Teaching - should you believe everything you hear?

There's no doubt that teaching can be stressful. Dealing with students, marking homework, talking to parents - there's a lot to do. But if it was all that bad, why would anyone teach at all?

Shows like Bad Education depict teachers as either inept or careless, and press coverage often focuses on strikes, shortages and bad behaviour, or complaints about curriculum and examination changes, rather than the immensely positive aspects of this unique profession.

Fortunately, there are plenty of talented people who are not put off by the media's teaching narrative.

"It's infuriating how teaching gets such bad press," Lauren Fallows, an English teacher at a Lancashire secondary school, tells Student Room. "There are thousands of hidden moments, from getting a student to grasp something for the first time, or even just turn up for a full week in attendance or getting one to make a friend. These are the things that get missed out in the media."

Kate Stockings has been teaching for three years and is now head of geography at a secondary school. She admits that things do get stressful.

"Yes I'm super busy, yes my hours are long but among my graduate friends, am I alone? Not at all!" she says. "Anyone on a grad scheme works similar hours."

Teachers have it very different from their graduate peers working in offices. Those trainees might need to make the odd presentation to their boss - research an issue, make slides and handouts and then present their findings. Teachers do that five times a day, five days a week.

What makes teaching worthwhile is the different reactions the audiences give to those presentations. A boss might pick holes in the presentation and ask a series of awkward questions simply to put their hapless employee on the spot - some people call it "exec-utainment".

Teachers, in contrast, have a different kind of audience - the students - and the reactions they experience to a good presentation can be hugely satisfying. Helping a student understand a difficult concept or igniting a lifelong interest in a particular subject isn't something most people can say they've achieved at the end of a day's work.

For Sian Johnson, a newly qualified teacher at primary school who specialises in PE, there are plenty of great moments in teaching. One of the most special is "when a child has a 'light bulb' moment and finally understands something they have been struggling with," she says. "Or children becoming excited about a topic and you see that thirst for knowledge captures them and they want to research and explore it."

 

Salaries are higher than people think too. A new teacher will start on at least £22,000 a year depending on location rising to a minimum of £28,000 in inner London. Those in leadership roles can get more - around £57,500 a year on average.

There are financial incentives for training, too. Those entering the profession can get tax-free bursaries of up to £26,000 to train as a teacher in certain subjects. Those teaching maths could get £30,000 - a £20,000 tax-free bursary while training and a further £10,000 after tax once they're in teaching.

Long hours can be a feature of the job, but there are upsides too. "One thing people often miss is the value of flexible hours," says Kate Stockings. "Yes the hours are long, but if I want to leave at 4pm I can. I can go to the gym from 4-5pm and then work later. Or I can work until 7pm and then leave at 3:30pm the next day."

Ah, time off. Teachers get long holidays, something that haunts Lauren Fallows.

"Everyone I know outside the profession thinks we just do it for the holiday," she says. " No one I know does it for the holidays!"

 

She relishes the opportunity to make a real difference to her students' lives. One moment particularly sicks in her memory - an occasion when she worked with a group of disadvantaged students to put on a Christmas coffee morning.

"They had the world on their shoulders, these kids, they had so many troubles, but that morning they were amazing - they were greeting guests, one of the students sang a carol. I was thinking 'nobody else has done this at work today'."

Kate thinks other jobs would be boring. "I know so many friends who are now just bored and ready to move on from their jobs because they're not being challenged." Her favourite moment of the year comes when she teaches plate tectonics to year 8 students.

"They enter the room mostly knowing nothing about the structure of the earth and leave completely enthused about earthquakes and volcanoes," she says. "As the teacher, you're left with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction."

There are great reasons to become a teacher that don't always make it into the media Lauren adds. "To pass on the love of a subject, to have fun at work, to be rewarded every day, to meet hundreds of people and to be challenged. There's no other job like this where you can be proud of what you do and make a difference."

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