What advice would you give someone considering a career as a secondary mathematics teacher?
My first term as a trainee mathematics teacher has been challenging and exhausting, but immeasurably rewarding. I believe that being a secondary mathematics teacher is one of the best jobs you can have, but when choosing a career, you also need to be realistic. Here is the advice I would give to somebody who is thinking about applying to teacher training in mathematics:
1. Be prepared to have difficulties.
Students will always surprise you. Whether it’s the topics that students struggle with, or their classroom behaviour, delivering a lesson is never as simple as giving a lecture at a whiteboard. A good teacher training programme will help you slowly build up confidence and gradually tackle more challenging scenarios, but you will have moments where you are faced with a new situation and do not give the perfect response. You need to think critically about how your lessons went and be prepared to learn from your mistakes, without being too harsh on yourself.
2. Your maths knowledge is not the most important thing.
You will need to understand topics as you are teaching them, but don’t worry if you cannot remember all of the GCSE syllabus or have weaker areas. It can be good to relate to students’ difficulties and their learning experience. Conversely, having a 100% score on your maths GCSE will do no good unless you can explain to somebody with no knowledge of the topic how to solve a problem and why we would solve it that way. Thinking about the fundamentals – what is a negative number, what does the variable x actually mean, and what is an equals sign – will help you communicate more accessibly with year 7s.
3. Decide what makes an activity personally rewarding for you.
My alternative career considerations were in programming, but I discovered that it was too repetitive for me and did not have the sociable element or challenge I wanted. Teaching is never the same from one day to the next, and it is rewarding for me when a lesson goes well, and gives me motivation and a drive to learn when a lesson contains difficulties. If you are choosing between two or more different jobs, make sure you consider which one will make for a more rewarding 40+ hours per week. With the right choice, you can spend your Sundays looking forwards to the week ahead, not dreading it.
By Adam Morris
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