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5 steps to get you from trainee to teacher

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From trainee to teacher

Teaching is one of the few careers where you feel that you’re actually making a difference.

However, it’s not easy to become a teacher and depending on which route you take, it can be a lengthy process. You might choose to study teaching at university, complete the PGCE (post-graduate certificate of education) after your degree or complete the School Direct programme. And then when you’re learning to teach you’ll spend a good deal of your time teaching in schools, learning ‘on the job’.

As a teacher you’ll never stop learning throughout your career, but how do you make the jump from trainee to newly qualified teacher and then work your way up the teaching ladder? We explain the journey…

Step 1: Ask your current school for a job

If you’ve spent a few weeks working in a particular school that you’ve really liked, then ask them about the possibility of a job. The staff and children know you and how you teach already so if you’ve made a good impression they’re unlikely to want to lose you.

“Making a good impression in your training school can make a huge difference to landing a job,” explains Becky, a secondary science teacher and Head of Year from Bristol.

“I was offered jobs in both my trainee schools and the hard part was deciding which one was best for me.”

If you enjoy the school you’re working in then there’s no harm trying to progress within that school. If you’re a primary school teacher with a passion for sport, then you could wind up as Head of PE. There’s no harm in combining your interests with teaching either.

Becky agrees and says, “Don’t be afraid to apply for internal posts, even early on in your career. You might be just what they are looking for and even if you don’t get the job it shows you have ambition and that you like the school.”

Step 2: Figure out what type of teaching you want to do

When you’re applying for jobs, think about where you want to be in five years, ten years etc. – for example, do you want to become a head teacher? In larger schools there are often options to become Head of Year or Head of Department, and even if you don’t see yourself as that yet, consider which one is most suitable for you.

“There are often two pathways you can take on your road to senior leadership,” continues Becky “pastoral and academic. Generally people love one and loathe the other. It can be difficult to step out of the pathway sideways, so make sure you think about which role you would enjoy the most.”

Step 3: Keep building up experience

If you’re worried that you don’t know enough to make the jump from trainee to teacher, then rest assured that you do know what you are doing. The more you teach, the better you’ll become and every school has its own methods and systems – you just need to adapt your existing knowledge and teaching style and you’ll be fine.

“People think you have to excel in mathematics, English and science to become a teacher,” says Amanda, who teaches primary school children in Haslemere. “At primary level the most important things are enthusiasm, organisation and the ability to keep a class under control. The former is paramount.

“You will be trained in current methods/practices for discipline and, to be honest, providing you can spell (an essential skill!) a good grounding in maths and literacy will be enough. All curriculum subjects, and how to teach them, will be covered during your training.”

Step 4: Stick to what you know

Never throw anything away. There’s no harm in reusing lesson plan from your training days and adjusting them for your new class. As a trainee, lesson plans were of the utmost importance and you probably spent hours on them. Now you’re a real teacher you’ll have other priorities and tasks, so don’t agonise over them.

You won’t need to relearn how to create lesson plans, but you will need to spend less time on them as you get your head around school rules, pupils’ names, plus the general timetable and running of the school.

Step 5: Enjoy yourself

Of course it’s hard work being an NQT, and you will have days when you wonder why on earth you picked teaching as a career, but the most important thing is to enjoy your job.

As long as you remember to enjoy yourself and work hard, you’ll feel like a teacher in no time and your positive attitude will not only inspire and help your pupils, but it will also put you in good stead for praise and promotion.

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