Education Jobs Guardian

Teaching was my dream job, until I discovered the reality

teacherMy English teacher inspired me to teach – but my own experience in the classroom has put me off. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

A government advisor was recently reported as warning that a critical shortage of teachers means children will be taught fewer subjects in larger classes by less qualified people. As a recent graduate, this does not surprise me. There are not enough incentives for talented students to become teachers anymore.

Back in 2011, I began my application to study at university after being inspired by my A-level English literature teacher. I was certain that teaching was for me and that after studying an English degree, I would go on to a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).

Related: We need more teachers, and we need them now

Three years of studying and life experience completely changed my outlook – and now I’m not sure teaching is for me. My experience as a classroom assistant and the constant battles between teaching unions and the government has demotivated me and put me off joining the profession.

In the second year of my degree, I volunteered in a local school for children with special educational needs. The children at the school had a fantastic attitude to learning and staff members went out of their way to ensure each child had the best chance to grow and learn.

One afternoon, a classroom assistant shared news that the school had recently offered some members of teaching staff voluntary redundancy. What was a well organised and successful set-up suddenly became a horrible working environment.

The teachers I worked with, people who were doing a great job in challenging circumstances, were unexpectedly being shown the door. This completely drained the morale of staff members and those who had kept their jobs were fearful of the future as their own prospects became unclear.

The way the situation was handled and the uncertainty created, further pushed me away from becoming a teacher. As a student, teaching was sold to me as a safe career choice, but in this school nothing was secure.

“Students just don’t see teaching as the best career choice anymore, ” says Ieuan Smith, who was considering taking a PGCE, before opting for a politics master’s course instead. “It’s often seen as a job to do if you don’t know what to do. The profession is not respected as much as it could be.”

Rebecca Grunill recently graduated from Keele University, where she is now a PGCE student. She believes that frequent criticism and unrealistic demands put a lot of pressure on teachers, but this has not put her off pursuing her passion.

Related: What’s putting young people off teaching?

Grunhill says: “Teachers are scrutinised constantly by the media and parents. There are extremely high expectations and this creates a lot of pressure that puts many people off. This has not put me off personally, as teaching is something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve worked hard to gain a place on my course.


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