A Word on Pretending to be a Maths Teacher

In light of my perpetual scramble to gather thoughts on what sort of career I’m aiming at post-university, I decided to have a crack at exploring what it means to be a teacher. In particular, a maths teacher. So for a week, the school which I devoted a precious third of my life to, saw my return – and this time… on the heretofore forbidden side of the staffroom door. So. Much. GOSSIP.

source: xkcd

It’s always a pleasure to return to the corridors of good old HGS; unlike a worrying number of teenagers, I’ve always regarded the school environment to be a welcoming one. I was never ‘miss popular’ or the absolute best pupil at anything in particular, but I did have a comfortable experience and I’ll always appreciate that. Perhaps this is what draws me towards potentially becoming a teacher? I don’t know; I’ll ask my subconscious later.

The point of this post is for me to reflect on last week’s experiences and to discuss how non-trivial the life of a teacher actually is. I know a week is a mere pip in the watermelon life of someone who has to teach, write assessments, mark assessments, talk about assessments with 20+ parents + their children, write more assessments, be friends with all the other teachers, clean the coffee mugs in the staff room, mark more assessments, get angry at teenagers, praise teenagers, teach again… all in the space of =<48 hours. Teaching is the “easy way out”, you say? Nooope. Nooope!

Even creating a mere revision task for a bottom set year 9 class was daunting stuff. Whilst the actual material covered was a piece of cake (scale factors, percentage decrease / increase, Pythagoras’ badass theorem, etc), the execution of my dominoes-based game was trickiest part. Not having a printer at home, thus not being able to fully prepare the night before didn’t help, either! Fuelled by coffee, I became a guillotine , manically cutting out the little rectangles before the morning bell… But hey, all worth it. The task went well. I’m quite certain that the chocolate incentive for the winning pair of students had absolutely nothing to do with the class’s engagement in the game!

But whilst the government sadly doesn’t offer chocolate as an incentive for graduates to complete a PGCE to become a maths or physics teacher, the funding incentives  are nonetheless very, very yummy indeed. I’d be quite happy to shut out the minimal social life I currently have and star paying rent at the library for the next couple of years for the £25k awaiting me when I get my 1st class degree. If I get my first class degree… but wait! A 2:1 is not to be frowned upon, the government will essentially throw a £20k bursary at me anyway!

An utter classic! source: xkcd

I’ve often been told I’d make a good teacher. Somehow though, I’m contrastingly being led to believe that slaving 4 years on a pretty darn hard degree is almost not worth the disappointing income and stressful life of a teacher. It’s like some people are purposely trying to put me off from it because after all, “you could have done any easier degree to do that job”. But… couldn’t the same be said about careers in HR, or consulting, or other likewise non-directly-mathematical-or-science-related jobs that my fellow physics students and I are so eagerly pushed towards? Surely, by going into teaching, the job satisfaction of passing on my passion for the subject is far more worthwhile than a job with a potentially higher income at the price of an unsatisfied existence? Perhaps I’m being slightly melodrmatic here; I’m sure many a physicist-gone-consultant are leading very happy lives, albeit doing something probably completely unrelated to their degree. But I know I don’t want that.

So, as I currently stand: teaching or research it is!

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