What is it like to be a primary teacher?
Being a teacher is an incredibly rewarding career, not least because no two days are the same. It is impossible to describe a typical week or term either within a school or between schools, and for many, that is part of the appeal of the job. Such is the variety of experience, you’ll never get two teachers offering the same answer to the question, what is it like to be a teacher?
Ben Morgan is a Reception F2/Year 1 teacher who has been teaching for 7 years now, mainly in Year 1. “This is my first year teaching in the Early Years Foundation Stage. It's been tough teaching across two curricula,” explains Ben, “but I'm enjoying it for the most part.”
A typical day
A typical day for Ben includes arriving at school at around 8am, before opening the doors at 8.45 and registration at 9am. The children are then split into groups for Read Write Inc phonics. “For my group,” Ben explains, “phonics lasts around 45 minutes, but for others it's an hour. We then let the children choose within the continuous provision (resources and areas set out for children to explore freely) whilst we work with individual children or small groups. We then split for maths. The F2 children are mixed across the unit with the other F2 teacher and two teaching assistants, whilst I take my Year 1s. After lunch we have topic, in which we cover a variety of subjects, before play and story-time. Home time is 3.15.”
Why did you choose teaching as a career?
Teachers choose teaching as a career for a wide range of reasons. For Ben, his choice was primarily because he wanted to do something of value, and he likes children! This is a crucial trait in teachers! Ben says, “I always got on well with kids and I couldn't stomach endless dead-end jobs, so at 25 I went to university and began my studies. It's been a tough journey, and a hard career. There's so much about teaching that's not actually teaching, and I wasn't prepared for that. However, I feel that I'm at a good place in my career currently and, importantly, I'm at a good school with good leadership. It makes all the difference as it hasn't always been this way.”
What has kept you in the profession?
The reasons we choose to teach and the reasons we remain in the teaching profession are not always the same. For Ben, there are multiple reasons for continuing as a teacher. He explains, “I enjoy teaching. I've remained a teacher chiefly because I have a wife and three children and I'm the only earner. I've looked at alternatives, but I don't think I could earn the same salary in another career. I do enjoy teaching.”
What advice would you pass on to those considering a career?
The internet is awash with advice for trainee teachers, some of it incredibly helpful, some of it not so. It is important to be realistic about the challenges and the joys! “In terms of advice,” Ben says, “I would tell any trainee that teaching is hard. It's a tough gig and there will be many days when you think you aren't good enough. But the chances are, you are! It takes time to develop your craft, go easy on yourself and don't expect too much too soon. Stay in class for a while before attempting to realise leadership ambitions. It's important to really know teaching before moving into management. Finally, I would say, find a school that is a good fit for you. That may be an RI (requires improvement) school, an Inadequate school or an Outstanding school (Ofsted school judgments). But don't settle for the first one to offer you a position, and don't stay in the wrong school out of loyalty. Look after yourself, make friends, and find a place that values you.”
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.