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My job explained: Primary school teacher

primaryjob.jpgJo Stanley teaches nine- to ten-year-olds. Here she talks honestly about the job: the pay, training, long hours and holidays.

Why become a teacher?

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. The main reason is because I wanted to have a direct impact on the lives of children. When you’re educating children you’re imparting knowledge to create a better future for them.

But it’s not just about the curriculum. As their guardian, you also need to make sure they develop emotionally, socially and intellectually. Teaching is definitely a vocation rather than a job. Anyone can teach, but to teach well and care for the people you’re teaching you’ve got to be really committed.

How did you become a teacher?

I took the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) because I had been out of university for a year and didn’t want to be back in direct studies again. The GTP let you train on the job and earn at the same time. I absolutely loved it!

Highs of teaching

  • It’s so entertaining! Kids always say what they are thinking and don’t necessarily have a handle on what’s appropriate. For example, when I was training, a teacher asked her pupil to deliver something to a colleague but the pupil didn’t know who she meant. After giving a general description, the pupil replied: “Oh, you mean the lady with the beard!” That sort of thing cracks me up because honesty can be so refreshing!
  • Job satisfaction I absolutely love my job. I wake up and think “I’m ready to go to school.” I love that you have a direct impact on the lives of young people and can make a difference.
  • Being part of a community You become part of the community by getting to know the parents and your colleagues, and it’s great to know you’re working towards the same goals.
  • Having a flexible day I like the fact that I could leave work at 3.30 if I had something to do, like go to the doctor.
  • The chance to use your skills. It’s such a diverse job and schools will encourage you to use your strengths. For example, if you’re creative, you can run an after-school class.
  • Holidays 13 weeks a year isn’t bad!

The bad bits

  • Holidays Whilst they are long, going away during the school holidays is so expensive. Also, you can’t take time off during the term as you can in other jobs.
  • Where does the job end? Although lessons are structured, there’s so many other things you could be doing that your work is never done. You can’t be a perfectionist and teach for that reason.
  • Stress! It is a stressful job because there’s never enough time to do everything but you have to get used to that!
  • Handling naughty kids You’ve got to be good at discipline.

Top teaching tips

  • Get as much experience in school as you can before you apply for teaching roles. Getting places is very competitive and so if you don’t have enough experience, you won’t get very far.
  • All roads lead to Qualified Teacher Status. It doesn’t matter hugely where you do your teaching qualification. In the long-term you learn so much during your placement that there’s very little in it.
  • Speak to other teachers. Find out what are the main issues in teaching and the buzz words. Mentioning these at interview will show that you know your stuff.
  • Be yourself. Some people say that when you meet a class for the first time, you should be hard. I think the class needs to know you’re a friendly, approachable teacher. I go in with a big smile and let my personality shine out. At the same time, don’t overlook it when they misbehave.
  • What are your expectations? Remember this is your classroom and your class. You need to think through what your expectations are and lay down ground rules.
  • Always get on with the teaching staff and head teacher. You never know when you might need their help!

Jo’s timeline to teaching

  • 1999-2002- 2:1 BSc Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London.
  • 2002-2003- Working with young people in a residential training school
  • 2003-2004- Graduate trainee programme with Surrey County Council
  • 2004-2007- Taught at same school as placement.
  • 2007-2008- Gap year travelling around Australia
  • 2008-present- Teaching at school in New Addington.

Jo’s typical day

7.30am Arrive at work and set up the classroom, photocopying, preparing resources and perhaps doing playground duty.
9am Lessons begin. I teach two lessons in the morning: usually something literacy and numeracy-based as this is when the pupils are most alert. There’s a 20 minute break between these and an assembly. Teachers are expected to take two assemblies per term and I normally hold singing assemblies.
12-1pm Lunch time. Breaks don’t necessarily mean free time for teachers. I usually spend breaks disciplining students, preparing resources or doing things like playground duty.
1-3.30pm I teach two practical lessons in the afternoon.
3.30-6pm Lessons end but I will usually stay in the classroom, sorting out lesson plans, marking books, holding after school clubs and doing wall displays until at least 6pm.

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