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Is it possible to become an English teacher without an English degree?

Discussion in 'English' started by BrixtonBoud, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. Sad to think that an English degree does not provide that baseline...
  2. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    This thread has moved away from the initial question. Will schools employ English teachers who don't have an English degree? The answer appears to be, it depends. There seems to be a consensus that further study is a good idea but that it is worth applying if it's what you want to do. The point about the poor literacy of some graduates is interesting. This can only get worse, I think, looking at the number of successful A' Level Literature students, in our school anyway, who have failed to grasp the basics of sentence construction. It remains to be seen whether the new GCSE/A' Level specs will address this, but I suspect there will be a generation of well-qualified English teachers who will struggle with the language side of English. This year, our best English students are going on to study a range of subjects including English. Two students who write in a way that make your teeth ache, will also go on to do English degrees because they love the subject. I also think that your degree (or evidence of studying the subject) is important in the early stages of a teaching career but less so once you have taught for a few years. I agree with regentsreject - if you want to teach English, don't listen to those who tell you to give up.
  3. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    Not arrogance. But, yes, I believe that my subject knowledge with regard to English Literature is superior to that of someone whose subject is PE.
  4. PE teachers must have a second subject. Those teaching English presumably have English as their second subject. And your subject knowledge must be better because...
    I come back to the point that in KS3 and 4 our primary task is to teach literacy, not Literature, and therefore someone with another subject debgree could be every bit as well equiped to teach English, up to and including KS4, as someone with a degree in English Literature which is as relevant to KS3 as a degree in History, Geography, Sociology etc etc Perhaps our lack of success in literacy could be in part attributed to a misplaced insistence on hiring English Literature graduates to teach literacy to KS3 and 4 instead of the best person for the job, because, sadly, a degree in English Literature is no guarantee of excellence in, or understanding of, grammar etc.
  5. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    t1cketyboo, This is just an opinion, but I don't really think you are very t1cketyboo. My subject knowledge is better than a PE teacher (even if her second subject is English) because in the 33 years I have been teaching the subject (in state and independent schools, 6th Form colleges, FE and HE) I have had enabled my students to achieve excellent results, many have gone on to study English Literature to degree level and a few are now teachers. I have a First in English Literature & Philosophy and an MA in English Literature & History. My PGCE is in English & Drama. My subject knowledge ranges from early Medieval Literature through to 21st century literature. My specialisms are probably Shakesperian and Jacobean drama, Metaphysical poetry, the Romantics, 19th century novels and 20th century feminist poetry. No doubt that is not sufficient for you to prove that perhaps I have a little more subject knowledge than a PE teacher who might have studied English Literature as a second subject. And you seem sadly misguided (as well as pretty d@mn boring) in your comment regarding KS3/4 literacy/literature. Do I actually care what you think? HelenREMfan - apologies if in the heat of the discussion I misinterpreted your post. I do acknowledge that your comments could have been made in genuine concern for standards.
  6. Oh, come on now.
    That depends very much on what you believe education is FOR. If you believe that schools are vocational factories, then perhaps. If, on the other hand, you believe that the role of schools is to teach children more about the world, teach them how to think and instil a love of reading, then you would value literature more highly.
  7. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    ValentinoRossi, You obviously have a vast wealth of knowledge which may be perfect for your school, however, If this knowledge is not dropped to the level of some students (and I think about students in my school) so that it is delivered and engages students, it may be pointless to highlight it.
  8. But the curriculum shouldn't be determined by the lowest common denominator.
    I have taught incredibly able students who have gone on to achieve magnificence in many areas. I've also taught kids who entered high school with a reading level of 5 or 6. In my view, all students respond best to high expectations.
  9. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    Obviously. I did point out that I have taught for 33 years and in a wide range of schools. Exam results over those years would also suggest that I have been doing ok so far. Thanks for your advice, though!
  10. Hello Brixton, It is possible, i am completely agree with Jonathan.

  11. Hmmm, in some ways (language, syntax), but literature did not feature at all in my degree.
  12. I meant to do an English PGDE.
  13. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    As an aside:

    I don't wish to seem too critical (and this is not a
    personal attack!) but these are quite high reading levels, at least, high by my
    own experience (UK inner city and middle-of-the-road international schools). In
    my previous school in the UK, levels 4-5 were average; a few sixes, and a significant minority of 1s-3s!

    the OP, as some posters have succinctly put, you will probably get a teaching
    position, but it may take a little extra work and patience. As for GTP route
    (the paid, school-based training which now has a new name I gather) I guess it
    would be much more unlikely unless you had a school that knew you well and
    could sponsor you. Gloriasunshine (and others) give good advice in signing-up
    for a few OU modules to show willing. On my PGCE, there were approximately eighty
    students, a handful of whom were not English graduates. Everyone on the course
    had an NQT position before the summer. However, to echo others here (and this
    is purely opinion, rather than knowing the quality of the schools the
    non-English graduates trained in) you may have to prove yourself on the job
    first before you secure positions in the leafy-lane establishments (if that is
    what you are aiming for).

    In my first school, there were two colleagues who both
    originally trained as primary so had the old BEd qualification: no particular
    literature-based training. To answer others on this thread, both taught A Level
    and GCSE top sets to excellent results. Further, most NQTs are not given top
    sets or A Level groups in their induction year (I know this varies between
    schools, but this was how it was done in the schools I taught in) as they must
    'cut their teeth' first. When I first taught A Level, there was an enormous
    amount of research and planning involved (yes, even for a literature graduate!)
    which may be more for teachers from non-literature backgrounds, but not much
    more I would assume.

    As another poster so rightly notes here, we teach lots of
    texts and genres that we have never experienced before at university (which is
    one of the aspects of the job that I love as I learn too!); one could argue
    that a literature degree gives us the general skills and context, but many
    other disciplines offer similar skills. In terms of breadth of history, debate,
    close-analysis, and the ability to cogently and persuasively structure
    arguments; I would imagine the OP’s International Politics degree will equip
    him (her?) in spades.

    For my two-penneth worth, there is a general snobbery about
    literature which underscores some of the posts on here which I find a little
    ivory-tower-ish (forgive me, but it is the holidays and my analogies are
    suffering!). As another poster has very
    astutely noted, our primary job is to equip students with literacy, not
    literature. I love literature and equally love teaching it; I know students get
    so much from it – if you tried to divorce literature from literacy you would
    have a very dry, dull subject. However, I know for many students I teach that a
    decent qualification in English GCSE will make a massive impact on their lives,
    so the focus is, understandably, Language over Literature. I make this point
    because many Linguistic/Language specialists breeze through the more technical
    aspects of teaching literacy, and, in my experience, have never lacked the
    necessary skills for literature (they may need a little more research time,
    just like I need more when teaching Spoken Language at GCSE and A Level English
    Language). I have worked alongside some brilliant English teachers who have MFL
    backgrounds (MFL degrees do, I believe, combine linguistics with some foreign
    literature and history modules). The balance of literature/language/literacy is
    slightly off-topic and a much wider subject, but I would say that, as has been
    noted here, many English departments lack the university-level skills and knowledge in language/literacy.

    Finally, to the OP, I have been involved in teacher
    recruitment as a 2ic in a large department, and would certainly interview you
    if you met all the requisites; but, as noted, your application would need proof
    of your dedication to the subject or some experience of teaching it. Good luck
    and don’t be put off! There will be a school out there for you – as many have
    said on these forums, schools + teachers = horses for courses.

  14. Apologies for my lack of clarity - I meant reading age of 5/6 [​IMG]
    Horrifying, but true.
  15. Would you like to teach English as a second language in Georgian public schools? We are now hiring for the next academic year (2013-2014) and no English degree is required. On the plus side you get great benefits (e.g. a free plane ticket, a free insurance). Check us out at tlg.gov.ge
  16. Expertise and a thorough understanding of material helps a teacher adapt material for students.
  17. go away
  18. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    bobvincent - Head of International Relations : ))
  19. Passion goes a long way in English teaching, but I do think studying it for a length of time helps with the other parts of the job. My reason for this is that we have a great teacher in our department who is an RS specialist, who did A Level English. She is great at KS3 but does struggle with teaching some of the GCSE - particularly poetry when she can't find an annotated poem on the Internet. She also struggles to write schemes of work etc. as she does not have the experiences of deconstructing a novel, analysing a poem and formulating and debating her own opinions. An English degree ( simplistically) (in my opinion) is about becoming a critic of texts and being confident to give your own opinions whilst being able to write with clarity and accuracy ( apologies for any mistakes and lack of paragraphs here, on an iPad mini and not used to it yet). My colleague did a degree which required different skills, learning facts and finding evidence (and obviously using these to form an opinion). She is not confident enough in her own abilities as an English teacher to fully integrate into the department. So to the OP - good luck with whichever path you decide to follow, I am not being negative here at all as you clearly have the passion - but there will be other English departments who have the same experience and would be wary of taking on a non- specialist.

    Good luck.
  20. I hope the OP is still reading this thread as some of the posts are incredibly narrow-minded and I am quite horrified that a potentially outstanding teacher is being discouraged so vehemently.
    I hold a degree in Communications and Media and was fortunate enough to be given a place on a PGCE in English and then an NQT post teaching English. In my second year at the school I was promoted to Second in English and five years on I am now Head of English in another 11-18 school where we are proud of our quality teaching and our students' success and enjoyment of the subject. Last year 11 of my 14 A Level English Literature students achieved an A grade; I wonder if the more negative posters would deem me unable to teach the richness of a text.
    Essentially I am trying to say don't give up! You may well find it beneficial or necessary to obtain some more English-related qualifications but don't give up on your dream career. I fully appreciate the value of a specialist degree but I also value outstanding teaching and in my experience, the two do not necessarily go hand in hand.
    Good luck

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