Teaching - student stories
Lee Smith, Primary Teacher
Why did you decide to go into teaching?
I was part way through my degree with the OU and while at summer school met others who were considering teaching. It appealed because it was different to what I had done previously and provided an opportunity to use my degree to get into another career.
How did you choose the age range you teach?
Primary gives me the chance to teach all subjects, which gives me the opportunity to draw on my previous experiences in industry for science and my OU studies for the more arts based subjects. No two days are the same in primary. I spent some time in a secondary school and didn't like the environment. I think there might be the potential to get into a rut in secondary with just one subject.
What training did you do to qualify?
I got a place on a graduate teaching programme, which was a steep learning curve. You are employed by a school as an unqualified teacher and so are a member of staff from day one; a case of sink or swim. I only spent about three days at the university I registered with and because you are in school so much, you have to provide a lot of paperwork as evidence of the work you have been doing. My experiences from studying with the OU really helped me with this.
What is your current post?
I teach upper primary which is Key Stage 2 and the class I have is Year 4. I am also coordinator of humanities, which means I keep up to date with developments in the teaching of geography and history, and ensure that other teachers are kept informed about new initiatives.
When I finished my training I spent a year in a primary school in a nearby town covering maternity leave - this enabled me to complete my first year as a newly qualified teacher. My current post was initially just for a year, but I have now been made permanent which is great.
What skills do you use in your job?
A combination of thinking on your feet because you need to adapt the pace of the lesson to the class, being organised and well prepared - I've yet to see a good lesson that wasn't well prepared. Equally essential are patience and a good sense of humour.
Best and worst aspects
Best - when you see a child achieve something who two minutes before didn't believe they could do it - the lights suddenly come on!
Worst - time management and getting the work–life balance right. I've yet to meet a teacher who has done this. Administration sometimes seems to get in the way of doing the job.
What jobs had you done before you went into teaching?
I worked in the mining industry for 12 years as an electrical engineer, I then became a self-employed electrician for three years before moving into the chemical industry in production. This last move was to allow me to accommodate my studies. I was working on shifts which meant I could study and also volunteer in local schools and get some teaching experience. My different experiences also helped at interview for my training course; they were looking for people with a varied background.
Where do you see your future?
Having come into teaching fairly late, I'm not looking for promotion at the moment - I'd just like to become a really good classroom practitioner. There might be sideways moves I could make in the future.
What advice would you give to someone considering teaching?
Think about why you want to teach - you need to provide a reason when you're applying for training or a job. Then you need to get into the classroom - it's the only way to really find out whether it's for you, and you need the experience to be able to get onto training courses. Schools will welcome you with open arms and it's likely that you'll soon be working with small groups of pupils. Start thinking about what you want to do early on in your OU study - it takes time to get your experience.