How to survive in teaching?

How to survive in teaching?

The last few years in education have been one of change and planning for the future. With new GCSEs, AS/A2 curriculum changes it has made reflective of my time as a teacher.

I am currently working at my third school and Head of Department for the second time. I have been very lucky to work with supportive and motivated colleagues who always want to improve the department. For a successful department I believe you must not look at too many areas to change, focus, innovate or tweak. The key is to recognise and highlight the areas that need most attention. Geoff Barton, headteacher of the King Edward VI School in Suffolk, likened managing a large department to plate spinning! You have to be able to manage each of the areas you start to change – too many and the plates start crashing around you. Making sure your strategies are manageable and flexible, you are able to keep a good grasp and move the strategies forward.

Recently, I have been thinking back to the days as a young fresh-faced NQT, where I had no management responsibilities and was starting out on my road as a teacher. Teaching in my opinion is the best job in the world. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing.

To continue to develop as a teacher I have found blogs a great source to further understand and new learn skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like the students, we as teachers are constantly learning new techniques to improve the methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching; it is never dull and is a challenge.

Out on the blogosphere are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons – you name and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone else’s experience can create and add to your armoury of activities for the classroom.

Teaching can sometimes be a lonely job, with yourself up against 30 students challenging you. It can sometimes feel like you are the Lone Ranger but that is not so. Using people around you can make your life mush easier, especially when you need help or guidance. For a young teacher this possibly the best tip I can pass on – talk to those around you.

How to survive in teaching?

I have worked in some great departments where working together and sharing ideas/workloads makes everybody feel important and better about themselves. The success of a Department should improve too with more minds working together. The work/life balance is very important and should never be forgotten.

Being innovative and brave within a classroom can bring enjoyment, success and respect. I admit not every idea I have tried has worked but those that do can enhance the student’s experience of the subject. Trialling new ideas improve your lessons and enjoyment as a teacher. It is not always easy trying out new ideas. It is very easy to stay in the comfort zone but without trying out new ideas we do develop ourselves as teachers and will not improve.

Idris Mootee, of the Innovation Playground blog, has said; ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

As teachers we work long hours and spend many lessons preparing and planning work. We have the aim of teaching and working with our students on achieving their personal best and gaining the grades they deserve. But we must enjoy our working life. There are many pressures in the education industry and targets to achieve. As I have said, teaching is the best job in the world. To actually help young people in life choose a path in their life with your encouragement and guidance is amazing, but with all the politics involved a sense of humour is needed. I sometimes refer to teaching as stand-up comedy. You must think fast on your feet and be quick-witted where possible. We are working with some tough, intelligent and emotional young people who will test us all at some point. It can feel on occasions like walking onto stage at There is much to enjoy from teaching, just don’t forget the positives.

As teachers we are sometimes too controlling and we must put the onus back on the students for them to achieve. Investigating methods and ways of implementing this into schemes of work must be a priority. This will only encourage student learning and raise achievement across all year groups.

Finally, teaching must become more reflective throughout our practice. We must use our strengths and work on our areas of development. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students. Teaching is great – don’t forget it!

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