As we approach the new school year, here in the UK, I am revisiting this very important question - why do people want to be teachers?
There are many responses to this. The longer I spend in the profession, the more answers I come up with…and they can sometimes change depending on the time of year!
Trevor Wright (2008) gives many answers to this fundamental question, and many of them I agree with. He also claims that this is a key question to expect at PGCE/ GTP/ Teaching post interviews - one thing that you can expect to be asked and should be ready to answer.
When faced with this question, don’t say ‘It’s what I always dreamed of doing’ … be careful here; until you become a teacher, you really don’t fully comprehend the demands and nuances of the profession, and so your answer suggests you don’t really know what it is you want - rather, you have an idealised view of it all.
Some reasons for wanting to teach, that suggest you’ve thought a little more about your decision to move in this direction, might include some of the following:
- To continue to learn.
This is a reasonable expectation, and one that showcases a desire to continue to develop and learn (a big part of being a teacher is CPD - Continued Professional Development). This also shows you would have the necessary mindset for education itself - the learning doesn’t stop with that QT certificate!
- To have a career that is rewarding.
…and teaching absolutely is! Making progress with children and helping them become independent learners is a huge part of what keeps us all going, through the long weeks of reports, lesson planning and marking. The job really is rewarding, and can give you a great sense of satisfaction. However, always remember there will be times when things are also somewhat challenging!
- To share my passion for my subject.
Great! Fantastic! This is a great starting point - but on it’s own, it won’t be enough. Since starting teaching, I’ve realised that while I was good at English at school, and I did English Language A Level - plus my degree in English Language and Linguistics - none of this has really been relevant to what I teach. I have had to teach myself a lot of what I teach the students; I need to read and analyse the texts before I can think about teaching it as a unit of work (and every text I’ve taught so far has been one I didn’t know previously).
So, passion for your subject isn’t enough - this reason needs to be combined with other reasons, as well as an interest in the subject of education itself (because that’s something you’ll also be studying).
- To be creative and have fun.
It is a big part of your performance, to make lessons enjoyable and to be creative - allowing students freedom to be independent but to enjoy their learning. It’s tough! But, creative and original approaches to teaching are essential. Yet, being creative alone will not help students learn or progress - careful planning is about knowing what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it - playing chemical reaction hop scotch is pointless if they don’t need to know anything about it!
Of course, there are many more reasons that you may have for becoming a teacher, but that interview question is an important one. It needs consideration, thought and a little research. So if you’re in the midst of applying/ starting… ask yourself: “Why do you want to be a teacher?”.