Are you thinking of training to teach? Perhaps you’re moving to university or looking to change careers? Whatever stage you’re at, it’s a good idea to go into teaching with your eyes open. It can be a fantastic, rewarding job, but it is also challenging. Most people probably feel they know what teachers do, but there is a lot more to the role than delivering fun lessons and marking homework. We’ve put together the top five things you should know before you sign up to teacher training.
- It’s Not All School Holidays and 3 pm Finishes
Most teachers in state schools have 13 weeks of paid holiday every year. This may seem extremely generous compared to other professions, who generally get an average of four weeks of annual leave. However, most teachers work much longer school days than the average eight-hour working day.
In a recent Teacher Tapp survey, we asked: “What time did you get to school this morning?”. 47% of teachers are at work by 7:30 am and 11% are busy planning lessons as early as 7 am. That means that almost half of the teachers who took part in our poll had started work before many people will have even been woken by their alarm.
The numerous school holidays are a bonus, but these must be weighed against the long days many teachers have during term-time. Many teachers work the same hours annually as employees in other professions — they just cram them into intensive periods during the school year (term time).
- There’s a Lot of Admin and Reporting
You may have visions of creating all-singing, all-dancing interactive lessons that delight your students and achieve fantastic outcomes. If you feel motivated to do so, good for you; you may well make a great teacher. But there are lots of responsibilities teachers have beyond the classroom.
Some teachers spend the equivalent of a working day each week just reading and responding to emails. A Teacher Tapp survey found that 36% of teachers send between 5 and 10 emails per day.
High school teachers read around 20 per day. Assuming that writing an email takes three minutes and reading an email takes two, this adds up to six hours a week!
Add to this pupil reports, preparing documents for Ofsted inspections and writing up details of any disclosures or concerns you have about student progress and wellbeing, and you can see how quickly a teacher’s time can be consumed by administrative tasks.
- You Need to Be Great with All People, Not Just Children
When asked, “Why did you get into teaching”, many teachers put a desire to work with children and help students high on the list.
But don’t forget, you’ll also need to build strong working relationships with colleagues, senior management, external professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists and special needs coordinators and, of course, parents. Not everyone finds interactions with the families of their pupils easy. When we asked teachers if the parents of pupils have unrealistic expectations about how they can support their children, 45% of Teacher Tappers either “agreed” or “strongly agreed”.
This was most true for teachers working in private schools.
Teachers also felt that parents in society as a whole have become too disrespectful of teachers. More than half of those surveyed “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that this was true.
Teaching is very different from an office job, where you would probably only need to interact with colleagues and senior staff working in a similar field to you. You will need to have the skills (and patience!) to work with a wide range of professionals who may have conflicting targets and objectives to you, as well as the parents and carers of your pupils.
- Prepare to Be Observed and Assessed
If you’re considering teaching, you’re probably well aware of Ofsted and its inspection process. How frequently your school is inspected will depend on the status of your school (outstanding, requires improvement, etc.). Schools that are deemed to be underperforming will be inspected more often than those that are classed as “outstanding”.
The inspection can be a very stressful time for teachers. Inspectors are likely to observe your teaching and request certain documents or “evidence”, and some may choose to interview particular staff members. Apart from the stress of enduring an inspection, a high percentage of the teachers we surveyed did not value the process.
The new Ofsted Inspection Framework brings new requirements that could place a further burden on teaching staff. Ofsted has announced that book or work scrutiny will be an important part of the new framework. Book reviews are far from common practice in state schools and one in five independent-sector teachers said in a Teacher Tapp survey that they don’t do book reviews at all. This means that many teachers will have a new task added to their list to ensure that they are prepared for an Ofsted inspection.
- Teaching Can Be Varied and Fun
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to teaching! If you are considering entering the profession, it’s important that you understand all aspects of the job, which is why we have outlined the above responsibilities. But 60% of teachers remain in the job for over five years and there’s a reason for that. No two teaching days will be the same and there is a lot of scope for making your job fun as well as rewarding.
Most teachers go on at least one school trip a year. This is a great way to expose pupils to a new learning environment and trips can be good fun. Primary school teachers are most likely to go on 6-10 trips!
Many of these trips will be educational day trips, but 15% of Teacher Tappers had been on a trip to a “theme park or similar fun experience” and 33% have had an overnight break.
As a teacher, especially if you train to work in primary schools, you’re also likely to have your fair share of opportunities to join in the fun and get dressed up. 59% of Teacher Tappers dressed up for World Book Day this year.
You’ll also have relative freedom to develop your own style of teaching and deliver the lessons that you feel are of value. While there is clearly room for improvement, the majority of teachers in primary, secondary and private schools who took part in a Teacher Tapp survey were either “very satisfied” or “moderately satisfied” with the freedom to choose their method of teaching.
Should You Become a Teacher?
Only you can know if you’re right for the job. But starting training with a good insight into the profession will increase your odds of success and job satisfaction. Make sure you research the role and develop an understanding of how it varies in different settings. Primary school teaching is very different from teaching in a secondary school, and working in a state school will differ from teaching in an independent school. Speak to people who are already in the profession and try to secure some volunteer or shadowing work. Teaching certainly has its challenges, but it can be one of the most rewarding careers you could choose.
Did you learn something you didn’t know about teaching? Do you want to find out more? Read the Teacher Tapp blog for more teaching insights.