Why do you want to be a teacher?

by Megan Brown @mbhistory

 

Anyone entering the teaching profession will have been asked the question ‘Why do you want to be a teacher?’.  You are almost guaranteed to get asked it at an interview for a place on a teacher training course, and it should be the easiest to answer. Yet, when I sat down to plan for my interview I found myself struggling to articulate one. This shouldn’t have been the case: I have wanted to be a teacher my whole life. I just couldn’t find the right words to express why.

 

I genuinely believe I found this so difficult because I have always wanted to teach. This can be proven by a video of me as a 3-year-old teaching my teddies and telling them that they shouldn’t scribble. I have considered other careers along the way (ballet dancer, dressage rider, political journalist to name a few…), but nothing has ever replaced my aim to become a teacher.

The first chapter of the Trainee’s Teacher’s Handbook: A Companion for Initial Teacher Training by Carol Thompson and Peter Wolstencroft focuses on this question. It presents the top five reasons for choosing teaching as a career (based on research carried about by Chiony et al, 2017). Over 90% of those asked said they entered the profession because they wanted to change lives, they thought they would be good at it and they had an interest in their subject. An opportunity to make a difference to society and a desire to work with young people or children were also listed by over 80% of participants. Whilst my desire to teach is motivated by these reasons, I didn’t feel these answers struck at the heart of my long-term ambition to be a teacher. I do not believe I was born to teach (I haven’t started yet – I might be rubbish!). But it is something I have always wanted to do. In a sense, I decided I wanted to be a teacher before I knew why I wanted to be one. Expressing this passion and feeling was almost impossible at interview.

Nevertheless, my answer did take a very similar path to the reasons listed above. I wanted to teach because of the following reasons:

  •  A love for my subject: History is both fascinating and incredibly important and I wanted a career where I could discuss and debate historical issues whilst always learning.
  • Working with young people: Young people are enthusiastic, intelligent and incredibly honest. They can be a challenging group to work with for these reasons, but they can also be the most rewarding.
  • Professional opportunities: Having studied at a Russell Group University many students apply for graduate schemes in the city, where it is suggested the most rich and diverse number of professional opportunities are available. Teaching is never sold in this way. The previous two reasons are always cited, and many people often comment ‘Why don’t you do something else first? as if teaching strips you of any opportunity when you are young. I think it is a shame this is not included in the top 5 reasons listed above. Teaching presents many professional opportunities in the future. From leadership, further study, networking, educational research, pastoral care and the ability to work in a city, suburban or rural area. I can’t help but feel these opportunities are not repeated enough and perhaps why so many young people do not choose to enter teaching straight away. Edu twitter has proven to me teaching provides an endless list of diverse and exciting professional opportunities.

These reasons adequately expressed why I wanted to enter teaching and secured me a place on my preferred training programme. However, it was only recently when I ‘attended’ the virtual #WomenEd and Chartered College of Teaching Early Career Teachers event that I finally felt I had a really clear answer to the question.

Whilst discussing the importance of effective networking, Allana Gay (Headteacher, and co-founder of BAMEed - https://www.bameednetwork.com/) said:

Teaching is about what you feel in your core. This really struck me.

Allana did not say this during a discussion about why people enter the teaching profession, but for me it answered this question. What you feel in your ‘core’ can be hard to explain: it is the centre point of your existence. Everything you do comes back to it, whether this be your purpose, values or passion.

  • My core values of personal commitment, widening participation and individual responsibility.
  • My core identity as a historian and learner.
  • My core ambition to have a successful, fulfilled and professional career.
  • My core purpose of helping young people.

So, to finally give an adequate answer to the question….I want to be a teacher because it fulfils what I feel in my core.

References

Carol Thompson and Peter Wolstencroft, The Trainee Teachers Handbook: A Companion for Initial Teacher Training (London: SAGE, 2018), 5.

C. Chiony, L. Menzies and M. Parameshwaran, “Why do long-serving teachers stay in the teaching profession? Analysing the motivations of teachers with 10 or more years’ experience in England,” British Educational Research Journal (2002). In The Trainee Teachers Handbook: A Companion for Initial Teacher Training (London: SAGE, 2018), 6.

Allana Gay, “Being Part of an Effective network of support,” Early Careers Teachers: WomenEd online event 6th June 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39sEALN7mBw.

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