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Training to become a teacher primary
33

QSblue · 08/08/2021 08:06

Can anyone give me some honest opinions on what kind of struggles I might face becoming a primary teacher? I would like to teach smaller children (maybe reception age) however I am not so sure on a couple of things.

I originally wanted to become a midwife so I studied an access course and have applied to uni but I am going to defer so that I can see what other options there might be for me. The NHS staffing levels are getting worse and I don’t want a career where I am working at unsafe staff ratios and so much stress. I currently work in a maternity ward and I'm really not liking what I see day to day. I think midwifery or nursing is going to be the wrong choice for me.

I currently hold GCSE maths C and English B, I personally don’t use maths too much in real life and im worried that I might have to teach older children and not know the curriculum and maths equations of the top of my head. The older the class, the harder the work. Does that make sense?

Is there a choice in which age group you teach, for example would I be grouped into reception to year 6, or could I choose reception and only teach that year group if I wanted to?

Also I suffer with anxiety (social) I think back to my school days and I loved my primary learning experience and I would love to be able to do that for other children. Im worried about being confident in a room full of children, assessors and also parents. Also I am not very strict and I have no children myself yet, I don’t know what I would do if a child was naughty, I have no idea how to handle that situation.

Lastly, other teachers say that there is too much paperwork and marking etc. What can I expect from this aspect? I don’t know anything about teaching only my own experience as a student. I really want to choose a career that I will overall enjoy and I feel that teaching might be a good option.

Thanks Smile

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Nix32 · 08/08/2021 08:21

Before you even think of applying, get into a school as a volunteer and see how you feel then. I don't just mean try it for a couple of days, I mean go in a day a week for a year and try to get experience in different year groups.

Teaching is fabulous and I love it, but it also has the potential to destroy you. It is exhausting and all consuming. You have to accept that you won't have much of a life during term time - that's what the holidays are for!

The pressure is enormous; targets, lesson observations, learning walks all add to it. You have to have confidence in yourself - don't expect other people to tell you you're doing a good job, they will only tell you what else you need to be doing.

Like I said, it's fabulous, but go into it with your eyes open.

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Squirrelonwheels · 08/08/2021 08:24

Totally agree with pp that you need to volunteer for a bit - there will be lots of things that you may not like in a similar way to the midwifery ward (not enough staff, lots of pressure etc). However yes it is possible to specialise in early years - if you do an Early Years PGCE then you will only work in reception (or nursery/pre-school). If you do a general primary PGCE then you can work across all years. So an Early Years one is more restrictive but if you’re sure that’s what you want then it’s better to do that one. But you 100% need proper classroom experience before deciding.

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Fankehxudb · 08/08/2021 08:30

It's a tough job. Unless you are really commited and really want to be a teacher, don't go into it. It can also very much depend on the school that you are at as to whether you will enjoy your job. If your to do a general PGCE then you could be put in any of the year groups from reception to year 6 and that could change every year or every couple of years potentially! When I had year 6 had to often re teach myself before I taught them as it had been years since I'd learnt it in school - it's not easy stuff particularly the maths and the grammar! As the others have said, you definitely need to go out there and get some experience first.

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Jet888 · 08/08/2021 08:35

I agree, go and become a teaching assistant or regularly volunteer. It's not an easy job but can be very rewarding. But be prepared for either long hours at school or taking work home. The training years were the hardest I found because you didn't know what you were doing so planning one lesson would take me hours. I would definitely train before having kids though if possible, then you can fully through yourself in and embrace the school life fully! That's my personal experience

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Muggee · 08/08/2021 08:36

I agree that getting some experience in schools (ideally more than one even if just a day as the reality across different schools differs) is really important. To be honest a lot of the issues you have identified in schools are also an issue in schools- ever decreasing budgets and support staff with an ever increasing workload and social responsibility.

Not trying to put you off, there are many positives, but it is miles apart from what I thought it would be (I left a few years back but did 5 years as a KS1 teacher), a quick list below:

  • depending what area you are in it can be really hard to secure a job in primary at the moment, although it does change year on year, keep an eye on the vacancies in area (these tend to be greater once the deadline for resignations has passed).

  • the holidays seem appealing, but it can be really tricky to have time off during term time, the exception where I worked was for funerals, but this does vary and some will allow other stuff- but assume that you're bound to just school holidays (and that you'll be doing work for some of it).

  • constant pressure to deliver more with less resources, it's never ending and can be very frustrating.

  • aside from the actual teaching (which I loved), there is a whole load of admin which takes a lot of time and often doesn't really add much, so be prepared to spend time on top of planning and marking etc. The level of which does depend a bit on school, as does whether you actually get the time during school hours that you should to do some. Although it eased off for me after the first 2 years, sometimes there is a need to spend hours on an evening doing stuff, it can be hard to balance.

  • all of that said if you find the right school it can be very rewarding and good fun, I loved working with the children there's nothing quite like it.

    Yes if you do a PGCE for early years or KS1 it's very unlikely you'll be placed in KS2, but not impossible.
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QSblue · 08/08/2021 08:56

Thanks everyone for the great advice Smile yes I can see where you are all coming from, with regards to actually going into a school and seeing it firsthand. There’s so many things good and bad that I’ve seen in the hospital that has helped me to decide what I need to watch out for.

If anyone has the spare time could you write a day of what you would usually do both as a qualified teacher and a student. That might help me to see the amount of work, the variety and also the time frame of the working day/week/term. I know most schools finish at roughly 3pm, but that the teachers don't. Do you take much work home?

Also how do lunch breaks work, do you take the same break as the children do? Or is it more like just eating in the class while the children are out, do you have access to a microwave on your busy days? I know there is a staff room but I’ve heard stories of teachers not getting the time to go there.

Thanks

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Muggee · 08/08/2021 09:03

To be honest OP a lot of your questions will vary school to school, and are things you'll see when you volunteer.

Lunch breaks really depends, if I wasn't on duty I tended to usually eat in the staff room for a break from the classroom and for a chance to speak to other adults! If I had a load to do though I would sometimes do work whilst eating, but tried not to. We had a microwave but this will vary, there aren't standard guidelines for provisions for staff really as far as I know.

Do you have a degree already? Would you be doing an undergraduate or straight to PGCE? If you would be doing a degree, personally I'd do a fairly broad one and then volunteer regularly in schools.

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QueenCuntyFlippers · 08/08/2021 09:13

Standard day for me (kS1- 4th year teaching)

7:30 get into school, gives me an hour to do whatever is on my to-do list and set up for day.
8:30 -school starts
11:30 -lunch (I do take 30 mins to spend in the staff room, the rest will be working)
3pm kids go home but I usually stay til 4:20 as I have to pick my children up at 4:30.
I usually do an hour or so work when home.

I usually do a few hours on a Sunday too (mire like a full day during the pressure points!)

The workload comes in peaks and troughs. Sometimes it's worse than this (end of year/terms)

I do love my job but my particular team are lovely and my line manager is fab. It's really tough but the 9-3 time with the kids makes up for the targets, reports, policy writing, endless seemingly pointless paperwork. I wish it could be slimmed down as I love planning work and setting up my classroom and I could spend more time doing things that really impacted on the children's learning!

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Zzzzfthg · 08/08/2021 09:15

Your answers really will depend on the school year group etc.
When I taught lower KS2:
Get into school 7.30am
Prep lessons/planning for the following week/mark etc. Until 8.30am
Morning meeting for 10 min with staff
8.45 kids in.
10 min morning break but often was on duty (we did 5 breaks a week)
Lunch break was an hour and if you were a regular class teacher like me then we just ate in the classroom with other teachers in the year group. I always tried to mark a set of books during lunch so less to do after school. Prep for afternoon lessons. I never just sat around for the hour!
Afternoon lessons with a short 10 min afternoon break. End of day 3.30pm.
Marking, prepping for next day, meetings, paper work etc etc. Left around 5/5.30pm.
I tried not to take work home with me - I very rarely took books home to make. I always got in early/stayed to do them. I would have to do some planning at home. If you go to a one form entry school you will do all the planning and prep. I was lucky that I had 3 other teachers to split the planning with which helps

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Clarkey86 · 08/08/2021 09:17

From your questions I think you definitely need to get onto a school.

You take the same lunch “break” as your children - I work 3/4 of it trying to mark a set of books and take about 15 mins to eat. Of course there’s microwave access. Some people take the full hour but take all of their marking home.

My typical day (as somebody 14 years in):

7.45 - Arrive at school, print things for 5 lessons (English, Maths, Phonics, Topic, Reading) and start sticking in books. Each lesson would be tweaked three different ways for lower/middle/high ability children all its a bit like planning 15 lessons or activities per day.

Get powerpoints and other resources ready on the interactive board/out on tables.

Talk to TA about what they will be doing with their groups during the day.

Write date and spellings up on the whiteboard.

Get everything ready for 1:1 readers that we do every morning.

Probably answer a few questions from other staff.

9.00am Children start. Listen to readers and change books while they do spelling. Start English lesson (grammar starter for 10 mins, main lesson teach, children application activity in books)

10.15 - Playtime (on duty - swap with TA for 1 min for a loo trip)

10.30 Phonics session

10.45 Maths session (10 min starter, main teach, application task). Change the lesson completely half way through when they don’t get it. Run around between groups like a mad head trying to make sure the lower ability get it, and the higher ability are stretched.

12.00 lunch. Try to mark one set of books. Set an improvement task for each child related to the lesson. Grab 15 mins to eat and go to the loo.

12.50 - Topic lesson (as above lessons)
2pm - Playtime (as above)
2.15 - Reading lesson
3.00 - Assembly (On a rota to deliver these for the whole school)
3.15 - hometime, field questions from parents whilst monitoring who is collecting each child, passing on first aid and other messages, keeping other children calm and quiet.

3.30- One day a week staff meeting until 4.30/5 (On these days all of the marking has to come home)

Other days, mark remaining books (takes 1-2 hours depending on what we’ve done. Writing lessons take much longer) until about 5pm.

Realistically after school time is taken up a LOT with other little jobs (data input, assessment, subject leadership tasks, replying to emails, meetings about various things, parent meetings or phone calls, paperwork for SEND children) so you do end up taking marking home. Also starting to set up for the next day to make the morning less frantic.

In the evenings I catch up on marking and other email admin and tweak my planning BUT I have been in Year 2 in the same school for 8 years so I am only editing and improving my planning, not starting from scratch. When you are new planning is a HUGE chunk of your time and a lesson has to show different lesson parts, differentiation for different groups of learners (sometimes including a SEN child who needs individual work), be engaging and visual, have supportive resources, have good pace and productivity outcomes, focus on presentation and high standards. SO much goes into a good lesson - it is not just download a PowerPoint and pick up and teach from a textbook. Expect to spend every evening planning fairly late into the night until you are well established in a school. It’s not unusual for my teaching students to work until 11pm and we aren’t a particularly demanding school in terms of paperwork - it just takes that long to prepare all of the resources and structure the lessons for 5 lessons per day.

It really does get significantly easier after a few years but be prepared for hard graft, long hours and a lot of scrutiny in your first few years. You get used to people watching you.

Behaviour management and presence is key but you can train yourself to fake it until you make it with this. It’s absolutely crucial you do it from the get go though or even the little ones will walk all over you.

It’s an incredibly rewarding and unique job, but it is HARD and the hours are LONG. Holidays are great but when you are new a lot is spent catching up on work, preparing your classroom and trying to get ahead of yourself for the coming term.

Hope that helps give a little insight.

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ellesbellesxxx · 08/08/2021 09:17

I have been doing a day a week this year in ks2

The night before:
Run through plan for day
Check emails &respond
Make sure resources on usb stick for next day
On the day:
7:45 arrive and make sure all resources ready. Go through any emails/notes from week. Get everything ready on whiteboard, put everything out on desks
8:45: children arrive, work solidly until lunch due to break duty
1 hour lunch where I eat quickly then mark
Continue teaching
3:15: children leave, I finish marking, log any incidents from day, talk to parents, photocopy for next week

I leave 5ish as I have nursery pick up.
I do my planning in school hols, did reports in hols to get ahead otherwise would have needed to do more than the above. plus parents evenings were extra

As a job share, a lot of things were shared so this is a much easier day than what I used to do full time!

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LammasFires · 08/08/2021 09:18

Do you want to teach reception because you think it’s easier, and the children and the work will be easier to manage?
Or because you are interested in the early stages of learning, language acquisition and socialisation?
I agree that combining volunteering with reading around on the expectations and curriculum is a good start.
Teaching is not an easy option, and your reasons and motivation for doing it will be an important factor in your success.

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rosy71 · 08/08/2021 09:20

I would agree with getting some experience as a volunteer or getting a TA job.

Do you have a degree? If so, you will need to do a PGCE. If not, you will need to do a teaching degree with QTS. If you're not sure about teaching, you could do an Early Childhood Studies degree. That would allow you to work with young children in a variety of settings. You could always follow it with a PGCE if you want to teach.

You mention having GCSEs in English and Maths. You will also need GCSE Science to teach.

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Scarby9 · 08/08/2021 09:25

I agre with everyone else. Get into school!
As a paid TA if possible, volunteer if not.

In terms of training, you could train to teach 5-11 (Y1-Y6) or 3-7 (nursery - Y2), which currently sounds your preferred option. But you might change your mind, so do try to get into KS2 as well before you make your choice.

Just checking qualifications. You mention maths and English GCSEs at C+. For primary teaching, you also need a science GCSE at C+ so if you haven't got that, that's something else to get organised with (either a GCSE or one of the equivalent exams).

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Clarkey86 · 08/08/2021 09:29

I wouldn’t worry too much about curriculum - you can learn it as you teach it and it can actually be helpful because then you get to see the small steps process to understanding a concept from the children’s eyes. There’s loads of supportive resources to help with maths and grammar knowledge (though it is significantly more challenging than it was years ago).

Sometimes I find highly academic teaching students find it hard to break concepts down for children to understand because as adults they just “get it”, if that makes sense.

If you do a general teacher training course you generally get places on a higher primary class and a lower one for a broad experience. When you apply for jobs, some will specify a year group and some wont. Some head teachers move staff around periodically - you can’t say no, but you can choose to look for another job. I’ve always been in KS1 which is my preference and would probably leave if moved to Y6 (not because I dislike that year group, but because it would mean starting from scratch with everything and I have a young family at home). You probably have less control over it if you’re an NQT in an area where jobs are competitive.

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DotsandCo · 08/08/2021 09:56

ALL of the above!

It's hard work and very demanding of your time and energy. Quite frankly, after 28 years, this past 18 months has almost killed me 😢

I've taught every primary year group (and yes, I too 'specialised' in Early Years, but head teachers have authority to move any teacher into any year group they like!) I'm currently teaching in Year 2...3 years ago I was in Year 5 and the year before that nursery...you get the picture 🤷‍♀️🤣🤦‍♀️)

In all honesty OP, without meaning to sound unkind, you don't appear to really know why you want to teach...and have no experience other than once being a pupil yourself. A university won't even consider your application without you demonstrating how committed you are, and you will need to have had recent experience in a classroom. I suggest you start there, as a volunteer or teaching assistant (but even these roles are requiring qualifications these days...my school won't even interview a potential TA who hasn't got some sort of relevant qualification or track record!)

I hope you figure out what you really want...I know how hard it is to do this, but once you find your real passion, you will know 💕 Good luck 🤞

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Walkinginawingingwonderland · 08/08/2021 10:10

@Clarkey86 Describes my day too - except I don’t have a TA!

Seriously think ahead to whether you want DC of your own. Teaching is not a parent-friendly job - you’ll spend their childhood feeling guilty for missing their first days at school, plays, sports days, never being able to pick them up from school etc.

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ArseInTheCoOpWindow · 08/08/2021 10:13

If you have any form of anxiety teaching will make it worse.

You are constantly watched and scrutinised.

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Zzzzfthg · 08/08/2021 12:48

@ArseInTheCoOpWindow totally agree. I don't suffer from anxiety however had many a sleepless night or knots in my stomach due to work.

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QSblue · 08/08/2021 14:02

Wow thank you all for the replies. It’s great to see how everyone plans their day. It’s a lot more than I thought it would be. I think I will take the time now to write out some letters asking to volunteer at some schools local to me. I will see if I get any responses and what the schools can recommend.

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Redlocks28 · 08/08/2021 14:08

You sound like you want to only teach reception because you think it’s easy and you don’t want to be a midwife because of the staff ratios and stress-both of which are a big problem in teaching!

Heads can put you where they want-YR to Y6 in a primary.

Why do you want to be a primary school teacher?

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Redlocks28 · 08/08/2021 14:12

I also worry that if you lack confidence, have anxiety and are going into teaching because it sounds less stressful than nursing, that you will struggle.

Have you thought about working in a preschool/nursery if you like working with younger children?

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Soontobe60 · 08/08/2021 14:20

I currently hold GCSE maths C and English B, I personally don’t use maths too much in real life and im worried that I might have to teach older children and not know the curriculum and maths equations of the top of my head. The older the class, the harder the work. Does that make sense

As a primary school teacher you will be expected to teach maths and have a good understanding of it at all age ranges in a primary school

Is there a choice in which age group you teach, for example would I be grouped into reception to year 6, or could I choose reception and only teach that year group if I wanted to

You can choose what age range you teach when applying for jobs, but there’s no guarantee that once you’re in post you’ll be kept in that same age group. I’ve taught every age range throughout my career.

Also I suffer with anxiety (social) I think back to my school days and I loved my primary learning experience and I would love to be able to do that for other children. Im worried about being confident in a room full of children, assessors and also parents. Also I am not very strict and I have no children myself yet, I don’t know what I would do if a child was naughty, I have no idea how to handle that situation

To be a good communicator you haven’t look like you’re confident, even if you don’t feel it. Behaviour management is a key skill teachers have to develop, no matter what the ages of the pupils may be.

Lastly, other teachers say that there is too much paperwork and marking etc. What can I expect from this aspect? I don’t know anything about teaching only my own experience as a student. I really want to choose a career that I will overall enjoy and I feel that teaching might be a good option

There’s a massive amount of paperwork to be done as a teacher! This is one reason why many teachers leave the profession. One teaching Union survey showed that teachers work in average 65 hours a week.

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Macaroni46 · 08/08/2021 14:47

As a primary teacher of nearly 30 years a typical day:
7.30 arrive. Set up classroom which includes taking the chairs off the tables, opening windows for ventilation, setting out resources, setting up all PowerPoints and online resources, briefing the TA (on the days I have one), going to the loo as it might be lunchtime before I get a chance to go again, hot drink in flask.
8.45 children arrive. Settle them and get them started on their morning task at the same time as responding to queries from parents.
8.55 take register and dinner register. Repeat menu choices several times!
9.00 start teaching. Usually phonics. Sometimes we stream across the year group for this
9.30 maths or English. Differentiated at at least 3 levels.
10.25 playtime. Either on duty or set up for the next lesson. Run to loo if time
10.45 maths or English as before
11.40 wipe tables with disinfectant
11.45-12.45 lunch. mark a set of books / set up for afternoon. Allow between 15 to 30 mins to eat my lunch in the staff room. Go to loo. Hot drink.
12.45 afternoon register and lessons such as reading, topic, ICT, science, handwriting until 2pm.
2pm afternoon break for children. On duty every day for this
2.15 more topic lessons etc. Maybe some free time for the children while I hear readers or conference with them 1-1.
3pm children go home
After that, marking, prepping, meetings, assessing, inputting data, displays, photocopying until at least 5pm, sometimes 6

I work 3 days a week officially.
I do on average 34 hours a week

It can be fun but it's hugely demanding!

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Suprima · 08/08/2021 14:49

If you have anxiety- don’t go into teaching.

In the wrong school, you will crumble. Unfortunately there are so many ‘wrong’ schools and you don’t know until you are in.

You also don’t really seem to know why you want to be a teacher. Why do you want to teach? Why specifically reception?

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