if I could come into school for a week as a favour.
That was back in 1996.
She says: “Anytime they needed cover or someone to step in that was me as I really enjoyed it. The reason I left was because my daughter was joining and I didn’t want to cramp her style.”
She became a permanent member of Highfields staff at the age of 68, working one-and-a-half days a week. Her role at the time was helping students who needed one-to-one teaching for a variety of reasons.
Mrs Sadler, who uses her spare time out of school to practice her many hobbies including tennis, walking, cooking and travelling, said: “I was lucky to have a small group supporting students in their journey towards their GCSEs. I try to be flexible and offer to support students even outside of the English timetable.
“One of the reasons I have always had a soft spot for this school is my daughter.
“When she came here she wanted to focus on subjects that would get her into medical school. But she loved languages so the school were good enough to accommodate, and she did Latin and a bit of Russian.
“Her teachers were absolutely fabulous.
“I know how hard the teachers work at Highfields. It’s a very special school. My grandchildren came here too. Everyone is devoted, hard-working and committed to doing their best for the children.”
During her career, she has taken on other additional challenging but rewarding roles in education, including Safeguarding and Head of Special Needs at Coppice School.
So how much has the landscape of education changed during Mrs Sadler’s time in the classroom?
“I think it’s very similar but not as relaxed, she says. “For example, when I first started you did your own exam invigilating. There wasn’t as much form filling or data, and boys and girls were separate in the register, with separate playgrounds.”
The punishment system of old in all schools would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows nowadays. Daisy’s husband, as Head of Upper School and Acting Deputy Head, was in charge of the cane as one of his roles.
“I dare say he used it with dexterity but it was used,” she says.
“When I went to Coppice, the Deputy Head would call me in to act as a witness. There had to be a witness to the punishment book being signed. They used to get the slipper if it wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant the cane.”
Another aspect of school life that is unrecognisable from the past is the technological transformation.
“Certainly, there weren’t computers. The technology these days is absolutely great,” she says. “There’s lots more sharing going on and it’s nice to be able to do the register on there and spot problems.
“You did start to get a television back then. We used to send a student down to ask someone in the office to set up the video. Now it is pure luxury. On the other hand, perhaps we rely on things too much?”
Despite her busy lifestyle, juggling family, friends and fun alongside her work, it’s clear Mrs Sadler still loves her job.
So what is it that keeps her working?
“Enjoyment. Absolute thorough enjoyment,” she says with pride.
“It is something to get up for that I find interesting and worthwhile. Sometimes your mind is having to work hard, and you’re thinking, ‘how am I going to get this student through?’
“But, my advice to budding young teachers is ‘don’t hesitate’. Just do it.
“Bear in mind it won’t always be easy, but for the most part I would say go for it. 99% of the time it is a superb job and I don’t think many people can say that.”