My advice for teachers thinking about moving from secondary to primary? Make sure you like slime
My varied teaching career so far has seen me teach two- and three-year-olds in a bilingual nursery setting, and secondary English and humanities in an international school. This latter placement was what I really enjoyed doing, and where I spent the majority of my career so far. Despite imperfections with the school (and no school is perfect), I relished using my degree knowledge and sharing my passion with students. I even seemed good at the pastoral side, striking up a good rapport with students from year 8 to year 13 and serving as a head of
But this came to an end when my husband and I moved for his job. Despite extensive searching and multiple interviews, I was unable to secure a secondary post and had to take the only job offered to me – by a school I had been previously interviewed by – as a year 6 class teacher. It was this or no money and, I reasoned, year 6
Famous last words. In reality, those two years are a yawning gulf, and it all started with the monumental task of preparing my own classroom.
I had never had my own classroom before and had always longed for one so that I wouldn't have to cart all books, marking and resources around all day, every day. But the reality is rather different
On my first
The teaching has also been full of surprises. I have loved teaching maths (to my great shock) and especially coaching a gifted pupil so he feels stretched, despite the fact that he arrived able to complete the entire primary curriculum. My enjoyment of human biology has also revived my interest in science and the joy one can take from the children's enthusiasm both in class and at playtime is undeniable(and a pleasant change from grumpy teenagers).
But I also feel I do my pupils a disservice by not being primary trained. I don't feel that keen scientists deserve to be taught by a non-specialist; I have less patience for their sensitivities compared with what a primary-trained teacher might have (the first time a child burst into tears because they didn't understand how to convert miles to kilometres had me flummoxed!). Primary-age children also love slime and seem to do stupid, borderline dangerous, things on a daily basis. At least when teenagers do stupid things – because, of course, they do – it tends to be on an occasional basis, even if it's catastrophic. This means that unlike
Of course, the first year you do anything new is difficult. I have undoubtedly learned from the experience and hopefully become a better teacher as a result. But I can't deny there's more about the job I dislike
Luckily, I have been placed on a full-time supply timetable from September 2018 onwards and I'm hoping this peripatetic in-school lifestyle will energise me more. I also continue to privately tutor and examine secondary-level students, which is where I know my heart is. Needless to say, I'm looking to return to secondary teaching as soon as possible.
So, my advice to any wannabe secondary-to-primary transferees would be: Why do you want to do this? Are you really sure you've thought it through?
Oh, and do you like slime?
Cover photo by Dondup