Everyone knows what a teacher is, but for most of us, our ideas about teaching come from our experience at school. Christine Phillips finds out what teaching offers as a career, and what life is really like on the other side of the desk.
What’s so great about being a teacher?
Apart from obvious perks like regular holidays and the ability to work anywhere in the world, there are many upsides to teaching. Teaching offers a high starting salary compared with other graduate options:
- good starting salary (£22,023 or £27,543 in London)
- annual increases
- bonuses for taking on extra responsibilities
Job satisfaction for teachers is high. According to the National College of Teaching and Learning, twice as many teachers find their work extremely enjoyable compared to those in marketing, IT and accountancy.
“The kids are awesome, they get you through the day,” says Matt, PE teacher at Gateway Academy WATCH VIDEO.
Deputy Head Chris says, “You get such an incredible buzz when you have these ideas that spark with the children and you can see faces lighting up around the classroom”. WATCH VIDEO.
The downsides of being a teacher
Newly qualified teachers can be put off by the heavy workload, finding they have to work outside of school hours, often in the evenings, to prepare lessons and mark books. Other complaints by teachers include:
- Bureaucracy and paperwork around curriculum changes or inspections
- Challenging pupil behaviour and rising class sizes
Vice Principal Richard of Gateway School talks about the reality of the job, when it’s busy and teachers are under a lot of pressure WATCH VIDEO.
What makes a good teacher
Research from the Sutton Trust shows the best teachers have a real love of their subject and excellent subject knowledge. You also need to be:
- highly organised, preparing for a range of different lessons every day
- able to control the class and instil discipline
- able to praise pupils when they do well
Choosing which age group or subject you want to teach
There are lots of different career paths in teaching and the choice can be overwhelming. Have a think about which age group or subject you would like to teach. You could work in early years, at a primary school with children age 3-11, where you will teach all subjects, or as a teaching assistant. You might prefer to work in a secondary school with 11-18-year-olds, specialising in one or more subjects.
If you are interested in supporting children with special educational needs there are opportunities to work with students at all ages in both special or mainstream schools.
Choosing the right school for you
It is important to choose a school that has a learning environment and ethos that suits you. Take your pick from:
- Faith schools
- Free schools
- City technical colleges
- State boarding schools
- Private or independent schools
What teaching involves
Teachers say they enjoy their job because every day is different, but here are some of the things all teachers will do regularly at work:
- Prepare and deliver lessons to a range of classes of different ages and abilities
- Mark work, give feedback and maintain records of progress
- Research new topic areas, maintain subject knowledge, and write new teaching materials
- Prepare pupils for external exams
- Manage pupil behaviour, and support pupils through academic or personal difficulties
- Take part in departmental meetings and parents’ evenings
- Organise and participate in extracurricular activities, such as outings, clubs, social activities and sporting events
- Take part in regular in-service training (INSET) as part of continuing professional development (CPD)
Regardless of where you begin in teaching there are lots of opportunities to progress. You can go on to become head of department, faculty or curriculum, head of year group or key stage, or head of particular area like pastoral care or special educational needs. You may have ambitions to become a deputy or head teacher.
Teaching is a very transferable skill and can lead to careers in education or beyond. While there are opportunities in education policy, school inspection, developing curriculum or educational materials, employers in all sectors value the strong organisation and presentation skills, confidence to deliver in groups and to deal with difficult situations that teachers offer.
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