Some Pros and Cons for Aspiring Teachers
So, you want to teach?
Many people aspire to become teachers for different reasons. Some will have been inspired by one of their own teachers, while others may just have an innate desire to pass on knowledge and help children to develop into successful adults. Teaching is certainly a rewarding, yet highly challenging, career.
Good reasons for teaching
Rewarding - Helping children to learn and develop can be highly rewarding, and seeing that light bulb moment when something that you've taught has been understood by a student is a privilege. If you are passionate about your subject and can inspire that love in your students, you are likely to have a lot of good days. Sometimes, getting that love across takes a lot of practise, but practise makes perfect, so don't despair.
Stability - If you are lucky enough to land a permanent teaching contract, your income will be stable with yearly rises as you move automatically up the main pay scale. This happens because the majority of teachers become even better with every year they work. After 6 years, you would need to prove that you meet certain standards to move onto the upper pay scale.
Pension - In the UK, teachers are automatically enrolled in the Teacher Pension Scheme with generous contributions from the Local Authority in which you teach. There has recently been a lot of unease with the pension scheme, as the government are looking to increase employee contributions and reduce pension payouts. However, teachers will hopefully still end up with a good sum upon retirement.
Colleagues - Schools, particularly secondary schools, can be large establishments with many members of staff who are generally supportive of each other. This support network can be vital when dealing with the stress of the job. Having someone to sound off to after an incident or to lend you a bit of extra support with any troublesome students is always helpful.
Long holidays - One of the biggest benefits of teaching in the UK is the 13 weeks of holiday you get each year. That sounds a lot to people in most jobs, but believe me, you will need it. Contradictory to the beliefs of many, you will spend a lot of your holiday time marking, planning lessons and filling in a lot of paperwork. It can, however, be nice to have holidays at the same time as your school-age children.
The downsides of teaching
Long hours - a lot of people think that teachers have it easy starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 3 p.m. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard people calling teachers part-timers or telling them to get a real job. The reality is that you will get into school at least an hour before lessons start so that you can set up, leave at least an hour after the final bell, and work until about 10 p.m. doing lesson plans and making resources.
Stressful - The demands on teachers are continuously increasing. Schools are extremely target and results driven, something that is passed down from government pressure. Sometimes, it feels like you are constantly writing reports. Gone are the days where teachers could write a few handwritten general lines about each child's performance in their subjects. You are now expected to write several paragraphs on what is done well, how targets are being met and things that need to be improved. Schools have different lesson plan requirements with some requiring detailed plans for each lesson and others that are a little more relaxed. Assessment takes up a lot of time, as does marking students' work.
Behaviour - Behaviour management can be a fine art to master and varies depending on your school or the groupings of individuals in different classes. Children, particularly en masse, can be difficult to manage. You don't know what has happened to them that day before they reach your class, and events could lead up to them exhibiting problem behaviour in your room. This can be difficult to deal with at first, but you will soon have a better idea of what to do in different situations. Low-level disruption, such as talking at inappropriate times, can also be frustrating, but you will develop strategies as you become more experienced. However, even the most experienced teachers can feel worn down by keeping control of student behaviour week after week.
Competitive job market - Because of government drives to increase the amount of teachers trained each year up until recently, and because of the economic climate, it can be very difficult to obtain a permanent position at first. There are many fully qualified, yet unemployed, teachers out there for a variety of reasons, and some advertised posts can have anywhere between 30 and 200 applicants. Getting yourself known in a variety of schools by undertaking supply work can be a good way to start if you are struggling to find a position.
Do you still want to teach?
If you are passionate about education and strongly feel that this is the right career for you, go for it! As mentioned earlier, it is a highly rewarding career that is mainly dampened by all the red tape and politics that come with it. If you are just looking at teaching as something to do in the interim, as a small minority of potential candidates may be, think carefully about the pros and cons listed above before making any decisions about training options.
If you are still interested in teaching, have a look at different training options, here