starshine123
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I'll be starting my final year of university this September, and after giving it a lot of thought I've decided teaching (at secondary level) would be the ideal career for me. The more I think about it the more I want to teach. After doing some research Teach First has really stood out to me as I would love to work with kids from less priviliged backgrounds and make a difference to their educational lives. I will ofcourse also be applying for PGCE's at universities.

Another reason I want to teach is because it would allow me to continue working in literature (basically making a career out of a hobby).

However recently a couple of people have commented that teaching English is easy, and anyone can do it. Most people know grammar and how to read therefore they can teach English. Unlike Maths, Science, History etc. which you can only teach if you've studied the subjects to degree level.

These comments have really upset me, and I was wondering if anyone else (teaching English, or working towards teaching English) have come across anything simillar.

It just really bothered me because I absolutelylove English.
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lozmond
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It isnt easy at all. No subject is easy to teach, especially when the people you are teaching quite often arent that motivated to learn. Judging by the state of spelling and grammar on the internet, you'd be surprised how few people actually 'know' it. In secondary school, you are rarely teaching anyone to read. Anyone who cannot read by this stage is usually under the care of a specialist team or the SEN department of the school. I say this as a TA who works with pupils that have Special Educational Needs. The people who have made these comments to you seem rather flippant and I wouldn't let comments like these put you off what you want to do.

I suggest you spend some extended time volunteering in the English department of a secondary school before the pressure of your final year. Not only will you gain some really useful experience for your application to such a competitive subject, but you will also learn a great deal about what goes in to teaching.
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starshine123
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(Original post by lozmond)
It isnt easy at all. No subject is easy to teach, especially when the people you are teaching quite often arent that motivated to learn. Judging by the state of spelling and grammar on the internet, you'd be surprised how few people actually 'know' it. In secondary school, you are rarely teaching anyone to read. Anyone who cannot read by this stage is usually under the care of a specialist team or the SEN department of the school. I say this as a TA who works with pupils that have Special Educational Needs. The people who have made these comments to you seem rather flippant and I wouldn't let comments like these put you off what you want to do.

I suggest you spend some extended time volunteering in the English department of a secondary school before the pressure of your final year. Not only will you gain some really useful experience for your application to such a competitive subject, but you will also learn a great deal about what goes in to teaching.
Thank-You for your response. I will definitley be volunteering at some local schools. I am planning on writing and sending the letters (to enquire) this weekend.

Another thing that's worrying me about teaching at secondary level is the syllabus. Since starting university I had my heart set on a career in lecturing on post-colonial literature. However realistically pursuing a phd is well out of my reach, financially. I'm just concerned I might get bored with the syllabus. If anyone has any advice on this I'd be greatful.
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myrtille
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(Original post by starshine123)
However recently a couple of people have commented that teaching English is easy, and anyone can do it. Most people know grammar and how to read therefore they can teach English. Unlike Maths, Science, History etc. which you can only teach if you've studied the subjects to degree level.

These comments have really upset me, and I was wondering if anyone else (teaching English, or working towards teaching English) have come across anything simillar.

It just really bothered me because I absolutely love English.
I certainly don't think universities consider that to be the case!

I applied for a PGCE in Secondary English, and was unsuccessful because my degree is in French and History. The French component of my degree was 50% language/grammar/translation and 50% literature (medieval to modern) and my History studies (including my MA) were also very focused on textual analysis, but the universities I applied to still felt that my subject knowledge was lacking and I've since changed my application to teach languages instead.

I know Teach First do accept people with A-Level English and a degree in another subject for their English programme (I applied and got an interview), but I'm sure they still prefer English graduates. I certainly think there's an overlap between English and some other subjects, but it's certainly not something that just "anyone" can teach.
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evantej
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(Original post by starshine123)
I'll be starting my final year of university this September, and after giving it a lot of thought I've decided teaching (at secondary level) would be the ideal career for me. The more I think about it the more I want to teach. After doing some research Teach First has really stood out to me as I would love to work with kids from less priviliged backgrounds and make a difference to their educational lives. I will ofcourse also be applying for PGCE's at universities.

Another reason I want to teach is because it would allow me to continue working in literature (basically making a career out of a hobby).

However recently a couple of people have commented that teaching English is easy, and anyone can do it. Most people know grammar and how to read therefore they can teach English. Unlike Maths, Science, History etc. which you can only teach if you've studied the subjects to degree level.

These comments have really upset me, and I was wondering if anyone else (teaching English, or working towards teaching English) have come across anything simillar.

It just really bothered me because I absolutelylove English.
Whoever suggested that teaching English is easy is a complete moron. Along with foreign languages and mathematics it is the hardest subject to teach. Likewise, the comment about grammar is nonsense; lots of English teachers have even not got a good grasp of grammar. Most pupils do not even deal with grammar until they study A-level English language. Like the other user above suggested, it would appear that whoever made these statements was being flippant.

With regards to the curriculum, there probably is scope to study post-colonial literature, though probably not the texts you want or at the level you want.
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rachelsays
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Starshine, whoever said that to you clearly has no idea of what is actually taught in English lessons.

You are teaching the art of communication, self expression and textual analysis; not just of fictional prose, poetry and drama, but of factual media. You are enabling pupils to make sense of the world around them and respond to that world sensitively, intelligently and articulately. English is not just spelling and grammar. If that's all the people you speak to 'got' from their English lessons at school, then they really weren't listening!

When you reach GCSE and A Level, obviously your ability to teach texts at a more complex and in-depth level increases. There are plenty of opportunities to study literatures from other cultures and introduce theories such as post-colonialism, feminism, postmodernism, etc to those students who are more able and willing to push themselves and read around the set texts. Finding the curriculum 'boring' is down to the way you approach it, I suppose. I understand where you're coming from; I would love to do my MA and PhD and am a freelance writer/academic in my spare time, so my knowledge of literature is quite advanced. I could have pursued an academic career, but ultimately I think secondary teaching has so much more to it from the pastoral side of things, which is what makes it so rewarding. Plus, there is a lot of richness to be had from being able to open students' eyes to the wonders of literature for the first time and getting them to read between the lines in ways they have never thought of doing before. You'd be surprised at what perceptive observations students can have - even at the age of 11 - and what new perspectives they can give you on texts you thought you knew like the back of your hand. It's actually more of a challenge, I think, to go 'back to basics' and find creative and accessible ways for students to enjoy literature at the level they are at. It really keeps you on your toes.

Teaching English is a hard job - it covers so many different skills - and you really do need a degree in the subject in order to have the knowledge base required for the job. If you can't adequately analyse and interpret a text, how on earth could you a teach a class to do so? Intelligent, knowledgable and passionate English teachers are a precious commodity, and if this is what you want, go for it. You can always do your MA and PhD later in life - and in the meantime, hundreds of kids would have benefited from you teaching them to love literature and language, and you'd have a job you love!!
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starshine123
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(Original post by rachelsays)
Starshine, whoever said that to you clearly has no idea of what is actually taught in English lessons.

You are teaching the art of communication, self expression and textual analysis; not just of fictional prose, poetry and drama, but of factual media. You are enabling pupils to make sense of the world around them and respond to that world sensitively, intelligently and articulately. English is not just spelling and grammar. If that's all the people you speak to 'got' from their English lessons at school, then they really weren't listening!

When you reach GCSE and A Level, obviously your ability to teach texts at a more complex and in-depth level increases. There are plenty of opportunities to study literatures from other cultures and introduce theories such as post-colonialism, feminism, postmodernism, etc to those students who are more able and willing to push themselves and read around the set texts. Finding the curriculum 'boring' is down to the way you approach it, I suppose. I understand where you're coming from; I would love to do my MA and PhD and am a freelance writer/academic in my spare time, so my knowledge of literature is quite advanced. I could have pursued an academic career, but ultimately I think secondary teaching has so much more to it from the pastoral side of things, which is what makes it so rewarding. Plus, there is a lot of richness to be had from being able to open students' eyes to the wonders of literature for the first time and getting them to read between the lines in ways they have never thought of doing before. You'd be surprised at what perceptive observations students can have - even at the age of 11 - and what new perspectives they can give you on texts you thought you knew like the back of your hand. It's actually more of a challenge, I think, to go 'back to basics' and find creative and accessible ways for students to enjoy literature at the level they are at. It really keeps you on your toes.

Teaching English is a hard job - it covers so many different skills - and you really do need a degree in the subject in order to have the knowledge base required for the job. If you can't adequately analyse and interpret a text, how on earth could you a teach a class to do so? Intelligent, knowledgable and passionate English teachers are a precious commodity, and if this is what you want, go for it. You can always do your MA and PhD later in life - and in the meantime, hundreds of kids would have benefited from you teaching them to love literature and language, and you'd have a job you love!!
Hi Rachel, thank-you for your response. I really do believe I would love a job in teaching. Especially teaching kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and helping them reach their full potential, as I went to a school were only 30% of the student body gained 5 A*-C grades. Not because they were incapable but because they were never given the resources or support to excel. I never would have believed I could be good at any subject if it wasn't for my year 9 English teacher, whose passion and love for her subject encouraged me to explore and love literature myself. I credit my pursuing a literature degree to that teacher.

However there are a few things putting me off. Mainly the govt’s proposition for 'free schools', which would probably slash teachers’ salaries and worsen teachers working conditions. The other is the constant scrutiny teachers are under. The general public considering it a semi-skilled job, ****ging teachers off for their pay (which really isn't a lot in relation to the job they do), assuming those who pursue teaching are those who were not smart enough for more highly paid profession, or did not get a good degree (this one I blame on the govt no one with a degree classification below 2:1 should be allowed to pursue teaching unless there are exceptional circumstances. How can an individual with a below average degree, teach their subject to others?).

When I think about teaching alone, I know I'd love it, but when I think about the above negatives that come with it, I'm just not sure I'd be able to deal with that for (potentially) my entire career.

Again thank-you so much for your response, it really highlighted a lot of important aspects, of teaching English, to me. I think I really need to think this through a lot. The thing is I have always known that teaching and academia are the two things I would be excel in. I don't think I would be excellent in any other profession (except maybe the editorial sector of publishing).

Can I ask how you got into freelance writing/academia, and manage to juggle it with teaching? It's something I would definitely be interested in to continue furthering my literary knowledge. I want to keep learning, no matter what job I'm in.

Thank-You again.
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rachelsays
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Starshine, I used to be bothered by all that stuff as well, but the older you get, the less you care about what other people think. People who **** teachers off are totally ignorant of what teaching entails, and so their opinions are entirely irrelevant. Don't let that put you off - if YOU love your job and feel fulfilled, then what does other people's opinions matter? I'd love to know the thrilling and highly qualified professions most of these armchair teachers are working in to make them so smug!

I wouldn't worry too much about free schools, either - if anything, they will raise teacher's salaries, because people will have more choice over where they can teach and will be able to demand higher salaries if the teachers' payscale is open to competition.

I'm not actually a qualified teacher yet - I'll (hopefully - waiting for confirmation!) start my GTP in September - and I currently juggle a day job with tutoring and writing. My passion has always been teaching and studying literature, but I went into office work after university because I wanted to travel and get some experience of working in a professional environment and managing people before becoming a teacher. I have made some great friends, developed strong people management skills and have learned a lot during my five years of employment, but every single day I have sat at my desk knowing I should be standing in front of a class instead. If you know teaching is your calling, nothing else will satisfy you - trust me, I have tried. This is what led me into tutoring and writing in my spare time. All of my writing gigs have come through my literary blog, which gets a lot of traffic - I've built it up over the past three years. I would definitely say starting a blog is a good place to get going with honing your writing and getting yourself noticed.

Don't let all of the rubbish going on in the background put you off teaching - if this is what you are truly passionate about, the love of what you do will make it all worth while. Trust me - whatever you end up doing, whether that be working for a university, school, government department, bank or a charity, you'll have to deal with people who criticise you - whether that be your colleagues or the government or the wider public - that's life. You might as well make sure that the job you're doing makes putting up with the negatives worthwhile.

You've got plenty of time to make up your mind anyway. Like I say, I've always wanted to be a teacher and yet it's taken me five years after graduating to apply to start training. You don't have to go into it straight after university - you can always try other avenues first.

Best of luck with your decision and feel free to PM me if you want any more writing pointers.
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AlainaWoodward1
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you will always have comments made in whatever field/job you go into , that's life.....do what you enjoy and make a difference, part some love of reading to someone who might not get books. reading increases mental health well being and ignore the negative voices. x
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SarcAndSpark
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Firstly, just because you can do something (e.g. read) it doesn't mean you can teach it! Plenty of people find this with sports coaching- the best sports people aren't always the best teachers. Some kids will learn to read easily, but others will need a much more structured approach and teaching them is a real skill.

However, by secondary you would hope most students will have grasped the basics of English and Grammar. I think secondary English is much more about interpreting texts and learning to use language for a purpose. Many people can't do this- how many of the people you're talking to have an A/A* in English literature or language? Getting top grades in these subjects is hard, and teaching them to a high standard is hard too.

I do think people sometimes have an odd reaction to teaching as a career though, so you will get some weird comments. I know it's not easy but try your best not to let them bother you- they don't know what they are talking about!
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Powersymphonia
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GCSE English (and above) is by far one of the hardest subjects to teach because of the level of deep analysis that is needed to pass by students to achieve the highest grades of 7-9 on the exam. In Mathematics there is always the correct answer, even though there may be several different methods that can be used to obtain that answer. In English, unless it is a multiple choice question or a short answer question, it is very challenging to mark exam papers even when using a mark scheme because the marker has to use their own interpretation of the mark scheme to judge the quality of a candidate's work. The only way that teachers and examiners can ensure they mark fairly is by attending internal and or external verification events and meetings to compare they way they mark work with that of other teachers/examiners.
Some exam boards will employ non specialist examiners to mark Maths and Science papers as most questions have a clear answer, but English Language and Literature papers must always be marked by a subject specialist.
In order to teach, a good subject knowledge is a definite must, but it is not the most important element. You clearly realize this very quickly when you undertake your teacher training. Teaching is an art form and a skill within itself. Anyone can try to teach, but to teach well and to be successful in teaching requires a lot of patience, dedication and commitment to constant professional development.
Subject knowledge can be improved after graduation, and even if you leave university with the top grade it still must be updated and built upon. When you teach, you are forever a student. You learn from self study, you learn from your colleagues and you learn from your students.
Many teachers are not successful in teaching because they believe that they know more than their students. Remember that knowledge comes in many forms and many subjects. You may be the English expert, but your student could teach you something.
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Gungho_Joe
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Hello! I've just read this whole thread with interest. I know it's from quite a few years ago now, but I was looking for an insight into teaching English in secondary schools, and this was actually one of the top results. I'm close to applying for an English PGCE, but still have a few decisions to make.

I would be fascinated to hear from the original poster, starshine123, how's your experience been? Have you been teaching? I hope so because you seem really passionate about your subject and about teaching.

Of course, I'm also keen to hear about everyone's experience of teaching English in secondary schools, you can perhaps help me make my mind up about some things!
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skittish
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I would love to teach English but my parents think that it would be a waste- they want me to do something more worthwhile :/ how can I convince them otherwise?
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SarcAndSpark
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(Original post by skittish)
I would love to teach English but my parents think that it would be a waste- they want me to do something more worthwhile :/ how can I convince them otherwise?
When they say more worthwhile, do they actually mean something with a better salary/job prospects? I'm surprised anyone would think that teaching young people how to be literate isn't worthwhile.

Teaching doesn't have the best pay, it's true- but it does have a good salary structure and there is usually a good chance of progression to at least middle leader level at secondary. Also, outside of London, the pay is the same everywhere in the country, so you can live somewhere nice, but cheap and have a very good standard of living. Lots of people also go to teach abroad for a few years, and this is often a good chance to save up some money tax free.

In the current climate, teaching is also a pretty stable job- we will always need teachers. Look at all the complaints about remote learning! It's usually fairly easy to find employment, and for the first 6 years or so, there's usually a pay rise every year.

There's lots of reasons why teaching can be a good career, but if you can explain why your parents object, we can probably suggest some counter arguments.
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alwil92
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Teaching abroad is the best thing I ever did!
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