Why become a teacher?

Good Teachers Can Bring The World Into The Classroom, Says Sarah Jacob
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The Independent Online

Rap artist Jay-Z has never forgotten his eighth-grade teacher, Renee Rosenblum-Lowden: "She took our class to her house in Brooklyn on a field trip. How many people would take a bunch of kids to their house?" The impact of a good teacher is something that has affected most of us somewhere along the line. The thought was drummed in by last year's TV ad campaign for the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which featured a host of celebrities, including David Seaman and Tony Blair, pondering the legacy of their favourite tutors.

"A good teacher can bring the world to their class," says Chris Cole, the headmaster of St Matthias C of E Primary School in London. "They're role models for their students. They communicate their experiences of life and give children a new outlook. I've been teaching for 14 years and I still love it. Teachers provide a positive image; they show kids what they can achieve."

"Teaching is a very different profession these days," says Graham Holley, executive director of Initial Teacher Training. "It's much more inclusive, gives a stronger career path, the pay is much better and its status has been driven up."

To teach in a state school, you'll need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You can incorporate QTS into a degree, either with a specialist Bachelor of Education (BEd) or by studying teaching alongside a BA degree. Another option is a one-year graduate Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). This is the most popular way of training - it's an intensive course that involves observing other teachers and gaining experience. If you're not a fan of the lecture hall, you can opt for a School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course where nearly all training happens in schools. Another option is the employment-based route, the Graduate Teacher Programme. Here, you learn on the job for up to a year, teaching classes under supervision, and you're paid an unqualified wage. Watch out though: it's very over-subscribed.

As well as flexible training routes, decent money and good job security are other common reasons new teachers sign on the dotted line. As a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), you'll start off on £19,161 (rising to £23,001 in inner London), while experienced classroom teachers are looking at £30,339 (rising to £35,985). Golden hellos of up to £5,000 are awarded when you start your NQT year, depending on your teaching subject, and there are training bursaries of up to £9,000 to help you finance the course.

Cash increases when you move up the ladder. Higher salaries go to teachers with managerial roles or extra responsibilities. Extra allowances are made for teachers considered to be excellent. Depending on the size of the school, an experienced headteacher can earn up to £99,585.

No teacher will deny that long hours and emotional input can be exhausting. Many find the plus points enough reward. However, if you're interested in schools but teaching doesn't appeal, there are other positions to consider, such as librarians, learning mentors and teaching assistants, like Dave Pond, who works at Ian Mikardo secondary school. "You don't have to have the same qualifications as a teacher to be a teaching assistant, but it's just as responsible a job. I help kids with their work during lessons, give them advice, and basically just try to set them off in the right direction. I got the job because of my experience as a youth worker, and there are a lot of opportunities for training and moving up the scale."

Of course, teaching doesn't have to be a career for life. The skills you learn are invaluable, but whether you teach for two years or 20, you'll never forget the possibility that you could be that teacher that no one forgets.

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