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Science teachers - what's it really like?

(23 Posts)
CoolBag Sat 28-Oct-17 08:15:39

I have spent 20 years working in R&D in industry. Manaagement mostly, my actual science skills are quite rusty, but hopefully my chemistry degree is under there somewhere.
What can you tell me about being a science teacher? I don't actually known any, and everything you read in the press about teaching in general is so negative at the moment. Retraining to teach would be a huge risk and financially less rewarding - but I am exploring for something more personally fulfilling and less corporate.

physicskate Sat 28-Oct-17 10:12:42

I’m a physics teacher in an independent (went to indies right after training). Hours are long and sometimes you get blamed for a lot that isn’t your fault...

I go from teaching year 7 one minute to A Level the next, so teaching definitely keeps me on my toes. It can be both really rewarding and frustrating. If you’re not 100%, having an ‘off day’, tired etc... you will get eaten alive...

You might want to look at doing a subject knowledge enhancement as you would likely be expected to teach all 3 to gcse.

CoolBag Sat 28-Oct-17 15:56:30

THanks. Could you tell me what sort of hours you usually work in term time and how much you have to do in school hols? Would you say you are typical?

physicskate Sat 28-Oct-17 16:09:46

Pretty typical, I’d say. I work 8-5:30 at work and then three nights a week 8-10 after I’ve eaten. I work about 4-6 hours one day on a weekend. I get a two week half term and have planned the second week I’ll work about 4-5 hours a day for five days. During summer I probably work equivalent to one day a week.

This is my sixth year and I finally don’t feel massively underpaid...

If you’re concerned about working hours, don’t become a teacher...

The only ones who I know that work ‘normal’ hours are paid for part time for about three days a week.

My school require us to teach up to 27 55 minute lessons a week. It’s too much, but the other conditions are pretty good. It’s compromise...

FlameOutTeacher Sat 28-Oct-17 16:55:29

I'm not science but I would really caution you about entering the profession at the minute. Unless you go into indie sector you will have much shorter holidays and still work the same hours as physicskate. It's probably more bearable working for hours in your half term when you have 2 weeks instead of one.

And that's if you get into a LA state school. If you end up in an Academy your life will be ruled by the whims of whatever despot's in charge. Essentially the school will be their fiefdom and you will be a serf.

You would be quite mad. If I had a science background I would be researching other options before I would look at teaching.

Blueemeraldagain Sat 28-Oct-17 17:08:15

The removal of single science gcse along with the introduction of progress 8 has made life very difficult for the science teachers I know.

Fffion Sat 28-Oct-17 17:16:41

20 years working in industry will set you in good stead. You will be used to working long hours, have attention to detail, work towards specifications, take pride in your work, schmooze bosses and clients, have excellent time management skills, etc etc etc.

A chemistry degree sets you up for A-level chemistry teaching, obviously, and there will be a few areas for you to learn, but not too much. You'd be expected to do two, if not three, subjects for GCSE, but these should not to be too hard for you to get up to speed with. You won't have all the anecdotes the first year, but will build up your repertoire. You can go to town on your industrial experience, especially towards the girls, as a role model.

I don't think you should dwell on too much negativity, other than to be aware. No workplace is perfect. A lot of the challenges can be in peripheral areas, such as photocopying budgets, and you learn to work around these,.

It is a funny job because you are it when you are in the classroom, but you have to work as a team with your department to share ideas, resources, and operations. You can do it on your own, if you are superwoman, but it's much better to work as part of a team.

You might find that a school hierarchy is more top down than you are used to, and be unlucky to have a "little Hitler" as your department head. This can be hard when you are mature and experienced in life. You just have to be strong to your own principles. It is sad that a lot of people in education think that an authoritative style of leadership is effective with fellow professionals.

Do some work shadowing in 2-3 different schools.

CoolBag Sat 28-Oct-17 21:26:04

Thanks for all your perspectives. I know that teachers generally work really, really hard and way more than their contracted hours.... but I didn't realise how much more. I'm sure when we were at school it wasn't so tough.
I don't really think there's much out there for mid-career people with science backgrounds. Academia is horrendous (and I'm too out of date anyway), R&D generally is shrinking and everything will get far worse due to Brexit. Proper science jobs are very very specialised, and I'm not cut out for scientific sales roles.
I have always loved training others, which is what draws me to teaching, but that's been with adults obviously.

scissormister Sat 28-Oct-17 21:41:01

I have just made a career change into teaching and honestly, it's touch and go whether I pursue it after this training year. it is not just the workload it is the sheer complexity of the job and the number of different skills you have to be good at. If you are good at switching off and setting boundaries between work/ life it will be easier (I'm not!).

Goldrill Sat 28-Oct-17 23:23:34

I'm a science nqt. Senior specialist scientist for govt body in a previous life. I am still not sure I am definitely a teacher, but I have landed in a really good school to nqt in and am starting to see it as more real.
The things I struggle most with are the inefficient systems and the rubbish data handling! As well as the massive irrelevance of large parts of the gcse specs.
Anyway; it's half term. I've worked four evenings this week, all day today and most of yesterday, and will need to do all day tomorrow. Most nights I finish at midnight and will be in school by half seven. I am more than happy to use anyone else's resources and think having to plan lessons from scratch is ridiculous, and I am as slack as it is possible to be about marking etc - so I am just about getting through. If I had higher standards I would be down to four hours sleep a night.

There are lots of positives too! Depends on what you are used to and what you find stressful. So far, this is a slog but not actively terrifying, unlike previous job.

CoolBag Sat 28-Oct-17 23:40:34

Hmm that's another aspect that would be a worry. I get very frustrated at inefficiency, and in the private sector when something doesn't work, you usually have the wherewithal to act on it (or get someone else to do so). The stories you hear about hoops teachers have to jump through that take up a lot of time would trouble me.
I work hard in my job and often more hours than I should. I couldn't work till midnight every night though, it would make me ill!

BobbinThreadbare123 Sat 28-Oct-17 23:48:58

Ohhhh, just don't. Been there, done that. Teaching is not the career to aim for at the mo. It needs to collapse or implode or something! Too much effort and too little pay for too much job.

user1471530109 Sun 29-Oct-17 00:01:48

I love my job. 15 years teaching science and last 2 as HOD.

Please don't only listen to the gripes. I've moaned most of half term but actually, on the grand scheme of things, I love it.

It is much harder than 15 years ago. Much harder than a year ago! The poor kids are nagged and nagged. And I'm up to my eye balls in it.

But the stress has been there every year. It's jumping through hoops mainly. The hoops get higher and smaller though!

Like I said. I love my job. Genuinely. I hate the current gsces. But that's hopefully blip (yeah right!).

And yes I work outside of normal hours. A lot more this year than ever before. But as a single parent to two DC, I couldn't keep up with what's mentioned above. And I have very envious results (v positive residual and average way above target).

I find most kids really love science too grin which helps keep the motivation.

castasp Sun 29-Oct-17 08:45:14

Based on what you've said I wouldn't recommend it at all.

Also, I disagree with a previous poster who says it's not too difficult to pick up the other 2 sciences. I only have a GCSE biology, and haven't done it for 30 years - I'm teaching biology for the first time this year, and yes I can teach it, but the TIME it takes up to teach myself and then teach the kids (not very well) is ridiculous. It's like learning a whole new language to me. There must be loads of teachers across the school who have an A-LEVEL in biology, or at least a more recent GCSE, but just because they don't happen to be in the science department, they're not expected to teach it (but probably expected to teach other things they shouldn't be) - this kind of thing drives me mad.

other things that make the job far harder than it needs to be are:
1. Having lessons not timetabled in a lab (so have to re-write whole lesson plan from a practical to a theory one).
2. Being timetabled into a different room every lesson - this has been the norm in the last 3 schools I've worked in.
3. Equipment just not working, and having to waste time (that I don't have) chasing up IT to get it to work, but they are a so overworked themselves they don't have time to sort it out.
4. Very difficult to talk to anyone, because everyone is always teaching! I can never just ask someone a quick question - it has to wait until lunchtime of before or after school, and sometimes the person might not be available then either.
5. Being expected to be in about 5 places at once. You will be expected to finish a lesson at bang on (lets say) 10am, and START the next lesson at bang on 10am, even though it's in another room at the other end of the corridor AND you'll be expected to talk to the TA to fill them in on the lesson being taught AND have a perfect starter that the kids can be getting on with straight away AND get the 5 bonkers kids off the ceiling.

Not that I'm stressed or anything at the moment...and I only work 3 days (on paper)!

LazyArseAvocado Sun 29-Oct-17 09:29:48

I've qualified as a secondary and a-level maths teachet in summer and did not seek a job in teaching.

The hours are long, especially in yout training year. I would be at a placement for 8am, finish at 5-5.30pm, plus do around 3hrs at home. One of weekend days would be taken up too.

My personality just wasn't right for the job. I am very sarcastic and do not have patience for snowflakes. Also bear in mind that children have very developed sense of entitlement nowadays and act like bosses in the classroom with you being 'help'. Bad behaviour is being excused by others as 'issues' of various descriptions. It's pretty much impossible to tell them off.

I spent so much time trying to get naughty ones to behave that I had no opportunity to work with the good ones. It's very sad really.

So, if you're mindful of other people's potential issues, have no family that need you, are assertive but kind at the same time and can deal with rudeness and cheek every day, go for it smile

Anchovies12 Sun 29-Oct-17 09:48:41

I did a subject knowledge enhancement and pgce and this is my 4th year teaching.

I genuinely love my job! I work 8-5ish and the odd couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. I have become very organised and use every spare minute to stay on top of things. I work in a pretty bog standard comprehensive but with a good union presence and very supportive senior leadership team. I honestly dont think i have to do anything that doesn't have a purpose and I love the fact that there is so much variation in what I do everyday. I have a lot of freedom to organise extra curricular activities and am really looking forward to the science fair that I set up for ks3; loads of kids doing all sorts of weird and wonderful science. I really like teenagers which to be honest I didn't know would be the case before I started but I is pretty essential! I would definitely recommend spending some time in different schools watching the teachers and the students and seeing whether you think your personality would fit the role.

I have just had a lovely half term with my 3 kids and am going to spend this afternoon getting ready for the next half term - this is the only work I've done this week.

Anchovies12 Sun 29-Oct-17 09:53:01

Have just read the posts above - I definitely think having my own room (a well equipped lab) and fantastic technician support (My dad - he was a retired chemist and I talked him into applying to be our lab technician!) makes a massive difference.

Goldrill Sun 29-Oct-17 13:08:20

I am sorry if my post sounded unduly negative btw! I fully anticipate that I will do ridiculous hours this year, as nqt, but after that it will reduce enormously, once I have a full set of lessons planned and done.

I have also been quite surprised - I hate physics and have only gcse, so teaching it at ks3 is hard work, and I try not to say anything wrong. But I am starting to quite enjoy it - loads more interesting than when I was at school.

I also really like almost all my kids, and in particular y7 and 8. Also very surprised by this! I am not the person I thought I was.

Rosieposy4 Sun 29-Oct-17 21:32:39

I love it nearly all the tine.
I also gave up a different career and took a massive pay hit.
However, i have just had all of half term off with my dcs, i worked most of today (Sun) but otherwise we have have had a fab 8 days. You are never more than 8 weeks away from at least a week off.
The kids are mostly funny and interesting, those that are not are usually very damaged. Although that does not necessarily make them likeable it can provide reasons why. And science is fun, lots of opportunities for hooks. I love the fact that i drop my dc at before school care, wokr and can leave to pick them up at 5:30. We can then do tea, after school activities and i fit my planning and marking around those ( don't waste time, i plan in the clubhouse during rugby training for example, as do several other parents)

BackforGood Sun 29-Oct-17 21:50:32

Ah - if you don't like inefficiency / having your time wasted, nor jumping through ridiculous hoops, then it probably isn't the time to be entering the teaching profession smile.
dh is a scientist and, a few years ago, (when his grant funding didn't look like it could be renewed / replaced) he arranged to shadow a few teachers in the science dept at a local school (by no means a school with a bad reputation - just 'average' school). I think by aout 11am on the first day, he realised he couldn't do it. He was used to working long hours and also volunteered with teenagers in another capacity, but he just coul not get his head around the time wastage, the constant low level disruption, and the really small % of your working week that you were actually explaining any science sad

SweetCrustPastry Sun 29-Oct-17 21:57:05

It very much depends on the school you are in and your tolerance for unquestioningly doing what you are told often by people who may not actually have the kids best interests as their main priority.
I have taught in a school where children routinely assaulted each other, sometimes quite seriously (and the head seemed to think that was ok) and in some classes attendance was 25% - and some of them were only there because that was where their customers were for whatever they were selling at break time.
I have also taught in a school where every child was given the best education we could possibly give them.
The hours were better in the first but it was soul-destroying for all concerned. In the second I worked long hours, despite having a really good boss and being in a department which never set homework and did far less marking than most. Our results were the best in the school and the head didn't understand our subject so she left us alone.
The thing is it's hard to tell which sort you are looking at until you are in post and then you have to stay. There is also an awful lot of politics in schools and there can be a lot of resentment of newcomers to the profession with industrial experience in some schools. If you are happy with that then you might love it.
If you're thinking of doing it for the hours/holidays don't. You will be expected to work to support students with extra exam prep/revision in many holidays.
What I would say is that teaching is one of the most rewarding things you could do. But working in a school isn't.
None of the schools I have worked in were family friendly employers, that also created a lot of stress. You can't just nip out for an hour if you need to because your y10s will still need teaching - and your school will not want to pay a supply teacher to cover you going to see your children's sports day/take them to the dentist etc.

CoolBag Mon 30-Oct-17 22:59:09

Thank you for all your honest comments. It sounds like I need to go and find an opportunity to shadow in a school. It's hard to imagine what it would really be like without experiencing it. I certainly wouldn't be heading into it for short hours, it's more about sense of purpose, but yes I admit being able to see my own children more during the school hols would be a draw.
I guess I just don't know what teaching real children is actually like, especially when you have to do it every day.

PumpkinPie2016 Tue 31-Oct-17 07:57:50

I am a few years into my career and have recently taken on a TLR in charge of a key stage. I work in a large state secondary school and although my specialist is Physics, I teach all sciences up to GCSE.

On the whole, I love the job. The hours are long and the job is very demanding but I enjoy being in the classroom with the kids and I love the fact that each day is different.

The pressure for results is huge and the endless paperwork is a challenge on top of a full teaching load. Your free periods are not enough to fit in all the work you need to do so you and up working at home. I get one hour a week extra for my TLR responsibility but the role takes far more than an hour!

I would advise trying to spend some time in a school to see what a typical day is like.

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