Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Teacher of Science (at Yewlands Academy, Sheffield)
Approximate salary range for your type of role: £23000 – £34000 pa. More salary info.
I moved from Italy to the UK in the summer of 2005 and after a few years spent learning the English language I decided to focus again on my University studies, left unfinished in Italy. I started a 4-years long enhanced first degree at Kingston University in London, where I graduated in Chemistry in 2012. As part of the course, I spent my third year in industry doing an internship at Procter & Gamble (P&G), delivering research projects in the cosmetic sector. After I graduated, I went back to work at P&G in the analytical chemistry department. However, I was really interested in doing a PhD and I had my chance with The University of Sheffield. I moved there in September 2013 to work on a 4-years long research project on structural colour, where I attempted to artificially reproduce, using polymer materials, the structures responsible for the bright colours in birds and insects.
Parallel to my PhD project, I took part in a series of teaching and mentoring activities at The University of Sheffield, volunteering for the chemistry school outreach department.
I enjoyed the things I have learned working on my project, which I believe was very interesting from a theoretical perspective. However, I found the routine of the job, the long days in the laboratory, the long data processing tasks and the extensive writing, to be quite lonely and dull activities. I found the social side of the work in academia disappointing: I could not see myself working locked away in forgotten University basements, with virtually no human contact, any longer. I also did not like that the impact of my work remained confined only to a small group of academic experts in that particular field.
Therefore, at the end of my project, when I had to make a decision on a future career path, I considered that I wanted a science related career because I do like my subject, but at the same time I wanted a ‘social’ job with the possibility of making a positive and tangible impact on people. And so I decided to become a science teacher.
I enrolled on an Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course led by The University of Sheffield and the Escafeld Teaching Alliance. The course was designed to provide graduates with all the essential skills needed by a qualified teacher in terms of planning lessons, teaching, assessing the progress of pupils, familiarising with the school related policies and processes. During the course I spent one third of the time at The University of Sheffield in lectures and workshop sessions, and the remaining two thirds in two school placements: the first at King Ecgbert School and the second at Firth Park Academy, both located in Sheffield.In the school placements I had the opportunity to gain first hand experience in the classroom, teaching under the supervision of experienced staff. I completed the course in June 2018, gaining a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) necessary to teach in England, along with an academic qualification, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
During the course I had the opportunity to apply for teaching jobs: I was offered a teaching position at Yewlands Academy in Sheffield, where I started in July.
In school, I am a member of the Faculty of Science and I report to the Head of Science for curriculum related matters, to the HR manager for administrative matters, to the Safeguarding team for pastoral matters, and to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) coordinator to receive help with students having disabilities. The school environment is female dominated, as most of the teaching staff is comprised of women. In science, most of the teachers have an academic background in biology: physicists and chemists are therefore in high demand, in order for the schools to have experts in all the three fields of science.
Prior to the start of the academic year, the Head of the Department provides the teachers with their timetables: in July I was given mine for 2018-19. I know what classes I will be teaching next year, what subjects I will be teaching in every class and the number of lessons available to teach the topics, assess the pupils’ progress and deliver revision sessions.
A typical school day would start with a staff meeting around 8.20 am to address any teaching or organisational related issue. The first encounter with the students takes place immediately after, in form-time: a 15 minutes session dedicated to pastoral care. At 9.00 am the teaching periods (one hour long) start. The first two teaching periods are followed by a short break; then the next two teaching periods are followed by a longer lunch break; finally, a last teaching period closes the teaching day. Teachers may then stay in school longer, planning the lessons for the following days and marking pupils’ tests and books, or they may choose to do this work at home in their own time.
What I like the most about working in school is that no one day is like another: the classroom dynamics are constantly changing and the strive to promote motivation and participation never gets boring. Getting to know your students, discover and try to develop their talents is a very fascinating challenge. The lessons planning is probably the most time consuming task, especially in the early years in the job, but it is also an opportunity to design interesting and stimulating content to spark the pupils’ enthusiasm for the subject.
For any PhD student thinking of a career outside the academia, I would definitely recommend teaching if, along with a passion for your subject, you have a genuine interest in people and enjoy the company of young minds. The teaching role is complex, as the human factor is always variable and unpredictable. But this also makes your working days different and interesting. A PhD is not a requirement for teaching, as a Bachelor degree is sufficient to enrol on an ITT course. However, many schools find it desirable.
In order to get a feel for school life, I would strongly recommend spending a couple of weeks shadowing a teacher in a local school: this is both a required experience for the ITT application process and a great way to get to know your own feelings when immersed in a classroom setting.
Where can researchers look for jobs like yours?
- The best website to look for teaching job is Times Educational Supplement(TES).
- A good recruiting agency in education is Hays.
What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work?
A Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is necessary for employment in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools in England. The QTS is granted by the Department for Education, after successfully completing an Initial Teacher Training (ITT).
For more info, check the Department for Education website.
A Bachelor Degree in a relevant subject is the minimum requirement to enrol on an ITT.
ITT courses can be provided by Universities (PGCE), schools (SCITT) or charities (Teach First). In same cases, it may be possible to start teaching without a QTS, as an unqualified teacher (on a lower salary scale). Your school may then act as a sponsor to help you gain a QTS while working.