Today there seems to be so many routes into teaching; traditional PGCEs with school placements, schemes that train you on the job such as TeachFirst and Schools Direct, teaching degrees and QTS qualifications, to name just a few. It’s difficult to know where to start if you’re thinking about going into the profession. Now I’m not going to pretend to be a fountain of all knowledge but I can share my route in, how I found it, ‘what went well’ and ‘even better if’ (sorry I couldn’t resist it).
If I am completely honest, I can’t pinpoint a moment when I thought ‘I want to be a teacher’. I found myself, like a lot of graduates, having a small crisis over what I was doing with my life, having never found any real direction. I spent a lot of time telling myself I was never going to be a teacher, it runs in the family and I was determined to be different. Coming from a Russel group university, I felt pressure to apply for graduate schemes with big names – it seemed to be the done thing. But the more I researched, the more I realised working for big co-operate companies was not something I was drawn to. I applied to TeachFirst because it seemed like a good compromise, a reputable scheme that, if I hated teaching, would look good on my CV and enable me to, at worst, climb some other career path.
As it happens, I’m still teaching.
So what did I think about my route in?
TeachFirst throws you in at the deep end; you essentially have a job for 2 years. You teach nearly full time for those two years and come out the other side with both your PGCE and NQT year under your belt, ready as a fully qualified teacher. This route suited me down to a tee and having reflected on the two years, I have identified several reasons as to why it worked for me:
N.B. There are other courses that operate using a similar method that are worth researching if you think this is for you (e.g. schools direct)
- I knew what I was getting myself in for
I have a mother, sister, aunties and uncles all who are teachers. Dinnertime has often been dominated by teacher talk, this meant that I had a good idea going into the two years of the lifestyle, challenges and workload. When I look at my colleagues who found the two years more challenging and stressful than I did, they were often people who had no tangible prior experience with teacher training. For me, this set me up with realistic expectations about what I was getting myself in for
- I like getting stuck in.
We all have different personalities and therefore different training pathways are going to suit different people, there is no right or wrong. The first trait that suited me to on the job training was my love of a challenge. Obviously this is a useful trait for all routes into teaching, but particularly when you are going straight into the job and being responsible for classes from day one.
Secondly, I am someone that needs to jump straight in – I am not very good at easing myself into things as I get scared easily. This may need some context and elaboration. Imagine getting into a cold swimming pool – there are two ways to approach this:
- You just dive in and get it over and done with
- You go down to the shallow end or a ladder and slowly submerge yourself
I need to jump in. If I give myself the time to think about a situation I often manage to talk myself out of it whereas if I have it thrown at me – I can normally manage to swim, not sink.
- I did have some prior teaching experience
This builds on my first point about how circumstance can set you up well for different methods. I had already done some teaching as part of my undergraduate degree and have always volunteered in various extra-curricular activities focussed around working with children, perhaps another reason I wanted to get stuck in. I knew what children could be like and what to expect.
- I’m better at learning through experience rather than through a textbook
I never got much enjoyment out of sitting in a lecture and reading around the subject, and I personally was keen to avoid this as much as possible. When you are learning on the job, yes you have to read and do assignments but you have a limited time in which to carry this out. The focus in my daily life when training lay far from the next assignment I had due in, I had too many lessons to plan and exams classes to think about to get too bogged down in them.
Having not completed a PGCE which utilises school placements, I don’t want to comment too much on who I think it would suit but hopefully by outlining the personality traits and circumstances I think set me up well for on-the-job training it may help others to identify what they feel would suit them.
I personally would recommend this sort of ‘traditional’ (for want of a better word) PGCE to people who feel they build confidence through preparation rather than retrospective achievement. Or perhaps to those that have less experience with the teaching profession prior to beginning.
So, in answer to the initial question: there is no right or wrong route, one is not better than another, there are just a variety of routes to suit a variety of people and circumstances.
I would love to hear your views on your routes into teaching and why they worked for you. Together, we can build a better picture for those looking to join the profession.