There's much more to teaching than meets the eye...
There are few jobs as varied, hilarious and rewarding as being a teacher. To give you the inside scoop, we spoke to three teachers to find out about those little things that you’ll only know if you become a teacher.
1. How easy it is to lose pens
‘Sir, I don’t have a pen’ will be your most-heard phrase if you decide to become a teacher. Your students will claim they’ll give it back at the end of the lesson… but somehow they all mysteriously evaporate. Weird, that.
“It’s amazing how you can buy a box of 50 pens in September and by November, you somehow only have a pencil and ruler left… I have no idea where they all end up!” - Sam Oakford
2. How capable you are of learning 400 names in the first two weeks of term
In primary school you’ll often teach one class all year, but at secondary level you can have HUNDREDS of students’ names to learn. Somehow, though, you’ll manage it, and you’ll be seriously impressed with yourself when you manage to tell the difference between the 15 Olivers in one year group.
“Loads of teachers panic about learning all the students’ names, but it actually comes quite naturally to most people. Because you’re learning in situ, you can generally create a mental map of the seating plan to help you figure out who everyone is.” - Kate Stockings
3. How to become a master at juggling priorities
Few careers hone your multitasking skills quite like teaching. You can be writing on the board, handing out books, telling someone off, taking a swig of water and opening a window all at the same time. Honestly, it’s possible.
“Teaching definitely gets easier every year - you learn to balance your work life with your social life, you learn to prioritise your tasks and you learn to sometimes say NO to unnecessary things that will not really help pupils.” - Abed Ahmed
4. How honest students can be about your appearance...
Ah, such little darlings! You can always rely on young people to be brutally honest about that new haircut, the shoes you thought were still in fashion or the coat you thought looked amazing until Alex from class 8C told you his great-great grandad has one just like it.
“I’m a male teacher with long hair, so that makes me an easy target. If I’m giving them detention, the kids tell me I look like Mo Salah, or if I’m letting them go to lunch a bit early they’ll call me Joe Wicks. I’m probably more of a Salah, but I’ll happily take the Joe Wicks too.” - Sam Oakford
5. … and how honest students can be in general
Students have an amazing ability to blurt out every little thing that comes into their heads. But rather than being hurtful, the bizarre things your students pick up on end up being weirdly hilarious.
“A year 9 told me the other day that I write my Fs funny. For some reason, that sent the entire class into hysterics as they watched me writing on the board. My class know that I’m really bad at drawing, but I always tell them there’s a reason I’m teaching Geography and not Art.” - Kate Stockings
6. How many creative excuses there are for losing stuff
Whether it’s homework, a PE kit, ingredients for a food tech lesson or that replica volcano you asked everyone to make at home and bring in (to be fair, how did you expect 30 students to carry a massive paper mache model of Vesuvius on the bus?), there are endless weird and wonderful excuses for why students don’t have what they need.
“I dread to think how many PE kits Nottingham City Council have in their lost property department, judging by the amount that conveniently get left on the bus…” - Sam Oakford
7. How they expect you to know everything
Somehow, kids think that being a teacher makes you a walking Wikipedia. When your immaculately planned Biology lesson about the respiratory system descends into a torrent of questions about how divers get the bends, the Radiohead album The Bends and bendy buses, you truly know you’re a teacher.
“I’ll often be teaching about a very big global issue and then students will say, ‘Miss, that’s great, and what’s the exact effect of this in London?’ and they expect you to instantly know all the answers. It’s nice to know that they’re engaged, but as a teacher you’ll never, ever be able to answer everything!” - Kate Stockings
8. How seriously students can take a PE lesson
A bit of healthy competition never hurt anybody, but have you ever tried teaching football to a bunch of uber competitive 16-year-olds on a Friday afternoon? If there was ever a time to put your best loud teacher voice into action, this is probably it…
“My year 11s took their football lessons so seriously that I had to create red and yellow cards and book them. They’d spend all week working out what position they’d play, and I’d spend all lesson watching them flying into tackles. Those students are sixth formers now, and when they see me they say ‘Sir, when can we play football with you again?’ I think the answer is ‘never’.” - Sam Oakford
9. How good teenagers are at turning ANYTHING into a dirty joke
School is a MINEFIELD when you’re teaching teenagers with relentlessly dirty minds. It could be a tidal bulge in Geography, molten slag in Chemistry or Moby Dick in English - if there’s a way to get a laugh out of it, students will find a way. And let’s not even get started on sex education…
“Even in Geography, which you’d think would be pretty safe, you have to be so careful with your language to avoid giving the entire class the opportunity to crack up. Rivers are the worst - we have V-shaped valleys, river discharge… it’s actually quite impressive how easily their minds turn something so innocent into an innuendo.” - Kate Stockings
10. How exhausting, challenging, exciting, interesting and rewarding it can be
Yes, some days you’ll want to pull your hair out with frustration, but it’s all so worth it - and who knows, maybe you’ll grow to look forward to Mondays…
“I am incredibly happy with my chosen career. I look forward to work every single day and look forward to teaching the younger generation to become future leaders of tomorrow!” - Abed Ahmed
As you can see, teaching is full of so many surprises. If you want a job where every day is different and every lesson you teach has the potential to shape a life, teaching could well be for you. To find out more about what it takes to become a teacher and begin a career that could take you anywhere, visit the Get Into Teaching website.