Advanced search

calling secondary teachers! what's it really like?

(29 Posts)
dingdong05 Thu 10-Sep-09 23:34:19

I'm thinking of training as either and english or drama teacher (my degree is joint) obviously there should be more jobs as an english teacher, but i do love drama...

anyhoo, i'd really like the real deal, from the coal face as it were- what's it like being a teacher? dish the dirt- are you happy with your work or not so much? did you expect something different? how much time do you spend in admin and preparation?

and importantly, how do you work tbe long hours around your family?

tia- and please be as honest as you can be!

Wonderstuff Thu 10-Sep-09 23:42:33

Massive pressure on English teachers in secondary. If the kids fail to get C in English then they don't count towards magic 5 A-C stat. Though probably much better now SATs have gone.

First 2 years are really hard work, more than I expected - but maybe I was disorganised. I was doing very long hours in my NQT year. Up to 60 hour weeks. These days I am in half an hour before school and an hour or two after. I work a couple of days most holidays and do work on the weekend about once a month.

It is never dull and I love working with children. But bueaurocracy and politics are very frustrating.

I trained to teach Geography but after mat leave am now working with sen 3 days a week. Is wonderful to be able to work pt and get paid more than I spend on childcare.

lilolilmanchester Thu 10-Sep-09 23:59:25

interesting thread.... I intended to teach after uni but ended up in industry "for a couple of years before going in to teaching". Still haven't made the switch, 20+ years on, and part of me would still love to teach. But my many teacher friends have dissuaded me from making the move as they feel very stressed, very unrewarded, and apparently the long hols count for nothing... so feel I'm unlikely to make the switch.

dingdong05 Fri 11-Sep-09 00:00:41

thanks for that wonderstuff. how long have you been in the biz now? how did you manage to get from the 60 hour week to the stage you are at now?

i know i'm a div, but i hadn't considered the pressure from outside the classroom in a key subject like english (lol i tried to spell it "inglish")...

perhaps i should add that i'm in scotland, incase anyone has specific points about working in the scottish system.

Morosky Fri 11-Sep-09 02:09:48

I teach secondary and adore it, have had such a lovely day today meeting my new classes. I have just finished my work for tonight though and started at 6 this morning which is the only downside. But I work hard because I love my job and suspect I would work this hard whatever I did.

I feel very rewarded, this week have had lots of letters, cards etc from parents and pupils to thank me for results. I think we are paid well, I woudl certainly work for less. I am not sure how you can say the holidays count for nothing they are fab and a huge bonus when there are very few negatives to comensate for. I do sometimes get stressed, more so when I worked in a tougher school. You do need to realistic about what your tolerance levels are and then look for a job accordingly. I now rarely get stressed and spend much of the day thinking that I am bloody lucky.

Wonderstuff Fri 11-Sep-09 09:23:10

I have been teaching 5 years. I actually took a year out and went back to industry for a year after my 2nd year, for various reasons, not all related to teaching, I needed to take a step down.
I think when you have more experience you can cut a few corners from time to time and planning takes less time because you have more ideas. Which school you are in makes a massive difference, how organised the department is. Some teachers seem to do little outside of the class room, most work very long hours during term time, going home, sorting out kids then doing a couple of hours in the evening, we are all spent by the time a holiday comes round, you really notice that fatigue if it is a 7 week half term.

Holidays are good, but restrictive. I would rather have fewer holidays and be able to go away whenever, everything is so much more expensive and so many places are so nice in September.. I will appriciate them when dd starts school though no doubt. I get a bit bored after the first few days of holiday tbh.

SEN is a different world actually, my biggest class is of 6, which obviously knocks down the marking load, I don't have to write reports because I am not teaching a curriculum subject. And I get more money grin I do really miss teaching GCSE. I have started offering an entry level qualification to some of our kids but it isn't the same satisfaction.

campion Fri 11-Sep-09 18:18:16

You get a bit bored after the first few days of holiday, Wonderstuff?shock

I've never come across another teacher saying that and I've been teaching for a good few years. It is a good job if you're suited to the delights and surprises of adolescents - who are what I most enjoy about teaching, though I wouldn't have said that when I started.

But I have never been bored in the holidays!!

Waswondering Fri 11-Sep-09 18:25:02

Wonderstuff - my dh is a probationer (NQT) in Scotland this year.

Investigate your subject thoroughly in your local authority - there have been well documented difficulties for teachers to get jobs after the probation year, so be aware of that, even with a "needed" subject.

Last year dh was a student and it was very full on. He's mega organised and still works every evening though it's less manic than it was the first week back!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!


Karam Fri 11-Sep-09 19:31:04

I've been teaching 11 years now. In my experience, if you're in teaching because it is your vocation, then it is the best job in the world, but if it is just a job, then I think it is very easy to find the whole thing stressful and a pain tbh.

The downsides of teaching is that there is always more to be done, and if you are a bit of a perfectionist, then you can end up putting in ridiculous hours. I know I make a worksheet, the come back to it next year and think I don't like x,y,z and so need to improve it... and so on.

However, the plus side is that I am able to fit my working hours around my children. I work mornings, so am always able to pick up my daughter from the school gate, spend time with her until bedtime and then I start work again at 7pm, once the children are in bed.

But, teaching is not always flexible about time off - for example, if my daughter is doing a school assembly then I am not entitled to time off to go and see her.

Despite this, I love my job and enjoy working with the students. The hours are quite long - despite being employed only mornings (0.6 of a timetable), I also work every evening (usually 7-10) planning and marking and Sundays from about 4pm, onwards. But I think I am a bit of a perfectionist, so may do more than others!

If you love working with the students, then you will love it and it is worth all the hassles that go with it.

elliepac Fri 11-Sep-09 19:48:00

Evening, I have been teaching for 10 years now and am a Head of Department. I 100% agree with Karam. If you go into teaching thinking about the holidays and the decent (but not fantastic pay) and job security you are barking up the wrong tree. You have to love kids and love working with them. I see teachers every day struggling in a job which they hate and nobody benefits and in fact the pupils lose out.

It is very hard work in the first couple of years until you get lesson plans, schemes of work etc. clear in your head. And English is one of the most pressurised subjects. After that, it does calm down. It would be very easy to dedicate most waking hours to the job but you have to get the balance right. I, for example, work non-stop from the moment I get into school till the moment I leave (about an hour after the day finishes) to make sure I have as little to do as possible as I have a young family at home. I make sure I have at least one complete day off at the weekend and only work after the children have gone to bed (about 2 hours 2 or 3 times a week). It does also depend upon the school you work in, I have a tough school and it was exactly that...tough. I now work in a decent school and the pressure is still there but not as constant

Having said all that I love it. Every day is different and brings it's own rewards andI can't imagine myself doing anything else (how cheesy is that).


Morosky Fri 11-Sep-09 21:09:33

I know a few teachers who get bored in the holidays, mainly teachers without their own children.

campion Sat 12-Sep-09 15:25:14

Why do they get bored? ( Am genuinely astonished).

etchasketch Sat 12-Sep-09 15:29:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Morosky Sat 12-Sep-09 18:41:49

I don't know how they get bored, even before I had children I always loved every minute of my holidays. Some teachers do live and breathe their job and when that is taken away they crumble.

I find it hard sometimes as my partner is not a teacher and as we live in the middle of nowhere and I am not driving yet I can feel isolated.

dingdong05 Sun 13-Sep-09 01:31:18

Thanks everyone, this is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for.
If I'm being horribly honest I would choose drama over english (although I do love the subject) and a bonus I saw was that it was a subject most like to do, and it is chosen so hopefully the students want to be there
But, I am 2 hours away from the closest place that offers drama PGDE and I really don't know how I'd manage the commute... and the point about jobs in my area isn't lost on me. Presumably there would be more work for a core subject?

ravenAK Sun 13-Sep-09 02:16:00

I teach secondary English & I love my job.

You should definitely do English as a PGCE - Drama is a useful bonus, but you'll be in much more demand with a core subject as your speciality.

I've taught Drama a few times as an adjunct to English ('oh you've got 4 periods of year 8 Drama this year, but you'll be teaching it in a chemistry lab') - there is a bit of a culture in some schools that it's an add-on.

The 'student choice' is slightly a red herring - lots of students make 'negative' choices, I'm afraid, whereby they see Drama as a 'fun' subject - so you might have rather a lot of KS4 students who are targeted Es in all their subjects & have quite reasonably decided to pick the subjects with the greatest potential for mucking about.

Re: workload, 10 years in I work from 7:30-4ish daily. Not sure how many hours I do in the evening because putting together resources on the PC often segues into Mafia Wars on fb, or mumsnet, but, well, lots.

I try to save marking for weekends if it's 'proper' marking & not just book-checking. Usually it'd be about 6 hours over the weekend; either dh takes the kids out for the day or I do a couple of afternoon sessions whilst dd2 naps & the other 2 amuse themselves.

bloss Sun 13-Sep-09 07:09:24

Message withdrawn

scoutandjem Sun 13-Sep-09 07:55:53

Hello, I've just finished my first week as a PGCE student. So relieved to say that I know I have made the right choice. I have a two foot pile of notes, books, homework etc. to wade through but after listening to motivational lecturers and my peers I can't wait to get stuck in. Get my placement in a couple of weeks - 12 weeks in a school, I know not which one!

Not meanind to hijack thread but if any of you can tell me about your year as a PGCE student that would be great as I'm chairing a meeting on this subject next week. Thank you and good luck Ding Dong.

browneyedlou Sun 13-Sep-09 08:14:12

I teach secondary English and am in my 3rd year. I love my job, the kids a brilliant and I am in a wonderfully supportive department. It is absolutely exhausting though, and a real shock to the system going back this week after 7 weeks off! I do think the holidays are necessary although they could perhaps be distributed differently (ie 4 weeks in summer, longer at xmas) as 7 weeks is a long time.

I do work after school and at weekends, but not to the extent that it stops me from doing what I want to do. I think this very much depends on the culture of the school you are in. I have been in schools where people are still there at 6 every night and work all through the holidays, but now I am in a school which has much better results but people seem to have a far better work life balance.

English and Maths do feel the pressure a lot more in terms of results, so if this worries you you may be better off in a non core subject such as drama, but as you said, more jobs in English.

Agree with what has been said about perfectionism, vocation, and choice as a red herring...

TheHappyCamper Sun 13-Sep-09 08:52:03

I teach secondary Science and ICT. I am in my 9th year of teaching and still really enjoy it. I am joint head of dept and I have just had 5 months off on maternity leave.

The best things are the kids (very funny and earnest and entertaining) and the holidays(which other job can you earn £30K+ and still get 13 weeks off per year?). I love the fact that in my school we are trusted to do things properly and my classroom is mine. We don't have excessive senior management checking up on us all the time!

The downsides are the planning when you first start. My PGCE year was extremely tough and I don't think I could have done it if I had kids then, BUT after a couple of years it gets much easier! It used to take me more than an hour to plan for an hour's lesson!

Also you need to find the right school for you. My first school was a big comp that was very rough and has since been put into special measures. My, that was a hard year! My school now is fab smile - the kids are polite and try really hard. Last 2 OFSTEDs graded outstanding. When I was pg they held open doors and carried stacks of books for me. I almost never get stressed (maybe report writing time!)

I have helped train I think 14 teaching students over the years. The best ones have been expecting hard work and actually liked kids! The worst ones made me think 'why are you here?' They didn't seem to even like talking to kids, let alone getting up in front of 30 odd!

So, yes if:
a) you like kids
b) you don't mind hard work and long hours esp at first
c) you're not doing it JUST for the holidays!
d) you want every day to be different and like a challenge!

LadyIsabella Sun 13-Sep-09 08:59:12

I have been a secondary school teacher for 14 years now, it amazes me how quickly the time has flown. Since going part-time after the birth of DS1, I never bring work home. I get in as early as I can (which is not as early as it used to be pre children), work through lunchtime, stay after work for an hour or two where I can. It has been very hard juggling childcare and the inflexibility of the job, we have a 2 week timetable(common in secondary) and it has caused no end of problems with nursery care etc. How old are your children? As previously mentioned, once they are at school life is much easier and your non-teacher friends will be jealous!

NoahAmin Sun 13-Sep-09 09:23:08

marking is shit and there is LOADS of it

NoahAmin Sun 13-Sep-09 09:24:16

i ttry and do all my work at lunchtime - bring a set home occashionally - but tbh work a LOT faster at home than at work. can polish off a set in under 30 mins. I dont stay late after schoool either apart from an hour one day.

KembleTwins Sun 13-Sep-09 22:48:39

I taught secondary English and Drama for 12 years before starting maternity leave, and fully intend to go back to it once my DTs start school themselves.

My degree was English & Theatre Studies, and I did English & Drama for my PGCE. I taught just English for the first couple of years, then did a bit of both, but the final 8 years before I had the twins was just Drama and I LOVED it. Much preferred it to English - lots of reasons really, but mostly because there was less pressure from outside the classroom, generally the kids doing KS4 & 5 Drama wanted to be there, and the opportunities to be more creative. You will get a few kids who think that Drama is the easy option for GCSE, but that all depends on how it is taught at KS3 - I got fewer and fewer thinking it would be a "doss subject" as they had had Drama with me in KS3 and really knew how I worked and what it was all about. That said, I had more and more kids taking it for the right reasons. Teaching Drama is incredibly rewarding, not least because it's often a subject where kids who are not necessarily academic still get a chance to excel (2 of the 3 schools I taught in were fairly low achieving) and it's great to be able to give them the opportunity to see that they can succeed. I also totally love the extra-curricular stuff - have done lots of school plays and concerts, and, in my pre-marriage-and-children days, did all sorts, from working with professional theatres (was in London and worked with the Almeida which was amazing) to directing a show with 80 local kids in the Millennium Dome. As long as you are really into your subject, and willing to put the extra hours in, teaching Drama is wonderful.

BUT if you don't have the time/energy/resources to be able to go at it 100%, it's a tough job. If your heart's not in it, it will be obvious. I echo other posters who say the hours are long and that you have to go into it for the right reasons.

Good luck!

Loshad Sun 13-Sep-09 23:20:41

10 days into NQT year here and can echo the bits about it being very hard work. I loved my PGCE year, and was in 2 very different schools, am now teaching in a very challenging school and am being equally challenged by the students. Having said that a fairly rubbish week was sorted by a not too bad friday topped by Friday 5 and Y10 all doing a five (score 0-5 on how well you think you know and understand, 5 is totally) on my lesson objectives and most of them on the SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning) so well happy.
Lots of afterschool meetings - don't expect to be able to zip off at 3.30 - maybe later on possibly but i had after school meetings on 4 nights last week, and will have on 3 nights next week.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now