This is a guest post from Priya Kara, one of Now Teach's Career Change Advisors.
As a Now Teach advisor, I am always keen to hear about applicants’ professional journeys and what fuels their decision to switch to education.
I want to be able to help by answering the most pressing questions from the get-go.
At the initial stage, I’m asked many questions by applicants on topics ranging from teacher training, student behaviour, subject knowledge or workload pressures during the course of the training year.
I think it’s essential that anyone considering changing career gets the right advice to ensure their career change is successful, so I’ve compiled this list of questions that our applicants ask - and answers from some experts, or as we like to call them, Now Teachers...
1. How will I manage the workload during my training?
There’s no doubt that teacher training will be a very busy time and that your teaching hours will increase over the course of the year. That's why you have your Now Teach Programme Manager to support you.
Most trainees start with only around 5 hours of teaching a week and this grows to 15-17 hours a week by the end of the year. Be aware that this doesn’t include all the time you will spend studying pedagogy and planning your lessons.
You will probably be in school from around 8am to 4pm, spending some of this time teaching, and you’ll then spend some time working in the evenings and at weekends.
Terri Slatter, former Secondary Professional Tutor at Ark Teacher Training believes it is essential to get on top of your workload early and, more importantly, know when to call it a day and always strive to prioritise your wellbeing.
She advises new trainees to be both realistic about their goals and be generous to themselves and those around them: “Be realistic with what you can do. Be kind to yourselves. Be kind to your students. Do not compare yourselves to experienced teachers – or even your peers.”
2. What if I feel overwhelmed?
You probably will feel overwhelmed at some point in your training year, so it’s really important that you manage your own expectations.
For example, your progress and development as a teacher will not be linear. In fact, sometimes it might feel that you are getting worse.
This is quite normal, and it’s why Now Teach offers one-to-one support from Programme Managers, access to wellbeing coaching, and sessions on wellbeing and managing your time.
Former civil servant and now French and Latin teacher, Anne-Marie Lawlor struggled during her training year but has thrived ever since: “I had a horrible training year, but the next year was great. My advice is to give it time when you encounter hurdles because I have loved everything from Year 2 onwards.”
Terri Slatter stresses the importance of reaching out for help when you need it: “The school will have an ITT coordinator in charge of teacher training that you can speak to at any time. You can always also reach out to your mentor, course provider tutor or the Now Teach Network with more specific questions or if you need further support.”
3. What if I can’t manage challenging behaviour in class?
Challenging classroom behaviour is a worry for many career-changers into education, so it’s one of the first topics we address, running behaviour sessions each November.
Now Teachers who have recently completed their training recommend focusing on building relationships with students right at the beginning.
“Avoid stereotypes about bad behaviour. Classes do settle down if you are firm, fair and consistent as you develop a rapport with them. Remember that you are their teacher not their friend.”
However, if you find you’re still struggling with certain students despite your best efforts then Anne-Marie Lawlor recommends getting advice from your colleagues and making the time to observe their lessons to see how they handle the students that you find tricky.
4. Can I use my experience from my previous profession in the classroom?
Using your experience from your previous profession is always welcome, though you must remember your first task is to learn to teach.
Many Now Teachers find that is in their second year and beyond that they can really start to make their previous professional experience count.
Some of our Now Teachers have been able to bring their experience into the classroom by sharing real-life examples from their previous jobs and even organising school trips to their previous workplaces.
Darren Manoharan previously worked in engineering and manufacturing before retraining as a chemistry teacher. During one of his lessons, he shared that he was part of the team that created the soles for Nike trainers, showing his students that what they were learning in class was useful in everyday life.
Similarly, former art director now art teacher, Emma Caplin was able to organise a class trip for her students to a local art gallery that she used to work at, as well as running workshops with some of her connections from her previous career.
5. I need to brush up on my subject knowledge. What should I do?
This is a common concern for many applicants but you won’t be thrown in the deep end and expected to teach topics without any prior knowledge.
Now Teach provides termly events where you can discuss your subject with more experienced teachers, helping you in your training year and letting you pass on your own knowledge in the years that follow.
Terri Slatter recommends completing a subject knowledge enhancement course (SKE) before your training begins to ensure you’re confident in your subject from day one. Your course provider subject lead should have this available for you.
Darren Manoharan admits he was still concerned about his subject knowledge even after completing his SKE course. However, he says he needn’t have worried as once he started his training, he realised that he had a broad range of knowledge.
He advises other trainees to trust the process: “The more you teach and the more you plan, the more all that knowledge will seep in.”
When should I apply?
One final question I often get asked is not about teaching itself: 'When should I apply to Now Teach?' There's no single answer to this because everyone is different but there is a simple rule of thumb: the earlier the better.
The earlier you submit your application to Now Teach, the more choice you'll have in the courses available, the more time to weigh up the options and the more advice we can give you.
This will especially make a difference if you want to train in a subject where this is strong competition for places, such as English or history. Being able to choose your training provider, and potentially making sure the school where you will train is close to home, will make a real difference.
So while there's no reason to rush, there's a strong argument for not delaying.
As I think about the advice shared by Terri and the Now Teachers, I can see that their main point was that while embarking on any career change is exciting, it can also be daunting moving away from a secure career path.
Every Now Teacher has had mixed feelings at various points during their training year, but with the right mindset and support, you will be able to achieve your goals and become a fully-fledged teacher.
Darren summed it up when he said: “When you finally get your QTS status, it’s absolutely amazing and you forget every single bad day that you had.”
Wherever you are in thinking about career change, Now Teach advisors like myself are here to help you navigate the initial process so that you have all the information you need to make the leap and submit your application for teacher training.
If you have any more questions about changing career, complete an expression of interest to talk to our team.
This articles is based on sessions from Now Teach Annual Conference in July 2021: 'What to Expect in Your QTS Year' led by Terri Slatter and the 'Ask Me Anything Panel' with four of our Now Teachers.
The sessions included a Q&A section for the incoming 2021 cohort with questions ranging from career change to student behaviour.