Education Quandary

I finished my teacher training this summer, and want to take a year or more off before teaching, but my fellow students say it would be better to teach for a couple of years, and take time off when I've got some experience under my belt


HILARY'S ADVICE

HILARY'S ADVICE

Anyone who trains for a profession, then wants to turn their back on it before they even start working needs to think long and hard about why they wish to do so. Sometimes it can be because of practical problems ­ family moves, or needing time out to have children are common ones ­ but sometimes it can be for reasons which indicate serious problems ahead. If it is because of a fear of being trapped in the wrong job, then that needs to be faced up to. Running away won't solve the problem ­ although getting on and finding out what full-time teaching is like just might. The same is true of cold feet. If it is nerves that sends someone trawling through the internet for a cheap ticket to Thailand, then that person won't find it any easier to take the plunge when they come back.

In fact, almost everyone in teaching gets cold feet, says Sarah Bubb, of London's Institute of Education, author of A Newly Qualified Teacher's Manual: how to meet the induction standards. "Even experienced teachers get nervous after a six-week holiday. They wake up in the night and get butterflies in their stomach. Even I do." Newly trained teachers need to complete an induction year to become fully qualified. "And I always say the induction year is there to help, and you should make the best use of it, and do it as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder you're going to find it. If you're out for a year, it is going to seriously disadvantage you; things change so fast, you're going to forget things, and you can find you're lacking in confidence."

Having said that, there is no statutory requirement for teachers in England to do their induction year within any given time period (rules on induction in Wales and Scotland can vary) although some secondary teachers trained in shortage subjects need to become qualified within five years to net their golden handshakes. New trainees need to remember, however, that not having done their induction means they can't even work as a supply teacher for longer than four terms.

On the other hand, there can be several advantages to taking time out from your career later on. Teaching is draining, so travelling or doing something different can recharge the batteries. A qualified young teacher with experience under their belt will always find a job when they return, and for children it can be stimulating to have a teacher who knows more about the world than just the four walls of a classroom.

READERS' ADVICE

When I was travelling around Australia and Asia I met loads of teachers who had jacked in their jobs to go away. They all said they had spent too much time filling in forms and reports, and had got fed up with the terrible behaviour of kids who didn't want to be in school.

Some of them said they might consider going back to it after a break, but others said they definitely wouldn't, and seemed sure that they would be able to find other things to do which would pay as well, and be much less stressful. I had been wondering about going in for teaching after I finish my degree, but I think that hearing all this has changed my mind.
Beth Allen-Mills, Newark

When I finished my training, I, too, didn't want to teach. I'd found the training hard, and the job I got was not in a particularly good school. I told myself I'd just get qualified, and then I'd see.

But I loved the job more than I ever thought I would. When you have great colleagues, and can start to relax and enjoy the children, it's a different job from the one you imagine when you're training. This person needs to get going and see what it's like, because doing it later will only make it harder.

Rosemary Barratt, Stratford

Your reader will gain something more valuable than another year of teaching experience if s/he takes a Gap Year before starting to teach. S/he will gain Life Experience and be better respected in the classroom when s/he can give "for instances" to back up any points, especially if s/he uses the year off to travel somewhere newsy or exotic or a place children are interested in.

Patsy J Hudson, Bournemouth

I'm a retired head. At my old school, I lost teacher after teacher just when they were getting vital experience. The people who suffer are the children.

Ron Everard, Bristol

NEXT WEEK'S QUANDARY

All my children's friends have been booked up for holiday activities ­ art classes, summer camps, soccer courses. I've always felt the summer should be for children to relax and play, but now I am worrying that they will have no one to play with, and also that they could be missing out by doing nothing. What do other readers think?

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