Advice from a former teacher
March 24, 2017, 4:13 p.m.
I have been working as the Programme Coordinator for Action Tutoring in Sheffield for six months but before this I worked as a primary school teacher, specialising in Key Stage 1.
I got into teaching by going back to university after my undergraduate degree, to do a PGCE; however there are many different routes to becoming a teacher. You can find out more about those here:
If you are considering going into teaching then it is important to be aware that whilst it is a very rewarding job, it is also a difficult job with a heavy workload.
Here are a few things I learned whilst teaching that helped me to manage the workload and improved the learning experience for the pupils in my class.
- Make sure you give yourself time off.
The main reason given by teachers for leaving the profession is the heavy workload and not feeling like they have a life outside of school. It is very easy in teaching to end up being in school from 7am-6pm and to spend a large part of your evenings and weekend days marking, planning and creating unique, fun resources. This is because when you care about your class you will often feel as though you can always do more for them. However for most people this is completely unmanageable and whilst every teacher wants to do the best they can do for every single pupil, it is extremely important to think about your own wellbeing and to make sure you have a healthy work/life balance.
I always came into school early but forced myself to finish by 5pm. I would then work for about 6 hours max on either Saturday or Sunday. If I didn’t get my work done by the end of the day, I would leave it until the morning. These hours worked for me and doing this allowed me to continue doing things that made me happy outside of work, meaning I wasn’t stressed out and tired when it was time to teach. Obviously there were some weeks where I had to work extra hours (when it’s time to write reports, the run up to the nativity performance etc.) but setting myself time limits made me happier and more efficient.
- Find ways for your class to learn and consolidate their knowledge at every opportunity.
There is so much content within the national curriculum and it can sometimes feel as though it is impossible to teach it all! The worst feeling is when you spend ages teaching a certain topic and then when you revisit it weeks later, the children seem to have forgotten a lot of it. The best way I found to combat this was to always have tasks available to allow children to consolidate previous learning. For example, every morning the children would have a task to get on with as soon as they entered the room. This could be as simple as writing on the whiteboard ‘Choose an object in the room. Write down as many adjectives as possible about your object’. We would then spend a minute or two looking at some answers as a class, or in pairs, before doing the register. Also try to have tasks like this available for when children finish their work early; you will often be too busy to think of an activity off the top of your head, so have a range of activities set up around the room ready for them to have a go at.
- Be reflective and willing to try new ideas.
Like any job you learn as you go. I felt completely prepared after my PGCE but over the first year I started to doubt a lot of things I was doing; this is just because as you gain experience you will start to develop as a teacher. Things that worked when you were a student may not work with your new class, so it is important to reflect on and change what isn’t working.
- Remember how important your job is.
Lastly, when you have a hard day/week, try to think about the fact that you are making a huge difference to so many young people. Never forget the amazing impact you have and what an important person you are in a young person’s life.
Written by Ellen Hindley, Sheffield Programme Coordinator