Posted by: April | February 8, 2011

“I don’t think we’re in Uni any more Toto!?”



 I’ve always played with the idea of being a teacher. At As level I loved art and it suddenly occurred to me… “Why don’t I teach art?” At A level I loved English and it suddenly occurred to me… “Why don’t I teach English?” At degree level I loved Psychology and… I’m sure you get the idea.  So imagine my surprise when the night before my PGCE interview I suddenly thought… maybe this isn’t for me?

I conscientiously applied for a post compulsory PGCE early in September to give myself the best chance because like any PGCE, places on the course are extremely limited.  I was offered an interview in November and asked to prepare an essay entitled “What is the purpose of education?” I was prepared and ready to go. The weather, however, had other ideas.  Perhaps I should have mentioned that living just outside of Newcastle means that you effectively live in a town sized snow globe?  When the snow is higher than your ‘Hunters’, you have a problem.  Needless to say I wasn’t getting to my interview. 

Interview attempt number two came in the form of a phone call three weeks later.

 “We were wondering why you didn’t show up for your interview yesterday…?”

 Were they kidding me!?!?  It turns out the weather had messed with post too and I had no idea.  Here I was making the worst impression I could possibly make and I wasn’t even aware of it!  Finally I get my next interview date – in January!  They sent me two letters this time, just to be sure.

I suddenly wished I had hired a snow plough to get to my interview in November, when I was sure this was what I wanted to do with my life. Now I was faced with the uncertainty of alternative options … and an essay on the purpose education which I had written so long ago that no longer remembered what I had put in it! (Although I have to admit, I was impressed when reading it).

So what made me doubt this once clear path of teaching?  Picture the beginning of the wizard of oz, when Dorothy first steps onto the yellow brick road and it spirals becoming wider and wider as the possibilities of her adventure open up to her.  Well this was exactly the same, except I was walking in the opposite direction.  My options seemed to be narrowing into reality and my ruby red slippers dulling back into monochrome.

 I’ve been working in a sixth form as part of the career development module this year (I also did some work there at the end of my second year).  As much as I love working there and the students that I work with, it truly has opened my eyes.  Teaching is certainly not your typical 9-5… ask any NQT or experienced teacher.  Although the early finishes and holidays always seemed appealing, this in no way seems to compensate for the extensive lesson preparation and conveyor belt marking  in which all of my mentors are engaged. Interesting lessons appear to have been replaced by dull ‘aims and objectives’ plastered across power points, and a lesson plan now seems like a checklist of criteria, so rigid that teachers are no longer able to bring their own creativity to the subject.  Don’t get me wrong here, there are many aspects of teaching I love, otherwise I would never have considered this as a career.  Inspiring students in a subject you love is fantastic and the gratification you get from those you teach is unparalleled.  I could go on to write paragraphs about the reasons I would enjoy teaching, but only now am I beginning to appreciate the ‘trade off’.

The question I am faced with…Do I live to work or work to live?  Teaching is a job requiring absolute commitment and will undoubtedly consume more of your life than a 9-5 office based job.  I get a buzz from being in front of a class teaching which I doubt I would get in something such as HR, but do I want to give my entire life to my career?

To make this decision even more difficult, the reality of the government’s changes in higher education finally hit me on a personal level. I was told at the interview that this particular PGCE, being £3500 this year, would cost £6000 – £7000 next year! So if I were to take a year out and consider my options thoroughly before embarking on my teaching profession, this valuable thinking time would cost me at least 3k… a sobering thought!

Needless to say I’m still unsure what to do. At this moment in time I would rather be in Oz!

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