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What is it like to be a secondary school teacher in a shortage subject?

(43 Posts)
Zhx3 Thu 02-Jan-14 10:05:15

I am currently investigating whether teacher training could be a career option, and would be interested in teaching at secondary level. My preferred subject would be Maths, but I could also consider Physics or Chemistry.

I've got a couple of placement visits booked with local schools in the next few weeks, and am planning on submitting the UCAS application if the placement visits go well, but I would really value the experiences of the teachers on this board.

Some background - I graduated nearly 15 years ago, and have been working in a multinational since (currently in senior management). I studied Engineering at university, and have good A-level grades in Maths (and Further Maths), Physics and Chemistry. My reasons for considering career change are partly motivated by personal reasons (I have a young family and would like to be with them during the holidays, and I would like to stay close to what they are being taught at school), but also because I think it must be rewarding to be able to touch peoples' lives and futures so directly (and hopefully positively!).

I seem to have lost my motivation at work, and that is partly because of the pressure and hours required, but also because I have lost some of my passion for what I do. I have been considering teaching for many years, now would seem like a good time to make that step.

I am under no illusions whatsoever that it's a tough and challenging job, and I don't know yet whether I have the mental fortitude to do it, so please tell me your experiences and share any advice that you have.

Thanks in advance!

DoctorDonnaNoble Thu 02-Jan-14 10:09:17

When it's going well, it's the best job in the world and I love it. As a maths/science specialist - you wouldn't struggle for work. However, it does have a habit of taking over your life. It sounds like you're used to that though.

MrsYoungSalvoMontalbano Thu 02-Jan-14 12:10:48

Go for physics and they will bite your hand of to give you jobs! Do not go School Direct (you WILL be pressured by the Teaching Agency to do so - I was and regretted it) go trad PGCE. When qualified you will be able to choose your school, all are short of physics teachers. I also came from industry - despite definitely a lot less than a senior job in the private sector, home early and great holidays..

MrsYoungSalvoMontalbano Thu 02-Jan-14 12:11:44

despite?? pressure a lot less than in the private sector

Zhx3 Thu 02-Jan-14 13:18:22

Thank you! It looks likely that I may have to do a subject enhancement course as my degree wasn't in Maths, and I'm trying to decide between Schools Direct and the PGCE route. I'm hoping to be able to get everything sorted for a September 2014 entry, but am on 3 months notice at work, and think I may be pressured into working the whole 3 months.

My adviser recommended doing the SKE course through Hibernia College online, which would make timings much easier - the local education provider SKE course starts in Feb, and there's no way I would be sure by then!

MrsYoungSalvoMontalbano Thu 02-Jan-14 17:00:31

interesting re subject enhancement, I was offered maths with no subject enhancement required even tho' my degree subject was totally different (Arts) but apparently my maths A level was good enough, no degree required!

MissMillament Thu 02-Jan-14 17:03:32

I would say that you should contact PGCE providers directly to ask about whether they would require you to do an SKE. You will find requirements vary. Do you have a choice of providers close enough to be feasible for you to access?

Aldwick Thu 02-Jan-14 17:08:45

Seriously do physics and you will totally be able to pick and choose your positions.

Zhx3 Thu 02-Jan-14 18:21:54

It is a bit weird, as I have A grades at Maths and Further Maths, and I did an Engineering degree at a very good university. One of my friends who has almost the exact qualifications as I have, was not required to do SKE. On one hand I think it might not be a bad thing, as I've been away from academia for so long, but the PCGE admissions tutor asked what percentage of my degree was pure maths (about 25%, but a huge chunk of the rest of it was applied maths!), then recommended that I look at the SKE.

I was a bit blown away by the fees for the SKE alone, but understand that they can be completely funded, with the application for funding being made by the higher education institution. And if I hand in my notice so that I am gone by, say, May or June, I could still fit it in before the October start.

I could probably teach Physics, but I wasn't as "natural" with it as I was with Maths and all of my Physics teachers were a bit strange grin

noblegiraffe Fri 03-Jan-14 19:00:28

I'm surprised you've been pointed at a subject enhancement course with an engineering degree. With my maths PGCE, 50% of your degree had to be maths, but that could be pure or applied. I'd double check with some other institutions because I really don't think if you've done engineering you'd struggle with the maths!

Maths is a shortage subject too, so you won't have a problem finding a job there either.

Remember if you decide to go for physics, you may well also be required to teach biology and chemistry at KS3.

Maths is a headline subject for the league tables, so there is lots of pressure to get good results. If you're trying to get away from pressure and long hours, teaching isn't going to deliver. But we do have good holidays. smile

anchovies Sat 04-Jan-14 12:15:44

I did SKE with Hibernia as I have an engineering degree too. Continued and did the elearnITT with Hibernia and am now nearly finished. It has been an interesting way of training however I'm not sure if I had my time again whether I would have done a PGCE or even school direct at the school I did my first placement at (outstanding and a teaching school.) Don't hesitate to PM me if I can help at all!

anchovies Sat 04-Jan-14 12:17:16

Sorry just read on a bit! My SKE was fully funded and you can easily do it while you work.

FourArms Sat 04-Jan-14 17:23:02

I didn't get offered a SKE place despite wanting one!

You could look for jobs only requiring you to teach Physics at GCSE & A-Level (although most schools use non-specialists at KS3). In my last job I taught B, C & P to GCSE which was a major challenge!

Don't take one person's word as gospel, I was told I wouldn't be accepted onto the PGCE by the PGCE administrator, but the course leaders accepted me with no conditions attached.

Good luck smile

Zhx3 Sat 04-Jan-14 20:51:56

Thanks all. The website for my nearest provider says SKE is required, and that application must be in before 13th Jan, so I'm working to that deadline now. The other providers are 30-40 miles away, so would be best.

Although I don't start my schools experience until later in January, I'll put in the application and hopefully have at least a couple of days under my belt before I (hopefully) get called for interview.

Had a quick look at Hibernia College and will speak to the admissions tutor about it.

Zhx3 Sun 05-Jan-14 02:12:56

Can anyone tell me please, how do you get on with your students? What is their approach and behaviour towards the work?

noblegiraffe Sun 05-Jan-14 09:36:23

I teach in an outstanding middle class leafy comp with excellent results. The kids are mostly lovely and I enjoy working with them. Some work very hard, a minority are lazy slackers who expect the world on a plate. Behaviour is very good, although you have to be vigilant against low level disruption. Bottom sets can be quite hard work.

I've taught there eight years. I've had the odd serious incident where I've been told to fuck off or had to restrain a pupil who has been trying to punch another one, but those have been very rare. Being told to fuck off resulted in the kid being excluded, which is what you want.

On my PGCE I taught in a school where behaviour was very poor (weak leadership), teachers were being assaulted weekly and the unions were involved.

So pick your school carefully!

FourArms Sun 05-Jan-14 11:11:26

Nearly the same as NG:

I teach in an outstanding super-selective grammar school with excellent results. The kids are mostly lovely and I enjoy working with them. Some work very hard, a minority are lazy slackers who expect the world on a plate. Behaviour is very good, although you have to be vigilant against low level disruption.

Last year my post would have been identical to NG's except I really struggled with bottom sets. I felt like a rubbish teacher. However, I've realised that different teachers suit different schools, hopefully your PGCE will help you to understand where you need to be to excel.

Zhx3 Sun 05-Jan-14 22:48:04

Thanks - my long term goal would be to try and get into the same secondary school as my children (they are some years off entering secondary), for logistical reasons and so I could keep an eye on them.

I've put my personal statement together this weekend, and am waiting for feedback from the Premier Plus advisor.

Would be interesting to hear if anyone has worked in schools where the students and parents have been disinterested or difficult to teach - I've toyed with the idea of teaching for nearly 10 years now, and on the odd occasion I've come to MN to see what real teachers have to say, I've been put off! So it is lovely to hear the encouraging stories on this thread thanks.

MrsYoungSalvoMontalbano Mon 06-Jan-14 08:48:05

I teach in a school where behaviour is poor and many parents disinterested. However, it is very rewarding to see teenagers who have be disengaged 'switch on' to a subject, and behave well in your classes! It is not always easy - but nothing that is worth doing is easy. Don't be disheartened by the doom and gloom of all those repetitive 'I'm going to quit teaching if Gove does one more thing' threads that spring up on here - there are many positive teachers out here who do not feel the need to whine - we are getting on with the job and enjoying the challenge.

bubblesmonkey Tue 07-Jan-14 19:12:55

I teach science and am currently on school direct having had a little unqualified teaching experience beforehand.
I love teaching science. The workload is very heavy and it does take over your life, but it's a great job. Am really enjoying the school direct route as well and very glad I didn't go for the PGCE. For starters my fees are paid and I get a salary, but also you just teach from day 1 and learn so much on the job. I haven't had the best support, but if you have a 'get on with it' spirit you'll be fine.

bubblesmonkey Tue 07-Jan-14 19:14:48

Also, don't even consider going to an interview without experience in a school beforehand. Seriously, I remember interviewing (day-long process) alongside people who hadn't been in a school for years and there is no way anyone would give them the job because they simply had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

BoundandRebound Tue 07-Jan-14 19:17:40

I'd look at teach first if I were you

Zhx3 Tue 07-Jan-14 22:53:13

Hi Bubblesmonkey,
I'm likely to have at least 2 days' schools experience under my belt before being called for interview, with the remaining required 8 days already booked. In an ideal world I'd leave the application until after I had more experience, but because the local HE provider has stipulated a deadline for applicants needing to take the SKE, I need to follow that. Having discussed with my Premier Plus advisor, we agreed that I should stick to the deadline (have explained reasons for early application in my personal statement). If the schools experience turns out to be a horrible shock, I'll probably withdraw my application. But I hope not, I have tutored children before (many years ago), and loved seeing their lightbulb moments, and the obvious progress that they made. I accompanied some of their parents to parents' evening (English was not their first language), and loved to hear the teachers talking about the improvements they had noticed.

Thanks for the link, BoundandRebound, it looks like an interesting (and potentially very rewarding) scheme. The requirement for flexiblity to work anywhere in a region concerns me a bit - there aren't many schools listed which are very close to where I live. Will definitely look into it though.

Thanks to MrsYoung, NobleGiraffe and "Fourarms" - for providing a variety of experiences! I'm a Myers-Briggs ISFJ profile, and I am a bit worried at the thought of not being able to control a class - I'm not extrovert by nature and relatively softly spoken - but at work I can command an audience.

And thank you anchovies for all of your help regarding Hibernia!

Premier Plus advisor checked through my personal statement and sent it back saying it didn't need any changes to it, and was good to go! I was shocked!

MagratGarlik Wed 08-Jan-14 12:58:41

I'm a Myers-Briggs type ISFP, so similar to you. I found this article very interesting and could relate to quite a bit. Worth a read.

Zhx3 Wed 08-Jan-14 21:53:15

Thanks Magrat! I could certainly relate to the teachers mentioned in the article. I like the idea of small groups in the classroom, with the teacher walking between the groups. I can completely relate to the one-to-one and more meaningful, personal relationships. I didn't put it into my personal statement, but I would like to be "that" teacher that children can approach if there's something troubling them.

At work I've had to stand up and present/deliver workshops that I've designed in front of 40-odd people, some of whom are very very senior and can pick your work to pieces easily. I've always dreaded doing that, but generally the feedback has been very positive.

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