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Thinking of changing careers to teach primary... is it as bad as so many say?

Discussion in 'Thinking of teaching' started by sarahjane19-93, Oct 23, 2017.

  1. sarahjane19-93

    sarahjane19-93 New commenter

    Hi All

    I'm hoping I can get some realistic advice and not just negative opinions as I've had recently when discussing this subject with family/friends/co-workers etc.

    I'm a 24 year old university administrator and if I'm honest I'm feeling uninspired and like I don't really have a career to be proud of or one that challenges me. I have the type of job you could do in your sleep, I am very much on autopilot.

    I'm considering giving this up and going back to University next September to gain my PGCE and teach Primary. It's something that's always been in the back of mind as a career I truly want to pursue.

    What is putting me off at the moment is the scarily negative opinions from so many including former teachers and opinions I've read online. Is the state of affairs in teaching as bad as they say? Is this is a career to be avoided?

    I understand that it's a time consuming and stressful position but this something I'm ready to commit to.

    Basically I'm just looking for some honest advice and guidance here!

    rizzrazz, Lara mfl 05 and pepper5 like this.
  2. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    If you don't have any philosophical issues with the independent sector, I would suggest you start looking for ways in there. State primary has become a totally insensible and misdirected working environment which is extremely difficult for an intelligent, independent thinker to be happy in for more than a couple of years.

    You can go into schools to get a feel for the day to day, but the reality of the year on year you only get from people who are doing it. Don't be dismissive of the negative feedback - the workforce isn't depressed for no reason.

    In any case, if you're game and happy to risk a couple of years on something which may not pan out, I'd suggest going for one of the "on-the-job" training routes rather than spend a year on a PGCE.
  3. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi sara

    Is there any possible way you could work a year as a TA so you could gain first hand experience?

    Teaching can be extremely rewarding and it isn't all negative, but it can be very, very difficult. The hours are long and that is not exaggeration. You may work 10 hour days and some on the weekend. You have to be super organised. Holidays are usually spent planning and recovering from fatigue. In the state sector class sizes are large and in some schools the behaviour can be difficult.
    You could qualify then work abroad or in the independent sector.

    There are many other jobs you could retrain for. Social work, nursing, surveying, plumbing, computer programming. You are so young that you have time on your side.

    Have you been in a primary school recently? Try to get some first hand experience - that is the only real way younare going to find out if teaching is for you and whether you want to commit to something that will impact on the rest of your life.
    blueskydreaming and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    I would definitely not suggest this low-paid option for an existing graduate who is already in a paid job and is "thinking about" a switch - that would be even more of a waste of a year (or more) than returning to uni to do PGCE IMO.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Hmm. . a balanced response.

    Firstly it's wonderful, that despite other people's negative responses (and as others have said there may be some truth to this opinion:() that you still feel you would like to enter what I have always considered one of the most important professions.

    However what I've been saying to people is , hang on to the dream a while yet. The poor state of Schools and Education must sort itself out soon, but just at the moment, it's not possibly the best choice of career.

    There is a genuine reason why there's a recruitment and teacher retention crisis at present. To do with workload, pointless data and too much interference with reaching in the classroom.
    Tinycat1234, pepper5 and drvs like this.
  6. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    I think unhappy teachers post more than happy ones. Bear that in mind when you're reading online.
  7. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    I really strongly agree with this. The profession in the public sector, like the country, is at a low point and is suffering, but it will not always be so.

    I'm very happy in the independent sector and I know many folk who are enjoying their careers overseas - it is still possible to be happy in teaching if you have the flexibility.
    Kartoshka and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  8. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Working in a school for a year may mean a drop in pay, but what would be lost in hard cash would be gained in experience which would be more valuable in some respects. How could anyone possibly know whether or not they want to teach primary unless they understand exactly what is involved.

    Many teachers leave because of the long hours which impacts on their personal lives. Abroad and in the independent sector it may be different.

    I am not saying avoid teaching, but rather try to understand what is involved in terms of the time and sheer amount of work which the pay does not always match.

    Also, if the OP went into schools they could ask real teachers instead of the unhappy ones who post online.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  9. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    In my experience, TAs who convert to teaching tend to struggle desperately as teachers and often drop back out within the first two years; that indicates to me that being a TA doesn't give them useful insight into how they will cope with the accountability of actually being the teacher. I just don't see it as a useful stepping stone.
    asnac and pepper5 like this.
  10. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Good point. Even working as a TA for considerable lengths of time may not prepare people for the long hours and amount of work involved. Perhaps someone could make up their mind in one hour if they were in a difficult school where the behaviour was challenging.
  11. Gremlin78

    Gremlin78 New commenter

    I'm a TA which I've been doing for the last 3 years. Before that I worked in London doing marketing for over 10 years. I decided to work as a TA to get a full insight into what its like working in a school and I'm now applying for SCITT for next September. I really really believe that if you aren't quite sure, you should take some time to work in a school. I wanted to get the confidence and knowledge before applying. Sure, the posters above might disagree but I think, working as a TA has made the decision easier for me to train - much more than not having spent time in a school. I'm going in with my eyes wide open. If you can, try to volunteer or get a job in a school and see how you feel. You are still young so there isn't any rush, working as a TA for a year first, can only help when or if you decide to go down the teaching training route. Good luck with your decision - and go with your gut instinct but with your eyes wide open :)
    Gsr25 and pepper5 like this.
  12. felicity5183

    felicity5183 Occasional commenter

    I agree with all of the above posts - try to get as much experience as you can before you jump into training. I do agree that teaching isn’t all bells and whistles as some people might think it is, but if you end up in the right school and with the right mind frame then it might be for you. But yes get plenty of experience before you ditch your job :D
    drvs and pepper5 like this.
  13. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Honest but not negative. Tricky!

    I honestly enjoy the actual teaching, the interaction with the kids. Even fighting the petty battles and all other rubbish that comes with the dealing with an unruly crowd.

    However I'm fortunate to be a secondary maths/science teacher and not averse to supply so I can drift around and not be there long enough to have the stress heaped on me that all the other posters equally honestly refer to. Also I've tried to escape over the years and at the age of 54 know that it's this or nothing.

    Mrs Cazorla keeps trying to get me to get a permanent post and I'm scared to do so. She is on 0.6 of a timetable and even then can't do the 'housewife stuff' which I will have to dump on her so I can follow full-time work.

    Sorry, too much negative honesty there. You could be one of those super-stars who can deliver this better than me. Also I presume the unchallenging work will still be there if you don't hack it in teaching. If you can afford an underpaid year then you will know if this is the career for you at the end of it.
    Lara mfl 05 and pepper5 like this.
  14. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Thank you Gremlin78 for sharing your story which is what I was trying to explain in my previous posts. However, even the lengthy experience in schools as a TA may not fully prepare people when they then become the one responsible for 30 children day in and day out. I teach supply in secondary and have only ever occasionally covered primary, but primary has its own unique pressures from what I read of my colleagues' experiences on the supply forum and some of those teachers have been teaching for years. Once issue being large class sizes.

    All of the hard work and long hours are not a problem if that is something people can accept. Also, teaching is not keeping up with other graduate jobs in connection with pay - one of the reasons for the recruitment crisis.

    Above all, you must have an interest in children - someone wise once when asked what subject they taught, replied,
    " Children".

    The Government should do more to improve the working conditions for teachers.
    Lara mfl 05 and drvs like this.
  15. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    There are difficulties in every job and every career; it's weighing up whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. I myself am looking to get out of teaching after 15 years in the job, but my children's Primary teachers have clearly found a great place to work (and it is also a terrific school, child-focussed and happy) as there is almost no staff turnover on a yearly basis. People move on to promoted posts but some teachers have been there for well over 10 years and the majority for over 5 years, which is a sign of a well-run, decent place to work. (By contrast, my own school has an average of 30-50% turnover every year...)

    Some of the pros involve never having the same day twice; things are always new and can be exciting; getting to make a difference to children.

    Some of the cons involve over-planning, over-marking and spending most of your time doing things that will never actually affect the children you teach; it affects your own family life; lack of autonomy; being target-driven and therefore not really being able to treat the children as people but rather as numbers.

    Definitely get some experience of being in a school and talk openly to teachers in your area (some areas are definitely better for supporting trainees and NQTs, for example).
    pepper5 and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. sarahjane19-93

    sarahjane19-93 New commenter

    Thank you all for some great responses, you've all been really helpful and insightful!

    I'm going into a school for a full week in 2 weeks time, I'm using my annual leave to do this so that (as advised) I can see what it is like in a school. If this is successful I'm going to be altering my hours where I work so that I can volunteer in the school for one day a week to gain experience. I'm not sure if this will be enough but I'm hoping it will provide me with the experience I need to make this decision.

    I've also been speaking to a few NQTs and experienced teachers here in Manchester in the hopes that this will assist with my decision.

    Is there anything else anyone would recommend in terms of gaining advice/guidance?

    It's really good to hear honest opinions so thank you all again!
    pepper5 likes this.
  17. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Perhaps have a little read around the topic of Primary Education and see if it something you find interesting and enjoy studying.

    Just be aware not all schools are the same and find out the best way to ensure you get into a well managed school like the one secret siren describes.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  18. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Though true of any schools, I think this difference is even larger in Primaries.
    pepper5 likes this.
  19. Billie73

    Billie73 Occasional commenter

    I love teaching. I love working with children and have experience teaching and tutoring children aged 2-16 with varying needs (profound SEN to gifted and talented). At the moment I’m an SEN teacher and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

    Would I teach in a mainstream primary school? Absolutely not. Never again.
    drvs and pepper5 like this.
  20. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    Good luck!

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