Experts at NCC: Martha Campbell-Irving

Experts at NCC: Martha Campbell-Irving

What subject do you teach?

I currently teach A-Level English Language and Literature, but I have experience teaching all three English A-Level courses.

What is the best thing about teaching?

Even though this is a bit of a cliché, I quite like the variety that comes with being a teacher. Every day/week/term, brings new challenges and unexpected adaptations. Even though I have been teaching the same units for years, I am always experimenting with new ways to deliver the curriculum. I also really enjoy the interpersonal aspect of teaching, the fostering of good teacher-student relationships and also those created with my colleagues.

How did you get into teaching?

I was in my early 20s, coming to the end of my English degree and was weighing up a few different professional paths. I was really into theatre in secondary school and in university, so I had thought I wanted to pursue a career in that, specifically in the technical side or as a producer.

Then, I got an internship working with a production company who produced a number of West End shows, a few of which were really long-standing productions, and these shows offered educational packages for school trips, so the production company had a smaller unit within it that produced the supplementary learning materials that teachers could use with students before and after their visit, and I got to assist with those materials. As I really enjoyed working in that aspect of the theatre world, I decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in educational theatre with English education which led to certification in both Drama and English.

And for a while I taught both subjects until I ultimately specialised in teaching English at the secondary/post-16 level.

What is it like to work at New City College?

Working at New City College is a never-ending adventure!


What advice would you give to an early career teacher?

Try to not listen to all the ‘noise’. I feel like too often our first years as teachers are trying to pursue perfection, and when this doesn’t happen, people get discouraged, even to the point of leaving the profession. I think it is important to focus on what you can control: your content knowledge, the relationships you foster with your students, how you want your classroom environment to feel, and being as prepared as you can for whatever that day will hold. Everything else is secondary.

What has been your biggest teaching challenge?

Without a doubt, all of the 2021–2022 academic year. Having to prepare students to sit their first proper examinations since Year 6, was immensely difficult and completely exhausting on every level: intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally, as we were just coming out of ‘Covid Times’.

What has been your biggest achievement?

I will have to refer to my previous answer. I am very proud of the fact that my subject team and I were able to haul the 2022 cohort through coursework completion and final exams — and ultimately achieving the highest percentage of A*-B grades in our subject history!

Who has inspired you the most?

As far as teaching goes, my greatest source of inspiration has always been my colleagues, especially those in my English department.

But on a personal level, my biggest inspiration is the legendary force of nature, Dolly Parton. She is a creative genius, a savvy business woman, and one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. We should all strive to be a bit more like Dolly.