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Career Change - Considering Teaching

Discussion in 'Thinking of teaching' started by Bag10, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. Bag10

    Bag10 New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    I'm in my late 20s and currently deliberating whether to become a teacher.

    I've been teaching ESL for the previous 4 years and I have a MA in TESOL. However I've become disillusioned with the ESL business and want something with more job stability, career progression and a decent to good salary.

    I'm seeking advice from experienced teachers on the forum about whether I should contemplate going back to school and doing a PGCE. I don't have Maths GCSE so know I would have to gain it or the equivalent to gain entry. I was considering secondary English (my BA is in Media Studies and Production so could also do that as an additional subject if need be).

    The theoretical plan would be to complete the PGCE, gain QTS, some experience and then head for the International school circuit in the east before coming back to Europe to settle.

    I have some questions however, The SCITT/SD/PGCE situation is confusing to untangle. What's the best option for a career changer like myself? Also the money situation isn't ideal (a lot of money went on the MA), what kind of funding would I be eligible for? I would arguably need all of it financed for me at this stage.

    Thanks for any forthcoming advice!
  2. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I spent more than 4 years teaching EFL before completing the PGCE in English a couple of years ago.

    First of all, teaching at secondary school is very different to teaching EFL, so you need to arrange to spend some time in schools to make sure this is the right job for you. You could apply for a job as a TA if you can take the financial hit, or otherwise volunteer for a couple of weeks, or one afternoon per week for a term. While in schools speak to the teachers about workload, observe the students' behaviour, see what kind of topics they're being taught in English.

    Do you have A levels in English lang or lit? You might need to brush up on your subject knowledge. English is very competitive - when I applied each training provider was only able to offer one English place. You might want to consider completing a stand alone Open Uni module.

    SD might be through a uni, or might not. Make sure you end up with the PGCE + QTS at the end of the course.

    SD involves being on placement for longer than core PGCE students (directly through a uni).

    SD places may be salaried or unsalaried - perhaps you'd be better off looking for salaried?

    If you have an MA you are still eligible for funding. Bursaries are given as well (but not to salaried SD), depending on degree class. I managed to live on the bursary and loan - it's doable (depending on your degree classification of course).
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  3. Bag10

    Bag10 New commenter

    Thanks for the reply. I'm currently teaching ESL in Italy at the minute so the issue of spending time at secondary schools is off the table, for now. When you say 'subject knowledge', are you referring to noun/verb/adjective/adverbs etc or topics that are covered in secondary English, like Shakespeare and so on? I don't have any A levels for English language or English Lit.

    The aim is to try and get on a PGCE program for this coming September, is that too optimistic? As regards to the different routes, which do you recommend from your own experience?
  4. cb324

    cb324 Occasional commenter

    Doubt you'll get onto a pgce course for September if you don't have a maths gcse equivalent. If I were you, I'd work as a TA for a year if you can and ask to do cover work whilst your there.
  5. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    If you have not spent at least 2 weeks in schools, you will not be accepted onto a PGCE - the training providers all state this clearly on their websites.

    Subject knowledge = spelling, punctuation, grammar, knowledge of texts (novels, plays, poetry, short stories), knowledge of techniques to analyse texts, knowledge of figurative language, text purposes... You would gain a lot of knowledge during the PGCE, and of course everyone has gaps, but at an interview for the course you'd be expected to perform activities such as analysing a poem, or finding/explaining errors in a student's work. You would need to be able to show as well how your degrees equip you with this knowledge - apart from grammar, I'm not sure how your degrees do this? You need to check the KS3 curriculum, to see what subject knowledge is needed, and self-assess to see where your gaps are.

    Additionally, the grammar you teach as an EFL teacher is not the same as the grammar UK kids learn at primary and use at secondary (apart from nouns, verbs etc.) - UK kids don't have a clue about tenses, but they are taught about fronted adverbials.

    The most important thing you need in order to be an English teacher is love for the subject - if you did not study A levels in lang or lit, or a degree in lang/lit, I'm not sure that you'd be able to show that on your application. Also, you wouldn't be able to teach lang or lit at A level, which might be an issue as some schools do state they're looking for applicants who can teach them.

    I did SD, but I wish I had done a core uni course as I think they're more academic. Where I live not many of the unis are offering the core PGCE though.
  6. NewToTeachingOldToMaths

    NewToTeachingOldToMaths Lead commenter

    What IS a fronted adverbial???

    They didn't teach 'em when I was at school in the 70s and 80s ...
  7. Bag10

    Bag10 New commenter

    Thanks for the response. Now I understand what you mean about subject knowledge. Being honest, the grammar from my MA would prove useful, but I doubt if the BA would have any link to English language or lit.

    As regards to the GCSE Math equivalent, from my research it seems that it's 1. Very costly and 2. Weeks of going to a class one day a week and then taking a test after in the summer. I was under the assumption that you could just take private maths lessons and show up at a test centre and pay a fee for taking the test.

    Would you suggest holding off to 2018/19? Any advice at all would be appreciated!
  8. Wotton

    Wotton Established commenter

    You can take private lessons and book yourself into a test centre for your maths.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Above all else, your priority is to gain some experience of working in a school or a volunteer. Teachers typically work 50+ hours per week and in many schools the behaviour is challenging. 40% leave within 5 years of qualifyung ; but I note your intention of working abroad which many teachers do to have better working conditions.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  10. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    By all means, apply tomorrow, but I honestly think that it would be a waste of the 35 pound admin fee on the UCAS site (or whatever it costs!) - you have not spent any time in UK schools, you have not got a very relevant academic background, and you have not organised the maths equivalency yet.

    The PGCE application asks you to write a personal statement, stating clearly your reasons for wanting to teach, showing the relevance of your degrees, and detailing any recent time spent in schools - what will you write? 'Although I have not actually visited a UK school, or observed any lessons, I am absolutely certain that this is the career for me.' Hmmmm.

    If you are honestly interested in pursuing this career, you need to go in with your eyes open - you need to have an understanding of UK schools, especially behaviour and workload. You also need to be certain you have the ability to teach the subject.
  11. NewToTeachingOldToMaths

    NewToTeachingOldToMaths Lead commenter

    I'm with bluesky (again!)

    Maths GCSE or equivalent is an absolute sine qua non. (Latin, however, isn't ... so I'll translate "sine qua non" for you as non-negotiable minimum requirement. A necessary condition. Without it, forget it, so get it.

    Once you have got it, then there is the classroom observation. 10 days minimum, in as wide a range of schools as you can manage. (I've observed both primary and secondary, mixed and single sex, state and private, London fringe, large town and rural ... I was told at interview today that this was an impressively wide range of experience, so maybe they don't normally get quite that much ... but they like to know that you are coming into it with your eyes open).

    Not much else to add to what the others have already said. They speak much sense.
    blueskydreaming and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  12. yellowredblue

    yellowredblue New commenter

    how on earth did you get so much experience? did you just phone up/email and ask? and how do you find the time to do the experience while working?

    sorry for diverting from the topic on hand, just curious
  13. Bag10

    Bag10 New commenter

    I appreciate your honesty. Would you mind if I sent you a DM? Would like to pick your brain about a few things?
  14. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I've sent you a conversation.
  15. NewToTeachingOldToMaths

    NewToTeachingOldToMaths Lead commenter

    Well, I started by contacting all my local schools on their e-mail enquiries address ... and didn't get so much as an acknowledgement in reply. That rather pipped me off, but I didn't give up.

    So I then contacted my cousin and my cousin-in-law, who are both primary teachers, to see whether spending a couple of days at their schools might be viable. My cousin said hers was in special measures, so no, they can't take anyone. And my cousin-in-law said that there had been a bit of a falling-out with her school when she went on maternity (and she was still off) so it wouldn't be politic or expedient.

    I thought about asking my sister-in-law for help, but that would be a step too far.

    So I went to see my old maths teacher, who was head of maths at my old school. He's retired now, but he said he'd speak to the current head of maths for me. He then came back with an e-mail contact, which I followed up, and that gave me two days of observation at my old school. I asked HIM whether he had any contacts I might approach, and that soon yielded another two days in a nearby school where he was friends with the Head of Maths. So that was four days secondary.

    My mother then had a word with the head of a primary where she has done a lot of voluntary work, and he said he'd be only too pleased to help. So that gave me three days of primary observation and a nice little stay with my parents, whom I don't see nearly often enough.

    Then I had a discussion with a colleague that I've been mentoring, learning that she had been helping out as a parent helper on school trips from the primary which her children attended. I asked her to put in a word for me and before I knew it, that was another two days. It was too far to drive on a daily basis, so I took my camper van to a campsite within walking distance of that one ...

    Then the local private school where I've been to speak at career days (long story ... ) asked if I was on for this year as well? I said yes, but it might be the last time because of my plans to retrain as a teacher, and oh, by the way, any chance of some classroom observation? So that was another two days in a private secondary.

    Then I learned that a colleague is governor of two schools ... a girls' grammar and a primary ... and I asked if she could have a word for me. She did, and they both came good. Two days in each ... although I ended up missing the primary because I was struck down with a stomach bug and wasn't fit to go in.

    Finally, when I put in my UCAS application, the schools partnership which interviewed me for a SCITT on Friday got in touch and said they thought I was a bit light on secondary observation (only 8 days ... and 2 or 3 about 10 years ago in the school that my other sister-in-law taught in before she and my brother went off to Australia), and would they like me to set up a couple of days in one of their schools? Oh yes, I said ...

    So that's how I ended up with 10 recent days in secondary, and 5 in primary (plus two projected that fell through).

    I've been taking annual leave to do this. When the annual leave ran out, I started taking unpaid leave. My employer knows my plans and is very helpful in allowing the unpaid leave.

    And there you have it ...
  16. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I contacted the local PRU, and they were more than happy for me to come and visit. I think they just appreciated someone remembering they exist!

    The local SEN school is so popular they have regular induction days for people who are interested - they let me volunteer one day per week. It was so much fun!

    My employer was involved in a programme supporting reading at local primaries, so I volunteered, and spent one afternoon per week listening to kids read after my SEN volunteering ended.
  17. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    I am currently overseas and a colleague's husband has just got onto a UK PGCE without the requirement for the two weeks placement; however, he does have past experinece of working in a supporting role in UK secondaries. It might be something to negotiate? I teach English A Level and GCSE and, to disagree slightly with Blusesky, they are now starting to look at tenses in grammar, particularly for those all important grade 7s and 8s at GCSE (in our most recent exam board moderation, past participlies etc. were referenced in the exemplars). Your ESOL background and Masters will also equip you well for teaching A Level Language teaching. However, literature would be an issue: there are some threads on the English forum where this is discussed, particularly for those with media backgrounds (which is very useful, by the way). Such things as Open Uni Lit modules can go some way to allieviating this - you show willing - but may prove expensive when overseas. The GCSE maths is required but, as you rightly note, can be done privately. This would be a lot to cover before September. If you can afford the UCAS application fee, why not try? You would only have £35 to lose! However, be prepared for rejection, but the feedback would be extremely useful for the next academic year.
  18. Bag10

    Bag10 New commenter

    That is reassuring! I think the deck is stacked against me for a September start, finance is also a big issue. I'm thinking more along the lines of getting all my boats in a row for a September 2018 PGCE start.
  19. teachingspurs

    teachingspurs New commenter

    A fronted adverbial is something such as... Quickly, he entered the enormous room.
  20. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life.

    On the surface, I had a great job in a well-known company. I'd done what was expected of me post university. I'd been promoted several times. I had a mortgage, I was travelling with work and had great prospects ahead of me.

    Inside though, I was deeply unfulfilled. I wasn't enjoying my work, I felt like I wasn't using my full potential, and I longed to wake up feeling like my work was making a difference – to someone or something.

    Yet, I didn't have a clue what else I could do.

    Indeed I'd struggled on and off for years to figure out a way to change (making, it seemed to me, every career change mistake there was to make), but without making progress.

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