When someone tells you “I’m a teacher.” What are your first thoughts about that person? Are you of the opinion most parents are, now that many of us have had to face the reality of homeschooling under lockdown, that teachers are heroes? Those endlessly patient folks who help you raise and prepare your child for life’s challenges, many of us adore these life specialists and think to ourselves that teachers are second parents. Perhaps you are of the opinion that teachers get too many holidays or teachers have it easy. It is at this point that I would kindly ask our education specialists to hold that eye-roll and accept this as a learning opportunity for those misguided individuals.
What does a teacher do?
For the benefit of readers who may never have encountered education in the UK the following is a breakdown of “what a teacher does”. In the most basic terms, a teacher is a professional that sets out to teach others, typically young people, how to engage in new tasks, behave in general, acquire knowledge, socialise, think for themselves and work as a well-rounded member of their community.
“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
Over time we have given our teachers more and more specialised roles under a set of guidelines we have determined are the most beneficial principles for young minds to acquire. This set of guidelines has come to be known as a curriculum. Each curriculum is made up of a number of subjects.
- Primary education: seen as the basics of education which every member of our community should have and benefit from. This includes a good foundation in mathematics, geography, history, natural sciences and much more.
- Secondary education: this is the stage of education where we can fine-tune further knowledge and prepare for careers or further, Tertiary education. Secondary level builds on the primary level education and branches out into many more subjects and opportunities.
It's not all fun in the classroom. Apart from delivering classes, teachers must also plan them and a significant portion of their own free time can be dedicated to doing so. How much time you spend planning your class can vary of course but on top of class planning, there is grading and work correction to do. All of that work takes place before additional admin. It is hard and demanding work to be a teacher at any level. The rewards of teaching are unlike any other career though. This isn't just a career choice, teaching is a way of life.
Primary or secondary school… how do I choose?
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer. This will be a very personal decision you will have to make for yourself. To make an informed decision it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the difference between a primary school teacher and a secondary school teacher?
- What is a typical day for a primary school teacher and a secondary school teacher?
- How do I become a primary school teacher or a secondary school teacher?
The best way to find out which path suits you best is to find out all you can about both. The best decision is an informed decision.
What is the difference between a primary school teacher and a secondary school teacher?
In primary school you work with students who can be up to 11 years old. You will cover a well-rounded curriculum of subjects. These will include mathematics, sciences, life skills and much more.
As a secondary school teacher you will work, on average, with students aged between 12 and 16 years old, although some secondary teachers also educate Sixth Form students from 16+. You will most likely have one or a small number of subjects which you specialise in. For further insights into life as a teacher we recommend you have a look through the Eteach blog.
Two good categories to start with are Newly Qualified Teachers and Career Path.
How do I become a primary school teacher or a secondary school teacher?
For more information on how to find out more about routes into teaching, whether primary or secondary, why note explore Eteach’s First Steps In Teaching?
For primary school teachers: Can I become a secondary school teacher?
Can primary teachers teach secondary? Technically, yes, so long as you have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) you can apply to teach at secondary level. A primary school teacher can become a secondary school teacher by becoming a subject expert. As secondary school teaching is more focused on particular subjects you need a good knowledge of the subject you wish to teach. The hiring school will decide whether or not your subject knowledge is suitable for their needs. To give yourself the best chance you could do a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course in a subject of your choosing.
For secondary school teachers: Can I become a primary school teacher?
Yes, although this move is rarer. Moving from primary to secondary teaching is intuitive enough in that you move from knowing a vast array of the basics into a specialism in a particular subject. To move from secondary to primary you need to move away from a specialism and get well acquainted with an entire curriculum.
With your QTS all you’re lacking is primary education experience. You could potentially build this up by spending some time as a teaching assistant (TA) or become a supply teacher. Your best bet is to discuss options at your preferred educational institute. There are so many avenues into primary teaching and circumstances will vary hugely by geographical area and institute type.
Why would you change your career path?
This is a very personal question and there is no simple answer. Many people set out on a career path that suits them perfectly at first only to find out later on that the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with that career is not the best fit for them. Others may find that being too focused on a particular topic is not challenging enough, maybe you’ve covered a given curriculum so well that you want to branch out and challenge yourself with a new subject or new age group to teach.
Whatever reason you have for wanting to make the move in teaching or indeed into teaching, be sure to think of your own goals, hopes and dreams first. Some of us dedicate our careers to teaching but all of us spend our whole lives learning. Make informed choices that work best for you as an individual.
Why not continue your research and search jobs on Eteach? Find the best teaching roles that suit your skills in your area. If you have any queries, get in touch to find out more. Our friendly staff will be happy to advise you.
About the author
As an Open University graduate with TEFL certification, Jennifer has spent a good deal of her professional life as somewhat of a digital nomad. After years of studying and then teaching across five different countries, Jennifer has settled in the UK and when she isn’t teaching, she’s writing or working on all things content, from Accessibility to UX. Jennifer’s passions are the concepts of accessible education and universal design where she can contribute to a world, both physically and digitally, more easily accessed by all.