e The Monday Interview - "So, what's it really like working as a... secondary school teacher?" :: Momentum Careers Advice

The Monday Interview - "So, what's it really like working as a... secondary school teacher?"


Welcome to this week’s ‘The Monday Interview’.

Today we are dealing with a profession that we have all come into contact with - teaching. It’s a career with attracts approximately 7% of the graduate market every year so, as a careers adviser, it is an option that we are asked about regularly. And yet it’s not just recent graduates who opt for a career in the classroom - in my experience it is also a very popular choice with career changers.

We hear a lot through the media about how a teachers role is getting harder - the burden of paperwork, deteriorating behaviour of students, increasing targets and the pressure of Ofsted…..but the profession must be doing something right to attract so many new entrants year or year?

In this week’s interview we hear from Dianna, a secondary school teacher, who explains that it is the interaction with students that still makes it such a worthwhile profession for so many. Her interview also describes a job with a clear career structure which recognises and rewards potential. What’s not to love about that? If you want a fulfilling career and believe you have the potential to motivate and engage others you could do a lot worse than consider a career education.

As ever, I am so grateful to Dianna for sharing her thoughts and wisdom with us. Quite simply, this blog series wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for my fabulous contributors. Thanks so much.

So, briefly, what is your job?

“I am a secondary school teacher at a large non-selective high school in Kent. I am also Head of Faculty which means I oversee the day to day running of the different subjects and teachers within the faculty. In general terms I am responsible for the teaching and learning that takes place within the faculty as well as the progress that students make.”

How did you get into it?

“I completed a degree in Psychology and having no clear career path, I applied for some Teaching Assistant posts in secondary schools. I worked for a year as a TA and decided that I would like to teach, so I applied for a PGCE.”

Describe a typical day.

“Arrive at school at around 7am. Make sure my lessons for the day are sorted and any marking is completed, ready to return to students. Some mornings, there might be a meeting, either a whole staff briefing, a year team meeting, a head of faculty meeting or a meeting with a parent. Registration is at 8.40am. I’m a sixth form tutor, so I chase up any absences, carry out mentoring with my tutees and discuss their progress. Our day is divided into 6 lessons, so between 9am and 3pm I’m usually teaching. When I’m not teaching, I will carry out lesson observations or drop-ins to other teachers, complete paperwork or have more meetings! After school, there is usually another meeting to attend or marking/planning to do and phone calls to parents to make. I usually leave school at about 5.00pm unless there is an evening meeting, such as parent’s evening or options evening for example.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“I enjoy the interaction with the students. They really do make it all worthwhile. It’s lovely when you get a group of students who you really enjoy teaching. There are also the holidays of course! I always joke that I love my job most in mid-July!”

And the least?

“Unfortunately the job doesn’t stop when you walk out of the school gate each day. The work load is enormous and it’s sometimes hard to find a healthy work-life balance.”

What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?

“I think because everyone has been to school, some people like to think they are an expert on education. There are a lot of misconceptions about teaching. I think the most common ones however are that we only work 9am-3pm each day and all we do is moan about our pay and our pension!”

What are the main skills you need to work as a secondary school teacher?

“You need people skills and personality. You could be an expert in your field, but if you can’t engage and motivate students, it won’t mean a thing. I think it helps to have a sense of humour and you most definitely need to be calm under pressure. I think it’s also important to be resilient and to remember that tomorrow is another day!”

Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.

“The pay structure means that you move up a pay scale each year. This means that you could potentially be earning a relatively good wage in a relatively short space of time. Good schools will also recognise potential within good teachers and look to promote them internally. There are a range of responsibilities within schools that you could progress your career in (head of year, head of faculty, etc). I also know some people who have gone on to teach abroad. This means they get to see the world at the same time.”

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?

“Get experience of working with children, of all ages, in a range of different contexts, including in schools. It’s also important to remember that completing a PGCE isn’t the only way to become a teacher. Other options, such as a GTP (Graduate Training Programme) for example are available.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

“Still teaching! Maybe a member of Senior Leadership. Fighting off the comments from students who say “You taught my mum……”


First in the office or last to leave?

“First in, and sometimes last to leave too!”

Tea or coffee?

“Diet Coke.”

Staff canteen or packed lunch?

“Packed lunch (or chocolate from the vending machine in the staff room!) Usually eaten at my desk while doing a bit more work!”

The lift or the stairs?


Out after work or straight home to bed?

“Straight home to bed.”