Many teachers say their job is endlessly rewarding – and there are also plenty of practical benefits. We look at some of the main reasons people get into teaching, and a few downsides you should be aware of.
With teaching, every day is different and every class is different. The routine is constantly being broken up with sports days and school trips, celebrations, holidays and occasionally something completely unexpected. It’s an ideal career for people who don’t want to sit at a desk all day.
If you’re confident and willing to be creative, you can have a lot of fun teaching your lessons. Generally the lessons that will engage the kids most are the ones you enjoy too – making rockets in chemistry, or putting on a play in German. School time outside of lessons can be a lot of fun too. You can indulge your own interests, starting up a lunchtime club knitting club, a school vegetable garden or an annual robot challenge.
Working with kids
There aren’t many jobs where you can rely on the people around you to be energetic and enthusiastic – and speak their minds. Some people love finger-painting with four-year-olds, others want to discuss literature with A-level students. Whatever your level, one of the main reasons people go into teaching is the joy of working with children and young people.
Making a difference
A great teacher can be literally life-changing to children. Some teachers go into teaching because they loved their time at school and want to pass that on. For others, it’s the opposite – they felt let down by poor teaching and want to give other kids a better experience. Either way, if you have a drive to help others, teaching will give you the opportunity you need.
Using your degree
Outside academia, teaching is one of the few careers where you get to make real use of everything you learned during your degree. While graduates in all subjects are welcome in city jobs, it’s only in teaching that you can pass on your enthusiasm for rock formations, Greek philosophers or right angle triangles. Basically, you’re getting paid to talk about a subject you love.
While holiday alone shouldn’t tempt you into teaching, it certainly sweetens the deal. In what other career could you spend four weeks hiking through France in summer and still have plenty of time off over Christmas and Easter?
Don’t be deceived, though – there’s still plenty of preparation and admin to get done during the holidays. Plus, you have very little flexibility to take any holiday during term time.
You’re in demand
In many subjects, particularly physics and maths, there are more teaching jobs than there are candidates. If you’re a good teacher, you’ll almost always be able to find work.
As a teacher, you develop skills that are valuable to any employer - confidence, communication, organisation and conflict resolution, alongside the determination and perseverance it takes to work in a classroom. You’ll be prepared for anything, from related careers like youth and social work, to city jobs like consultancy and audit. If you ever decide to get out of teaching, many other doors will be open to you.
Teaching will never make you a millionaire, but if you excel and take on responsibility you can build up to a salary of £50,000 or even more.
Financial support while you train
With some in-demand subjects you can get bursaries that amount to a good salary while you train.
A schedule that fits with your own kids
If you’re a parent, or you plan to become one, teaching has the added bonus that your holidays match up with your children’s schedule. You’ll get to spend real quality time with your kids during the school holidays, not to mention saving a fortune in holiday childcare.
If you’re considering a teaching career, you need to go into it with your eyes open to the difficulties you’ll face. Here are a few of the reason why people decide to leave the profession.
- Heavy workload. As well as a full teaching schedule, you’ll need to find time for lesson planning, creating resources, marking books and tests, documenting your work, doing admin, and writing reports for every student. For teachers, a 40-hour week is a beautiful but unrealistic dream.
- Challenging behaviour. Every teacher has been in this situation –twenty-eight kids who work hard and behave well, and the other two who take up 90% of your time and energy and colour the whole teaching experience. Teachers learn behaviour management techniques and develop thick skins, but you’ll run across a real challenge now and then.
- Constant changes. In teaching, guidelines, targets and government attitudes never seem to stay the same for more than a year. Teachers can be left struggling to keep up, or suffering metaphorical whiplash from unexpected U-turns.
- Media attitude. The media has a tendency to vilify teachers. While it might seem easy to brush off at first, some teachers find it affects them more than they expect.
- And finally…