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Get into teaching from long term postdoc

(4 Posts)
DragonOnFire Sun 24-Nov-19 21:40:59

I've been post-docing for almost 10 years now, bar an 18-month stint in industry as a medical writer.
Brief history of me- wanted to be a vet (got all the Science A-levels grade A), studied a biology subject where my nutrition lecturers encouraged me to apply the a PhD with them. Had great supervision but didn't always enjoy PhD. Was coming out of PhD at the start of economic crash and was pleased to get any job. Somehow got a dream postdoc position funded for 5 years in a completely new subject area, they decided to hire me made based on my lab skills. I really excelled in this position, the research area was fascinating, I enjoyed academia and wanted to stay. However, had the classic nightmare PI (no management skills and had never had a postdoc before, and none of his past PhDs were working with him- in hind sight these were red flags!) but he was a prolific publisher so I was lucky to get loads of research published. So after 5 years I made the leap to industry as a medical writer. HATED the people in industry, it was a snake pit full of people looking to better themselves at the cost of others. Learned loads in terms of understanding pharma and am a much better writer. Key skill here was learning to deliver a project in a subject you are not 100% familiar with to a professional level to a tight deadline.
Have since gone back to academia and am now working in an area vaguely related to my first postdoc, but have barely published (working towards one mega paper) but I have spent this position upping my teaching repertoire (this was experience lacking from past positions).
I've now got 12 months left on my current contract, have had the future plans talk with my current PI. He was very realistic and says he can't guarantee that I'll get another position on a grant, even though we will look to apply. He also suggested
I look to find alternate funding routes for pilot studies and he will support me. Thing is, I can't see myself being competitive enough to get a fellowship and as much as I am proficient in the lab, I don't have enough active research/collaborators to go find my own position as I've switched research area 3 times.

So I'm looking at moving career again, via the get into teaching avenue. There is loads of financial incentive right now (including potential childcare grants, which is ideal as I have a baby) so financially the training is not an issue.
My concern is that teaching has a dreadful reputation for overwork and stress levels.
Has anyone got any advice on the move into secondary school science teaching and is it worth it?
I enjoy teaching (favourite part of my job, aside from lab work) and have recently applied for my AFHEA based on the teaching I've been doing. I coach kids & teenagers at my local sports club so I'm used to interacting with kids of all ages.
I feel like I'm pretty easy going and not a perfectionist but can get a job done well and accurately. I don't respond well to moving goal posts and being under pressure from unexpected deadlines (my first pi would email me on a Friday afternoon to ask for a paper to be reworked for a resubmission on Monday- it took me a long time to lessen to say no! Similar stresses in medical writing would piss me off too).

Any advice is welcome. I've got time to think. I'm going to a get into teaching open evening tomorrow to learn about the finances, course & job prospects in local areas, plus my eligibility to teach certain science subjects.

JasminaPashmina Tue 03-Dec-19 11:05:08

I used to teach in a secondary school many years ago before I jumped to academia. It is a very very very different environment both generally and in terms of teaching specifically.

I taught years ago so I don't know how relevant this will be but I found teaching stifling. I wasn't able to experiment with the students in terms of material, format, assessment in the way I'd have liked to, the way that'd have been beneficial to students, and the way I now can in academia.

I also found teaching full-on in the sense I taught for at least 4 hours every day of the week whereas in academia I have three non-teaching days per week. These non-teaching days allow me to catch up on research obviously but also to think about my teaching and plan new activities, new tasks, new topics. In school teaching, there wasn't that freedom to actually think about what I was doing.

One of the main issues too is that university students, on the whole, want to be at university. They generally behave well and are generally interested in the subject material (even if its only to get the best grades, they're still invested in the teaching). At school it wasn't like that at all and I'd say I spent a lot of time fire-fighting and managing the troublesome students who just didn't want to be there and would make their feelings absolutely known. In university if a student is disruptive in my lectures, I tell them to leave. At school, that's much harder.

The final thing I will say is that I left teaching in schools because 30 years of my remaining career was going to look pretty much the same. I mean the curriculum might change, the education system might change, the subject material itself might change, the school staff might change but ultimately I'd be there turning up every day for the next 30 years teaching students the same stuff in the same format. It filled me with a sense of absolute dread which is why I left. In contrast, in academia, I don't know what I'll be doing in 5 or 10 years. I don't know what field of research I might have moved into or what new material I might be teaching or what new people (as in disciplines) I might be working with. Crucially I have the scope to shape this, it's not just going to be done to me/my career. That's really exciting for me.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd be really reluctant to head into teaching just because academia isn't going the way you'd hoped. To be honest, teaching would need to be offering a incredible package to lure me back.

Might you think to post in the staffroom area of MN to see if teachers are around to give you their opinions?

BobbinThreadbare123 Tue 03-Dec-19 11:10:41

Similar sort of background to you, OP. I also did an industry stint then went into teaching. All I can say is, don't. Just don't. It's an awful job. I am happily back in industry now. You'll get people coming on to say how they love it but it just isn't compatible with living a life, it doesn't pay as well as industry, the anti-intellectual snobbery I encountered was shocking and it is creatively stifling. Schools are too varied to ensure you'll get a nice one. Private sector education is much more pleasant but you've still got pressures from another avenue.

DragonOnFire Tue 03-Dec-19 15:06:41

Thanks so much to both of you for your advice we've experiences.
It's really interesting to hear what is like to compare school-based education to higher education. That's really interesting to hear. For some reason I think that we are really boring in our lecture formats at university and don't spend time getting creative with our teaching because I know my primary purpose is to collect data and publish. I imagined teaching to be more creative because your role is to teach as be good at it.
Really interesting that you found it the other way round.
I am still having a think, and I actually don't want to make a decision until I'm sure. I'm going to arrange a few days in school to get a feel for science teaching. Then if I'm still interested I might apply for 2021 teacher training.
I'm also interested to see how the general election results might shape the landscape again.
I did pay in the staffroom area of MN for very similar advice. It seems teaching is not recommended by anyone ☹️

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