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Thinking of switching careers to become a teacher - thoughts?

(103 Posts)
Bettymum Wed 28-Sep-11 12:45:28

I have a science degree but I'm an accountant, so I get well paid but I have a long commute, long hours, and I've been doing this for 16 years [old emoticon] and frankly I've had enough and I miss my children.
DD will be starting school next September, DS will only be 30 months. I mad to consider jacking in my job and retraining as a primary teacher? I want to do something that adds value to society, and other than being a good parent, surely being a good teacher is adding huge value. I know I will take a massive paycut but I think we could manage.
Opinions from primary teachers please! Am I insane or do you love your job?

CustardCake Wed 28-Sep-11 15:28:53

I think you need to go into it with your eyes open so you can weigh up your options better.
I can give you the negatives or possible pitfalls or things to consider to get a rounder picture:
* Teacher training require long hours and huge amounts of commitment (time and emotional commitment). You will be studying whilst also taking on the role of a teacher in a series of placements. These placements will require you to undertake teaching duties including planning and assessments (ie out of hours work)
* In your training and NQT years you will be working long, long hours, You will have a mentor and a whole day for planning but typically you will be arriving at school long before 8am and leaving at 5pm (or working at home or a mixture of both) and at least one day of your weekend will be taken over with work. It gets better after the initial couple of years but teaching remains a job that extends far beyond the office hours
* You don't usually get to pick your placements. When you are training, they can send you to schools far from home adding a long commute to a very long day
* You don't get to pick where you work once you qualify. Primary teaching roles are in short supply and competition is high. If you are looking to teach at secondary level and specialise in maths this is not so much the case but at Primary you might not have the luxury of choosing to work near home
* Teaching is not family friendly in terms of time off. You will probably never (or rarely) get to attend you own children's nativity plays or sports day. The holidays are good but they are not at all flexible.

It sounds like you have considered the plus sides and are realistic about pay scales. Have you ever helped out at a school or done other work with youong people? Would you be able to do anything like that to see if you enjoy it?

CustardCake Wed 28-Sep-11 15:34:18

Sorry - that was totally pouring cold water on your plans. Those are purely points that some people might not consider or know about when they decide to look into retraining. The long hours especially can come as a shock if for example you think it might fit around dropping off and picking up your own child from school.

The positives of a teaching career are more obvious - it is certainly a worthwhile profession and a hugely rewarding one. The holidays are very good in terms of childcare and seeing your own children during the Summer and Christmas periods. There are clear opportunities to progress and opportunities to add variety to the role (teaching a variety of year groups etc).

There I have balanced out my miserable post smile

grovel Wed 28-Sep-11 16:04:02

Nice one, Custard.

teacherwith2kids Wed 28-Sep-11 16:36:30


I retrained as a primary teacher quite recently, after another career.

I would agree with everything that Custard says - both the good and the bad. I would also research VERY carefully what the employment situation is for newly qualified teachers is in your area. Where I am the situation has deteriorated very badly just over the past couple of years.

The year before me had almost 100% employment from the PGCE course. My year c. 75%, the next year <50% and so far I understand about 30% of last year's PGCE qualified students got jobs for this year - and many of them were temporary maternity cover positions etc. And this is from a university with an outstanding education department.... Several of the 'career changers' I trained with have gone back to their original careers because they have simply been unable to find paid employment as teachers.

Bettymum Wed 28-Sep-11 16:37:23

Custard, thank you, that's exactly what I was looking for - honest insight from people in the profession.
I live in a small town with one primary, and I'm under no illusion that I'd sail into a job there and see DD every break time grin. In fact our county is quite long and thin so I could quite probably be facing a longer commute than I already have. I think I'm having a wobble about hitting 40 and not doing anything that benefits anyone in any material sense - having my DCs and "teaching" them things has crystallised in my mind that I would like to retrain, I think I would be better at it now than I would have been five years ago just through being a parent - although obviously just because I've got a couple of kids doesn't mean I actually know anything about teaching children properly.
I am looking for a new challenge, I love learning, I really enjoy children (but I couldn't eat a whole one wink), and I would love to hear from any more teachers out there.

Bettymum Wed 28-Sep-11 16:41:29

teacher, good point, I will do that.

lovingthecoast Wed 28-Sep-11 16:48:38

I agree with everything Custard has said. I started off in primary them moved into secondary and finally gave up. I have 4 kids and just found it so family unfriendly. I enjoyed my job and was a DHT before having my first but everything shifted when the kids came along.

1)I hated all the weekend work and resented not being able to spend most of Sunday with my DH and kids.
2) The holidays are great but not being able to take leave as and when needed to cover illness and other family stuff is hard.
3) I was teaching Y6 then secondary and I spend roughly 2hours each night just marking books.
4)When DS1 started school it broke my heart to miss his first nativity and first sports day. I also missed DD1's 'firsts' at school. sad

lovingthecoast Wed 28-Sep-11 16:52:54

Having said all that, if you love it, it's a great career! Just don't go into it thinking it's family friendly or that it's not a very emotionally draining job. Oh and I have also heard that way too few of last years PGCE students managed to get a job.

MerryMagdalene Wed 28-Sep-11 16:54:41

I am a secondary school teacher, but echo everything Custard says.

Teaching is a fantastic profession. It is very difficult to beat the sense of achievement, pride and 'a job well done' you feel when you see your teaching making a difference to the children in your care. Personally, I could never go back to an office job again (I was a manager in the music industry for 10 years prior to retraining).

However, I do not believe it is a good option for anyone wishing for a role that will allow them more time with their children, or that is free from pressure. The hours can be long. In my school, we are all in before 8am (I am in just after 7am), with some leaving by 4pm (but inevitably bringing work home) and others (the majority) staying on after 5pm. My school will allow parents maybe one day a term off to make appointments with their own childrens schools. I have been to just one school play since I started teaching 5 years ago sad

The workload is enormous - in secondary schools, the assessment/marking load is particularly fierce - and evenings and weekends are often taken up with this, and of course planning (which I am sure is the same for primary teachers). I am not over-egging it when I say - teaching is a job that you take home with you, if you are passionate about it, and this can be tough on work-life balance.

My honest opinion is that if you can afford it, anyone considering doing a PGCE should spend at least 6 months as a teaching assistant, where they can get a genuine feel for the classroom, the role of the teacher and what is required, and whether or not they could do it, day in, day out, and still enjoy it. Is that a possibility for you? Bear in mind that TA work is very poorly paid, but I do believe there is NO better preparation for teacher training than working in a school.

lovingthecoast Wed 28-Sep-11 16:58:04

Yes, I taught secondary English and the marking workload itself was another job!

JeanBodel Wed 28-Sep-11 17:01:51

If the aim is to see your children more, I'd try to get shorter hours as an accountant.

I've done teacher training. I didn't see my husband for a year. At one point I was getting up at 4am every day just to get the lesson prep done. And staying up at night writing essays.

I sacked it in at the end of the year because it was clear to my that the NQT year was going to be more of the same. I can't imagine doing all that with kids as well.

cat64 Wed 28-Sep-11 17:02:52

Message withdrawn

Bettymum Wed 28-Sep-11 17:18:40

cat64 yes, on the application form for our council one of the essential requirements is a week or more spent in a school environment, and they like to see more experience than this - e.g. as a TA or similar.
Thank you all so much for your input, it's really helpful. From being very positive about a complete change this morning I have gone to thinking it's just not the right time to retrain - practically I just can't spend half the weekend working when I have little ones that need me, DH is supportive but I can't see him taking so much of the childcare on.
I think perhaps I should try and get shorter hours in what I do, and look for opportunities to get involved within Guides or Brownies, I hadn't thought of that kind of thing but it could be a lot of fun.

cat64 Wed 28-Sep-11 20:01:02

Message withdrawn

Bettymum Wed 28-Sep-11 21:10:35

Thanks cat, I'm a chartered accountant and I've done the long hours, studying in the evenings, and weekend working and I know what it's like, it's fine when you're in your 20's and have no other real demands on your time except the pub, but I just can't see it happening now with the DCs. Thing is, I can't see myself retraining in 5 or 10 years' time either as I'll be a bit long in the tooth to be a new teacher. I will have to give it all a bit more thought.

AyesToTheRight Wed 28-Sep-11 22:00:45

I used to be a teacher and hated it and then retrained as a chartered accountant. Found the long hours, studying and weekend working a lot better as an accountant than a teacher - as a teacher I felt there was no way I could ever do enough whereas as an accountant I was better able to get to the end (once the accounts are signed, they are hopefully done and dusted).

I did find that audit and children didn't work too well, or at least not in the office I worked in when I had the children (totally male partnership and I was seemingly the first woman to have not quite qualified when I went on maternity leave and want to come back part time). Moved into different office and into the technical department where nearly everyone whether or not they had children worked flexibly in some way. Was much better and it was more feasible to leave when I was meant to in terms of my hours.

Teaching is I think simultaneously family friendly (you get a lot of holidays) and unfriendly (you can't choose when they are and you can't have time off to see the children doing things). You can't ever have a day when you manage to only do what is needed - you're an actor all the time and need to be bright and enthusiastic even when you feel horrendous.

I do think I would be a better teacher now I have children of my own, but still find it daunting to do things with school aged children (am helping in DS's class doing maths investigations tomorrow and bricking it somewhat).

Do have a good think about it - is it possible for you to work fewer hours (I do realise it depends on what area you work in) and so have a pay cut and do some voluntary work to add a bit of value to society? That sounds a bit trite which it isn't meant to smile

Slambang Wed 28-Sep-11 22:15:54

I gave up teaching when my oldest dc started school because I wanted to be able to go to his first nativity and assemblies, take him to school on his first week and be there when he came home. There is categorically no way I could have done any of this if I'd continued teaching. Don't go in to teaching if you want to be around more for your own children,

exoticfruits Wed 28-Sep-11 22:24:59

Custard has told it as it is. I stopped, I wanted a work life balance. It is rewarding, I loved being in the classroom, but I hate the rest. Every hour in the classroom needs an hour out for marking and preparation(or it did with me)-and there are not enough hours.
Volunteer to go into school and help-get a feel.

TheFarSide Wed 28-Sep-11 22:26:16

I don't know what demand is like in your area, but accountancy lends itself to self-employment.

On the subject of giving something back, our local secondary schools have "industry days" when they invite local businesses and professionals in to talk to the kids about their job, or conduct mock job interviews, and various other activities. It's always a really lively, enjoyable day, and much appreciated by the schools and students.

cricketballs Wed 28-Sep-11 22:29:28

I fully agree with every post on this thread. The workload, especially PGCE and NQT years are very hard going, you never get to see your own kids school things and weekends only consist of 1/2 day!

That said; it is a fantastically rewarding job. No two days are the same, you can usually guarantee to have a smile on your face at least once in the day.

I would however, seriously think about secondary teaching with your qualifications and experience; you have more chance of gaining employment in that sector either going with science (your degree) or maths due to your current career (although I suspect you may not be able to teach KS4 without serious re-training).

Have you spent any time in schools? I would suggest that you try to get a weeks experience in both primary and secondary in order for you to cement your decision and the more experience you have the easier it is to gain a place on a PGCE course.

When I went into primary for a week I was convinced that it was defiantly not the age I could teach on a day to day basis!

pudding25 Wed 28-Sep-11 22:40:06

Agree with custard. I did my PGCE in my early 30s and I want out of teaching. I work, work and work some more. If I am not working, I am thinking about all the work I need to do. In the 9 years I have been teaching, what I have to do has been changed so many times it is ridiculous. I would stick with the accountancy.

Dozer Thu 29-Sep-11 12:13:12

What about seeking to use your accountancy qualifications but in a role that requires fewer hours?

Accountancy is surely much better paid, with more flexible employment options than teaching.

empirestateofmind Thu 29-Sep-11 12:56:30

I am a part time secondary maths teacher (I taught full time for over twenty years). I do find it family friendly as my girls are at the school I teach in. We have the same hols and I often see them and their friends around during the day.

Yes it is hard training and getting used to teaching but with every year that goes by I thank my lucky stars that I work with fabulous teenagers who are looking forward to their future lives, who make every day interesting and different.

I do work long hours (7.30 to 5.30 usually) but I enjoy it so am quite happy. The key to being happy in teaching is to find the right school for you.

BTW you can do a lot worse than having colleague who are maths teachers- we are all fab!

empirestateofmind Thu 29-Sep-11 12:56:59


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