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Industry Spotlight: Becoming a Secondary School Teacher

teaching careerConsidering a career as a Teacher? Jobulo talk to Anna Martin, a secondary school Teacher, to find out about the job and to gain some career advice.

Tell Us About Your Career Background

I wasn’t sure what I wanted as a career so I decided to study Maths at university. It is a core subject so I thought it would be useful for many different areas and it is a subject I enjoy. I then completed a Retail Management Graduate Scheme with Arcadia and became a Deputy Manager of Dorothy Perkins. After two years I realised I wasn’t using the skills from my degree so I looked for a change and I decided to train as a Teacher. I have been teaching for four years now.

What Made You Want to Become a Teacher?

In my job at Dorothy Perkins I realised that I enjoyed the training and development of staff the most and wanted to try to create a career from that. At university I had completed a range of education modules including experience at a secondary school and had previously looked into teaching before so it seemed like the obvious choice.

What Qualifications Are Needed to Become a Teacher?

The main ways to become a teacher involve having a university degree. To teach at a Primary School (ages 4-11) you need to have a degree where at least 50% of the content is in a National Curriculum subject such as English, Maths, Science, History, Geography etc. To teach at a Secondary School, your degree must have at least 50% of the subject you wish to teach. After this you have two choices. The first is to complete a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). This is a university based course which takes one year and will lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You will be assessed by the university. There are bursaries available for this, the level of which is dependent on the grade of your degree. And the second – to complete a Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP). This is a school based course, you will work as an unqualified teacher in a school, learning on the job and you are assessed on the quality of your teaching throughout the year. You will be paid as an unqualified teacher; the amounts for this depend on the school you are working in. This also leads to Qualified Teacher Status.

Is There Much Career Progression Opportunity?

After you have had some experience there are plenty of opportunities for you if you are willing to put yourself forward. I have been working for four years and have already held several different positions within my department and the rest of the school. You can become Head or Assistant Head of Department, Head or Assistant Head of Year, be part of Achievement initiatives and eventually become a part of the Senior Leadership, culminating in becoming a Head Teacher. After this you could potentially become an OFSTED inspector.

What’s a Day in the Life of a Teacher Like?

I start the day at 7.45am, I like to get to school early to prepare for my lessons and catch up with the rest of the staff. The bell goes at 8.50am and after that it is non-stop! All schools have different timetables but at mine I can have five different groups a day, from year 7 – 11, for an hour each. My break and lunchtimes are spent on duty or sorting out issues that come up with the students. At 3pm the students leave, although there might be after school revision or clubs to run. We also have staff meetings after school twice a week. After that I take a deep breath and start to prepare for the next day! I am usually at school until about 5.30pm to plan lessons, mark books and work on my professional development.

What’s the Hardest Part of the Job?

The hardest part of the job is the volume of work you have to do during term time. The first year of teaching is the hardest because you have nothing prepared and you are starting every topic from the very beginning. It gets much easier each year that goes by, but there are still books to mark, lessons to prepare, homework projects to mark, reports to write, parents evenings to prepare for, meetings to attend and much more. Finishing at 3pm as a Teacher is a myth. I work until 5.30pm and then I spend a couple of hours most nights preparing lessons for the next few days, however I refuse to work on a Friday night or Saturday to try and maintain a work life balance!

What’s the Best Part of the Job?

What’s the point of pretending…. it’s the holidays! I get 13 weeks of holiday each year and to be honest I do very little work during this time. People might complain because everything gets more expensive during this time and everywhere you go there are more children than usual but I will never complain because I know how lucky I am. There is also nothing that beats the feeling you get when you help a student to achieve something they never thought possible. The GCSE exam results are about to be published, where students are waiting to find out if they have gained the qualifications they need. I am currently waiting on results for 90 students that I teach in Year 11 and it is safe to say I am ten times more nervous than they are! Last year a student got a grade C in Maths which meant she could attend college in America; she burst into tears and hugged me in sheer gratitude for the hours spent before and after school, at weekends, and in school holidays trying to help her to achieve her goal. It made all of those hours worthwhile.

What Career Tips Could You Offer?

Get as much experience in a school as possible before you start training. Most schools will allow you to come and observe lessons and work with teachers to see if this is the career for you. Keep a clean record. You must have a Criminal Records Bureau check in order to teach in the UK and what might have been a drunken fight at university could cost you your job. Make sure you decide early on if you want to teach Primary or Secondary level and choose an appropriate degree and choose your subject carefully. Schools are crying out for Maths, Science and ICT teachers and so these are priority subjects. As a Maths teacher I know that there are plenty of jobs available for me in all areas of the country because this subject is a core subject and will have a large department. Most schools will only employ one or two History teachers, so these jobs are less available. You must be patient too. Although these incidents are rare, I have had students swear at me, fight with each other, break down in tears, throw things across the room, refuse to work, refuse to cooperate, and I keep going back for more. Make sure you are really ready to deal with these things before you start. But it is a very rewarding job. Most of the students I work with are bright, funny, and loyal and will work hard for you. I laugh with the students every day and I like knowing that I might make a difference to their lives.