Teaching is an enormously diverse field that attracts people from all walks of life, whether you’re a fresh, young graduate or a career-changer becoming a teacher later in life. There are many advantages going in to teaching as a career choice. It can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession that allows you to make a real difference. However, it is also a challenge job with a big workload. If you’re wondering whether you have what it takes to be a teacher, we’ve asked this year’s graduates from both the PGCE and School-Direct routes in to teaching to give their insights in to teacher training. We ask what it’s really like being behind the teacher’s desk for the first time and whether teaching as a career choice worked for them.
Why did I become a teacher?
When asked what drove their decision to teach, many new teachers said that they had always wanted to teach from a young age, remembering the teachers who had inspired them to teach. James, an NQT in London, said that “I had some amazing teachers and it was their kind nature and enthusiasm that made me want to follow in their footsteps.” The decision to go in to teaching is often fuelled by inspiring teachers remembered from childhood.
Another important reason many stated that they went in to teaching was because of their passion for their chosen subject while others noted that it is not a typical 9-5 job and offers lots of opportunities for career progression.
“I’ve realised that teaching is the perfect career for me and I doubt I’ll look back.”
However, not all expressed a wish to teach from a young age and were often unsure whether to go in to teaching at first. One NQT we spoke to stated that, “teaching was never my first choice. After graduating, I was unable to pursue my primary option and so, I decided to go with teaching as my backup. Despite my initial reluctance, I’ve realised that teaching is the perfect career choice for me and I doubt I’ll look back.”
The most commonly stated positive aspect of teacher training was the reward of a successful lesson- one graduate said, “the training year is hard but it all seems worth it after a successful lesson with a difficult class, where you know you’ve made progress.” Another new teacher stated that “the most enjoyable moments are when struggling pupils smile and say thank you for helping them to grasp something they thought was impossible.”
“the most enjoyable moments are when struggling pupils smile and say thank you for helping them to grasp something they thought was impossible.”
Teaching can also offer you many great opportunities outside of school. An NQT in Surrey noted the abundance of extra-curricular opportunities as her most positive experience of teacher training. She said “I have been allowed to go on so many trips and extra-curricular activities, including a History trip to Berlin and I am also going to volunteer with pupils for a month in Peru.”
Almost all the graduates we spoke to admit that teacher training has many challenges, with the most common being the PGCE workload. A London NQT warns “if you thought you would have weekends off you were wrong. Most teachers I know including myself work until midnight every night and only get Friday night off for the first few years.” With the PGCE, there are a lot of essay deadlines and theory work on top of lesson planning, marking and all other school responsibilities. It’s undeniably hard work, but it’s worth it if it’s the career choice for you. It’s important to remember that, with such a high workload, it’s okay if you don’t always get everything done, or else risk burn-out.
Another negative experience that students in teacher training reported was poor support. While one student described being lucky enough to have “an inspiring and positive mentor who always helped me along the way and guided me to be the best teacher possible”, some were not so lucky. One NQT stated that, unfortunately, “not all mentors are trained adequately, or show empathy. If you get a bad mentor you will really struggle to pass.” One reason some students drop out of teacher training is insufficient support, as one student reported, “I was not given the right support from my mentor. I was thrown in at the deep end and didn’t get the practical help I needed in order to progress.” Your mentor is crucial to your development as a teacher which is why it is a good idea to build a positive relationship with your mentor and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel you need more support.
How easy is it to find a teaching job?
All graduates agreed that it is luckily relatively easy to find a job after completing teacher training. You may be as lucky as one graduate who was offered a job by the school she trained in which she said means “I don’t have to worry and could start to get to know my future classes really well.” One graduate stated that “Schools are in desperate need of teachers! I was offered 3 positions after only having one interview.” If you’ve decided on teaching as a career choice, there are fortunately a lot of positions available. However, another NQT noted that it can depend on the subject, with Science, Maths and Geography teachers being particularly in demand.
What advice do you have for new teachers?
Finally, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 tips for success from the students who survived teacher training. Make sure you read these if you’re considering teaching as a career choice:
- Do your research, some courses are more hands-on while others are more academic and research-based; you need to find what’s right for you
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles in your teaching, some will work better than others
- Be resilient and persevere- remember that the first few years are the most difficult as you are still learning and developing
- Work to build a positive relationship with your mentor and always communicate with your department- you won’t be the only one having a bad day
- If you are on the course and you don’t feel something is right or you don’t have enough support, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help if you’re struggling
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