A-level teacher talks about his path
I was running late for my lesson. As I entered the classroom the teacher, who was very strict, put up his hand and very simply said ‘Goodbye’. The whole class of students all looked at me. I continued to walk with the same speed, but did a sharp U-turn and walked straight out. I was never late again.
Now, 8 years later, I find myself in the same environment – but as a teacher.
Growing up in southeast London, I was your average asian boy, who was not exceptionally good at his studies but managed to get his 5 A-C GCSEs. I had always enjoyed science so I decided to do all three sciences and maths A’ levels. Because of the choice of subjects it was assumed that I was going to do medicine. That’s what my family wanted so I went along with that. I found the jump from GCSEs to A’ levels quite difficult and in the end I didn’t get my 3 ‘A’s – more like 3 ‘C’s. As a result I chose to study a chemistry based degree at De Montfort University Leicester.
Teaching was the last thing on my mind when I started university. However in the final year of my course I had to get more serious towards my education – I was never the model student. I worked hard and formed a very good relationship with my Lecturers whom I admired greatly – most of them. I had also helped friends and family with maths and science based work which I had thoroughly enjoyed. This is when I seriously thought about the possibility of pursuing a career in teaching.
I did my 1 year PGCE teacher qualification at Greenwich University straight after completing my degree. I did some lesson observations in my local sixth form, before doing the PGCE, which had helped me get into the course. It was a whole new experience. It was very different to what I had ever been through in all my education so far. I had learnt more about my chemistry subject as well as gaining lots of skills than I had gained in my whole degree. You not only have to know your subject material, but be able to teach it. It was quite an intense year but well worth it and also rewarding.
After finishing my PGCE I was fortunate enough to get a job in a sixth form college in Leyton – East London. Having just completed my 3rd year as a full time teacher I can reflect back and say, without hesitation, it has been a truly great experience. What can I say about the teaching field? Where do I start?
Some negative points first. Lots of time can be taken in preparing your teaching material. There can be lots of marking to do as well as administrative tasks. Your evening and weekends can be overtaken by this marking and preparation – you can almost get consumed by this level of workload. Students can be disruptive and difficult to deal with at times.
These are just some of the downside aspects of teaching. I am sure there are many more but this depends entirely on perspective and how you choose to view situations.
As for the positive points we can start with one of the best – up to 13 weeks paid holidays a year! What type of work do you know that gives you this? This can be very conducive to family life eg. getting holidays at the same time as your children and going for more frequent holidays abroad. As I write this I remind myself that in two days time I am breaking up for 6 weeks summer holidays – I will be the envy of all my family and friends. But don’t be deceived. What everyone doesn’t fully understand is that you really do deserve them.
In my current year I have approximately 200 students. I know all of them by name and a little about their individual personalities. There is never a dull day. You can never predict the day ahead. There has never been a day where the students haven’t made me smile or even laugh. The teacher’s role can be very dynamic. You play the role of an educator, a psychologist, a diplomat, a motivator, someone who inspires, who support and helps build character, a leader and even a humble student – you always learn something new. Once in awhile you may get a student approach you (someone you least expect) and they say that you have really made a positive difference in their learning. You feel you are just doing your job, but the effect of which can be life changing for the students. When you see your students do very well, who have gone to study further at university and having played an important role in their education, there can be nothing more rewarding than this. This is an aspect of teaching that will keep me in the teaching field for many more years to come. I tell my students to send their children to my college in the future, as I will still be here teaching.
If you are interested in teaching as a career you need to think about what level you would like to teach at. Be it primary, secondary or post-16? What had made me decide to do post-16, was having done a week’s observation at my local sixth form college and talking to the teachers – all giving their own viewpoints. The interaction I had with the students also gave me a very good insight and confirmed my decision. Some of you may find teaching in primary or secondary level more appealing so please do speak to teachers in these teaching areas.
The qualifications you need to get into teaching can vary. A good and relevant degree would be ideal. It could be in teaching itself or in the subject you wish to teach followed by a teaching qualification such as a PGCE. Enjoying your subject is a big help. Chemistry is something I enjoyed, and I felt I could pass on this enthusiasm, for the subject to the students. There are other routes into teaching which could be to train whilst being a teacher, and do your qualification part-time.
Try to do a good amount of research before hand. I am sure this will help you decide if teaching is for you.
I had just started my lesson when a student walked in late. I and all the class looked at the student. The student looked nervous. I continued talking to the whole class while I raised my hand and pointed towards the empty chair. The student sat quietly. Later in the lesson, while the class were doing group work, I approached the student who was late ‘Next time try to come on time please.’
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