To teach or not to teach

Teaching is a career that anyone who wants to put something back into society should seriously consider. There are few jobs that are more rewarding, but like any caring profession, teaching has many drawbacks. So if you’re thinking about becoming a teacher, it is important that you think carefully about the type of career that you want and then decide if teaching is really right for you.

The most common mistake is that people think teaching, especially in primary schools, is a cushy 9-3 job with long holidays and little pressure. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most teachers are in by 8am and don’t leave before 5pm, which is a longer working day than most office jobs and this only scratches the surface of what every teacher has to do.

Perhaps you like to enjoy a good meal every now and again at lunchtime, or just switch off for an hour and unwind in the park? Forget it. Teachers rarely have time for a sandwich, let alone a lunch hour, what with playground duty, lesson preparation and lunchtime clubs – the list is endless.

The real fun starts, however, when you get home. Most nights will be spent marking books and preparing for tomorrow’s lessons. Don’t think that things on the marking front will be any easier if you’re teaching infants, for as the marking reduces, the level of preparation required increases. Much of your summer holiday will be taken up by trips into school to meet up with colleagues for long-term planning. Then, of course, there are reports three times a year, parents’ evenings, staff meetings, not to mention the dreaded visits by OfSTED.

It sounds hectic and it is. Teaching is a high pressure, stressful, demanding job with few external rewards, both financially and in terms of credit and public status. Yet despite all this, many still choose to take it up as a profession, and I write as someone who went into teaching, trained for four years and then decided against it. Although all of the above are the reasons behind my decision, I haven’t forgotten why I originally wanted to be a teacher and a part of me still regrets the day I changed direction.

I studied for a Primary degree at Polytechnic University because I enjoyed working with young children and wanted a career that would make a difference to society.


My main subject was English, with a minor in Education, so if I decided I wanted to teach at secondary level in the future, I could go back to university and take a one-year PGCE course. Over the course of my four years I spent 28 weeks teaching in four different schools and loved every minute of classroom time.

I felt at home in school from an early stage and I realised that I had an affinity with children that doesn’t come naturally to many people. It really didn’t feel like work between the hours of 9am and 3pm, but with every new teaching practice, I was handed more and more responsibilities until I was doing the full job of a classroom teacher.

It was at this point I realised that my life outside the classroom had all but disappeared. There was never time to see my friends and I used to look forward to the end of teaching placements so that I could recover.

I spent a lot of time agonising over my decision not to make teaching my career. The other avenues open to qualified teachers vary depending on what degree subject you have chosen to specialise in. The options are pretty much endless if you have a science, maths or computing degree and you can also take solace in the fact that the teaching world will welcome you back with open arms should you ever change your mind in the future. But as an English graduate, I was thrown into the mix with thousands of others and was unsure what I wanted to do instead.

I still sometimes wonder if I made the right decision dropping out of teaching (mostly when I’ve been stuck on a train commuting into London for nearly two hours), but when I speak to university friends and hear their tales of OfSTED woe, how behind they are in their marking and how they can’t afford to go out, but it doesn’t matter anyway because they haven’t got time, I allow myself a wry smile.

Becoming a successful and happy teacher is as much about knowing yourself as it is knowing how to manage a classroom. If you’re extremely thick-skinned and the sort of person who doesn’t mind hard work or putting others before yourself, teaching has a lot to offer you and will prove immensely rewarding in terms of personal pride. Just don’t expect to be appreciated by everyone else all the time; you’ll always manage to upset someone! If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a financially rewarding, stress-free job that you can put out of your mind at the weekend, I suggest you look elsewhere.


Categories: Teachers Advice

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