'You need to make lessons fun'

Ruth Hanson, 25, has just finished her induction year as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). She teaches Year 3 and 4 children at Elmore Green Primary School in Walsall, West Midlands.

What's a typical day like?

I'm normally at school at 7.30am, to get organised before the children arrive an hour and a half later. I teach five lessons a day. Mornings are for literacy and numeracy and we do other subjects like science and geography in the afternoon. I'm on playground duty once a week, before school and at morning break-time.

I normally spend the first half-hour of my lunch break marking work, then being sociable with other staff. The children leave at 3.25pm and I leave at 6pm. I try to get most of my lesson plans and marking finished at school, or on a Sunday, so Saturday is free - it's my one "life" day in my work-life balance!

What's the greatest thing about teaching?

It has got to be that magic moment when you've been working with a child and the light suddenly dawns. There's nothing like it. To sit back and watch them go and explain what they've just learnt to another child is absolutely amazing. I really enjoy building relationships with parents, after school and at parents' evening. I love showing them how far their children have come. And I also love the variety of the job. Even if you stick to exactly the same lesson plan, no two lessons will ever be the same, because they don't make standard children.

What's tough about the job?

The long hours. When you add up what you do over the week, it's quite scary. These are the first weeks getting back into the rhythm of teaching after the summer holidays, and it's hard - I'm definitely feeling it. The sheer volume of paperwork, with planning and assessments, is such that you have to stay on top of it all the time, or there'll be a deluge of it waiting for you later. You can feel swamped. I try to go to Pilates classes once a week as a stress-reliever.

What skills does a wonderful teacher need?

You've got to be a good communicator, not just with children, but with adults, too. We work closely with other teachers and learning support staff, and share lesson planning. There needs to be a lesson plan for every single lesson, as well as weekly plans and longer-term planning. So it's crucial to build up a good professional relationship with the people you're working with, especially in your first year as a teacher, when you really need that support.

You've also got to be organised and efficient, with good time management skills, and know how to prioritise. And if you want to enjoy teaching, it's vital to have real enthusiasm. You need to be able to turn off whatever else is going on and totally focus on making lessons exciting and fun.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in teaching?

The first thing is to consider what you're going to get out of the job. You've got to enjoy it. If you think you want to teach, get yourself into a school and get to know the way things work. It's radically different to the way things were when we were at school. Instead of textbooks, we use interactive whiteboards - we've updated with the times. I'd also advise new teachers to join a union, mainly because they provide so much information on what's happening in the wider world of education, as well as general advice. It gives you the chance to look at what's happening in schools in other areas of the country.

What's the salary and career path like?

From September 2007, NQTs in England and Wales can expect to start earning £20,133 a year (or £24,168 a year if you teach in inner London). You can lead a department, move into management or become a head teacher. There's also advanced skills teaching for people who want to remain classroom-based, while sharing their expertise in outreach work at other schools.

For more information, go to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' website, www.new2teaching.org.uk; or the Training and Development Agency for Schools' website, www.teach.gov.uk