Teaching is a field that is challenging yet rewarding. In this post, I won’t sugarcoat anything – I’m going to be brutally honest. Why? Because I’ve learnt from my own experiences that teaching should be a passion as that’s what students deserve.
So before I give you some tips, I’ll share with you a bit about my own experiences. I’ve been teaching for nearly 9 years now, and initially I thought I’d only do it for 2 years! I became a Head of Department within 2 years of teaching and then Head of two departments within 3 years (mostly circumstantial but definitely an opportunity I wouldn’t have turned down!). After doing this for a few years, I decided to find and accept a job as Assistant Head of Sixth Form, which although the job was new and challenging, the working environment was not healthy for me so I left that position shortly after. I then returned to regular teaching and within a few months I was back to being Head of Department. I eventually left that teaching job and traditional teaching to start a new teaching career as a teacher of teenagers with mental health issues.
Teaching has definitely opened doors for me and been a blessing as well as a struggle for me. If I had known what I know now about teaching when I was considering it 10 years ago (oh my gosh! Can’t believe it’s been this long!) I may have chosen a different route. Actually I think I may have still chosen a route in education, but perhaps trained to work within mental health a lot earlier.
So if you are still considering entering teaching, then I’ll give you some pointers to consider so that you can make a well informed decision.
- Really think about WHY you want to enter teaching – I’ve heard many reasons why people choose teaching from the holidays and the ‘experience with young people’ (that was my excuse as I needed the experience to get into Educational Psychology which I never did!) to I just love kids to it’s a good starting salary and secure. To be fair all of these are fair judgements – and I can see why people really consider these as their reasons, but honestly speaking do these benefits outweigh some of the costs I’m going to discuss shortly? You decide.
- Is teaching a passion of yours? – I’ve come to realise that when it comes to choosing a career, being passionate about your field is something that is worth it. Now I’ve always been passionate about education and learning and seeing individuals achieve their best, but I lost my enthusiasm for teaching in mainstream very quickly. This made me realise that I was not utilising my passions well. I’ll go into this more in my next point. But really consider your passions – what is about teaching that you love? What subject are you passionate about? What excites you the most about the idea of teaching?
- If teaching is your passion, really consider the type of environment you thrive in – This is very important as there are multiple teaching environments, and not everyone is suited to all. Could you work in a private, faith or community school? Single sex or co-ed? Large classrooms or small? Walls or no walls? (Yes that’s a thing!). Are you ok with working in an Academy? These are questions to really consider, as teaching is not one size fits all. It may take a few teaching jobs to know which environment suits you, but it’s still something to think about when applying for jobs in the future.
- Do you have the skill set to become a teacher? – Teaching definitely requires one to be patient, with the teachers, the governors, the students, the parents of the students, the government – patience is key. There are many other skill sets that you should consider when teaching such as creativity, having a good rapport, good time keeping, professionalism, organised, being open to change as well as many others. Consider your skill sets and make a note of them and for each one think about how they will help you in your teaching career.
- Consider the many teaching arenas there are – When I first started my teacher training I knew that I did not want to really teach young children (although that’s now changed!), so I did my training with the 14 – 19 age group. I trained in both secondary school and a sixth form college AND a prison! Can you imagine the looks I get when I say ‘I’ve been to prison’! I’d advise finding a teaching placement that allows you to have an alternative teaching placement in your third term. As I mentioned my alternative placement was in prison and I really enjoyed it! It opened my eyes to the fact that teaching doesn’t necessarily have to be in a mainstream school – and even though most of my career as a teacher was in mainstream I still had in the back of my mind that one day I’d want to work in another area (and look at me now!). So my point is, don’t just think you need to teach in a standard school – there are hospitals, prisons, youth offending institutes, care homes, teaching abroad in an international school, and other options available.
- Becoming a teacher can provide you with a stable income – I’m so appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had whilst teaching and the fact I’ve been able to progress my salary each year and earn a decent salary. Teaching is a great career to get a good starting salary, and a good source of regular income for most. I’m not going to discuss the issues of pay and increments in this post otherwise we’d be here all day!
- Miss Honey is a fictional character and your students will not be bringing you fresh flowers they picked each morning! – Now I’m sure most of you know this already but I just had to include this point. When I first started teaching I had this notion that my classroom will always be well decorated, and everything will be prepared and in its place and students will be sat at their desks ready to learn each morning. Well how wrong was I?! Now I was mostly prepared each morning, but regardless of how prepared I was, there was always a reason why something didn’t necessarily go to plan. From students being ill (so my planned activity wouldn’t work with the odd numbers), or I’m ill (so now my planned schedule was falling behind) or OFSTED decided to make a show (so now my planned schedule had to be redone!) or students turning up late (so I’d have to stop teaching to accommodate their rudeness) – oh the list goes on! I’ll say this though – each day brings something new!
- Teaching is not a simple clock in clock off job – I realised this from day one! My typical teaching day in mainstream education was waking up about 5am to get ready for work and be in work for 7.30am to get my classroom ready for the day or finish the marking I wasn’t able to finish the night before or do the photocopying I wasn’t able to complete. My classes would start by 9am and my last class (depending on the day) would end by 4.30pm. Then depending on the day I’d stay at work to get more work done (marking, planning, photocopying) or I’d go home to do more work. In my earlier teaching years I would take home bags of marking or I’d stay at work until they kicked us out. In one of my jobs it was a regular occurrence to be at work until about 8pm (even 10pm on occasion) and get into work for about 6.30am. But the longer I’ve been teaching the more I’ve learnt to not bring work home (or reduce how often I do so). But what I’d say is really take this into consideration, as this alone can bring a lot of stress or even lack of job satisfaction. Learn from an early stage to really give teaching its place and time and don’t let it encroach into your own time.
- Your ability to teach will be judged again and again – I once worked in a school (*cough* Academy) where they had a policy of teacher observations 4 times each term (12 times an academic year!). Well needless to say I only got to 4 as I didn’t wait around long enough (remember that unhealthy teaching environment I mentioned?). Now don’t think that this is common practice as it isn’t, but do know that you will be continuously judged throughout your career as a teacher and sometimes you’ll get an outstanding judgement and other times you’ll get a satisfactory one (to be honest it depends on which criteria OFSTED have decided to use now!) I always felt that the schools observations, were more difficult than the actual OFSTED ones, but I guess that’s the school over preparing for OFSTED. Either way, just don’t take things too personal. It’s difficult, as it’s a judgement on your own ability as a teacher, but just see each as a learning experience – it’ll make it easier to bare.
- Finally I’d say that teaching is rewarding – I’ve purposely separated this from the salary and holiday talk, as I’m referring to the good that teachers do. Teachers can be very impactful on their students, and to this day I still have students I’ve taught in the past reminding me of how much positive impact I’ve had on them. That’s not to say I wasn’t strict and everything was rosy when teaching them, but looking back they really appreciate all that you do for them. It’s great to see how far your students have come at the end of the year.
I really hope this was a useful read for you all! Let me know your thoughts on teaching below and if there are any other topics you’d like me to cover! To read more about my personal experiences check out the post here.
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