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calling all primary school teachers - please advise - considering career change

74 replies

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 15:10

I am thinking of changing career to be a primary school teacher...just thinking at the mo...

I wondered if you could tell me the best and worst bits of your chosen career and also how well it fits in around your children's needs...(I have two - one age 6 one 3 and don't want them to have to be in after school care until 6pm every day so if it means that I may have to rethink)

I currently work P/T in an office in a job that bores me to death but allows me certain flexibility (ie I can pick up my 6yo from school 4 days a week - although I never see her in the mornings as I am already at work when they get up) but would love to do something a bit more meaningful and challenging

I already teach art to kids on an informal basis and really love doing it, I've also volunteered on two full day craft events at DD1's school and loved it,although I felt totally knackered at the end, but in a good way...not just bored and frustrated after another stressful but ultimately tedious as hell day at the office

but I know that enjoying a bit of art and crafts with kids doesn't necessarily mean I am cut out for teaching

so, another question, what in your view are the qualities you need to be a sucessful primary school teacher?

oh, and what way do you suggest training if I did go ahead with this crazy plan I have researched the GTP route a bit, and it sounds good as you get paid while training on the job so to speak...but possibly super competitive...or super stressful...

so many questions, thanks for reading, and for any advice you can offer

OP posts:
hercules1 · 23/06/2008 15:16

Not Primary but secondary. The first 2 years of training and then nqt year are hard and require long hours. You will need good childcare to get past these. I trained with one child who was in reception and he stayed with his childminder till 6pm whilst I was training and then for the first couple of years. You can be flexible and do some work at home when the kids are in bed but be prepared to be knackered in teh evening.

You will never get to go to your own childrens events - sports days, nativities etc and sundays are gone on school work.

That said it is good to have hopefully the same holidays but not a 9-5 job at all.

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:20

it is not a 9-3:30 job

in the beginning, you will want to be at school for 8am and will be lucky to leave by 5pm and should expect to take work home most evenings and certainly at the weekend.

There is a lot of paperwork to do as well as the planning, teaching, putting up displays, marking, thinking side of things. You will be on your feet all day and will find it hard to switch off.

You will have a lot of work to do before you can actually do a days work iyswim.

HOwever, teaching can be extremely rewarding if you are able and prepared to put in the work. The training and the first few years will be stressful and time consuming but this should die down a little after a few years - but not entirely. TBH I find the workload and the school politics the most stressful part. and the fact that you can't be 'sick' at work - you have to be all guns blazing even on a bad day.

As for the qualities - if you are not 100% certain that the rewards of the job outweigh the work and stress, then it is not for you. I think teachers are 'born' not 'made'. I know that sounds a bit crappy but I think it is true.

I wouldn't do anything else.

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:22

Just to ask - what qualifications and child-related experience do you have at the moment?

katak · 23/06/2008 15:30

You will have todo preparartion work athome which you haveto fit in as best suits you. However, I disagree with the post which says you "have to" be on site from 8am to5pm every day. You certainly WILL have to get used to having a job which will alwyas start much earlier than a bog-standard office job- most teachers have to at the very latest be in school by 8.45am, but ofcourse yuou do not want toarrive just as the bell is going. YOur days will start early, so childcare can be difficult unless you have a very short travelling time to your place of work and if you can find child ccare that starts earlier than most do. You will have to accept that during term time you will need to put your children in some kind of before and after school care, and that it will vary- so your children willhave to get used to you someimes collecting them at 4.30 but also sometimes collecting them at 6pm. WHen you have parents' evenings iny our job you will be at work during the evenings. Until you are established in a school, you will not be popular if you expect to take time off for every event that your children are participating in either.

I've been teaching for so long that I have knind of absorbed all of the territory that comes with being a teacher who is also a mother and so my familyalso have absorbed and adapted to that. No, itis never easy to face yourown children after having not been able to see their school assembly, orgo on a school trip with them, especially ifthey have seen you gettingprepared for the assembly/ trip in your work school.

I don't know what age group you want to teach, but you have to be resilient and adaptable and quite thick skinned to be a teacher- and be able to explain things well to children.

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 15:31


I have three degrees (but i can't sing ) a Bsc in maths and computer science, a BA in fine art and and MA in art history and theory

I work as a projects manager in IT (and it bores me to death and back) and have lots of management, budget etc experience

I have mentored a lot in the workplace

I tutored computer programming at university

child related experience is limited to my own kids (and friend, relative etc) and my informal art teaching and the two days I volunteered at the school, so not much

I find the little buggers intriguing though, especially the quiet and shy ones but wonder whether my discipline levels would be able to cope with the, ahem, less quiet and shy ones

nevere really though of not being able to attend my own kids events ...hmm...

but the summers off would be wonderful (don't worry, I am not thinking of doing this just for hols, I know it is a very demanding job) and the feeling of contributing something real great too can you know in advance if the rewards will outweight the stresses? (this is me musing by the way, I'm not "having a go" PC)...I guess that is why I need to discuss more with those with experience

DH has been going on at me to do this for ages, as he hears how I go on after my art classes and after the volunteer days I did (just did one last Friday, which is what has spurred me on to think of it seriously)

thanks for your thoughts so far

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popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:32

katak - I disagree about the start time. The kids come in at 8:40 at our place. I need at least half an hour to get set up and organised.

I don't know any teachers who come in just 5-10 minutes before the children.

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:34

jeangenie - how old are your own children? I think that is a factor on how stressfull training and the first few years will be. Are you able to help out regularly in a local school for a few months?

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:34

slip of the hand

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 15:35

I am fortunate enough to have a DH with a very flexible job so he does childcare and school drop off in mornings - I am currently in work by 7.30am, leave the house at 6.55ish so that wouldn't be a biggie, afternoons it is normally me who picks up, so that would be the sticking point...

my eldest DD gets very tired and doesn't take too well to multiple days at after school club in a row...

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jeangenie · 23/06/2008 15:38

Popsycal thay are 6 and 3. The 6 yo LOVES me picking her up and would hate to have to go to afterschool club 5 days a week, but if I could think about taking her out about 4.30 or so (as a vague sort of rule) it could work

will think about the regular fact may go have a chat with DDs teacher and see what he has to say about it all , he is nice

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popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:38

Once you are established in a school, leaving time is flexbile to a degreee, though you wil have particular evenings where you MUST stay behind until a certain time for staff meetings etc. Ours is a Monday.

FWIW I leave not long after the pupils on one of the days that I work as I have complicated childcare arrangements on that day - but I have been there for 11 years and have only done this for the last 2.

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:39

Mine ar 6 and 3 too (well, 6 in August)

ds3 due in September

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:40

It also depends on how close you work to dd's school. Luckily ds1's school is one of our feeder schools (we have a first, middle and high system here) so just a 5 minute drive away

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 15:46

I have a secret dream I might get a job at DD1's school, which would be perfect...but I know that is just wishful thinking...

do you know if, ahem, "mature" women with my kind of experience are welcomed or not really into the profession in general (I am, cringes, almost 40) do they perfer younger whippersnappery types

OP posts:
katak · 23/06/2008 15:51

Age is not a problem at all .

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:51

welcomed i would think - you have lots of 'world' experience and probably very organised and will be able to 'prioritise' well.

I only work 2 days a week - but did work full time with a stressful management position up until 2 years ago.

My advice would be to do some regular work in school with a range of age groups and classes. Chat to the teachers. Look further into the workload required for both the PGCE and first few years (has become more demanding in the last 5 or so years).

katak · 23/06/2008 15:55

BTW I did not suggest that teachers could arrive 5 - 10minsbefore the start of the day, but my point is, the teacherorganises their day and everyone is different. I'd advise anyone going into teaching to try and not feel pressurised into getting in earlier and earlier just becausethat is what others do. You will find your own routinesonce established and experienced.

Thionk about the fact that in primary schools you would be teaching Maths, English and Science- (plus many other subjects)not so much "arty" stuff overall although there will be opportunities to use any art skills in many ways.

popsycal · 23/06/2008 15:58

agree katak

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 16:08

yes I know would be teaching not just art...although in a perfect world...

I have always been good at maths and science myself and would relish the opportunity to try to make those "fun"...and not daunting...I have a bit of a passion about education being an enjoyable and not stressful experience for the kids, so would hope that might be possible...

I've seen english taught in some very inventive ways at DD1s school...

I would worry that I'd be bad at dealing with all the different levels of ability in a class, and I wouldn't want to let the "weaker" students down, nor bore the more able....

apparantly there is another possible route now, oustide the traditional PGCE one, which is GTP, where you do a year as an unqualified teacher at a sponsoring school...and get paid a basis salary...that's the one I am most interested in...anyone got any experience of that?

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jeangenie · 23/06/2008 16:09

basic salary

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aintnomountainhighenough · 23/06/2008 16:43

I have thought about retraining to become a teacher however at 42 years of age and with years of experience (OK not in teaching) I would expect to go in at a higher salary than the basics. I realise that you do not go into teaching for the money howeve starting off on a low salary and only getting a small rise each year until the max is just not enough incentive for me although I assume you have considered this. I must admit I also worry about the politics, talking to my DDs lovely reception teacher I realise that she is kept very much in the dark about decisions and having worked in the private sector for so long at a reasonably high level I know I would struggle with this.

dramaqueen · 23/06/2008 16:53

Why don't you think about teaching art at secondary level? I teach part time, mainly GCSE & A level (not art though). I get in at 9am after dropping the kids at school and when I teach lesson 6 they hang on for 5 minutes for me at their school.

I trained at primary level but find secondary so much easier.

AbbeyA · 23/06/2008 16:54

It is rewarding, I love working with the children but it takes over your life. I either do supply work or part time jobs so that I can have a work/life balance.
You won't be able to go to any of your DCs events (unless the same school)and you can't take them to appointments like the orthodontist. I like to be in school by 7.50 in the morning, ideally I prefer 7.30 because I always have a whole list of things to prepare. I can leave earlier but if I do I take the work home and it takes most of the evening.Full time work means working either Saturday or Sunday in planning etc.
There are staff meetings once a week, report writing, parent's evenings, carol concerts, school plays etc.
The holidays are handy with DCs but a lot of them have to be spent planning and then you need to catch up with all the things that you should have done while working.

etchasketch · 23/06/2008 17:03

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

jeangenie · 23/06/2008 17:13

art at secondary level would be a dream...but I didn't reckon there would be many jobs available - how would I train for that, or find out about job availability?

I must say I am feeling alittle put off now...biggest put off is the idea that I would have to work either saturday or sunday every week...good god - you guys are saints!

is it possible to go into teaching on a part time/supply teacher basis from the start or is that a total no-no?

I honestly think 6 full days a week won't be tenable for me with two small kids

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