I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a primary school teacher – so the disclaimer at the outset is that I cannot speak for high school teachers.
Teaching is like any other job – if you want it to take over your life, it will. The stereotypical teacher is caricatured as someone who won’t stop talking about their job, but it doesn’t have to be like that! A work-life balance is essential, and if you put boundaries in place early this job will not take away from church, family or social life. Time management is key; you must make the most of the time you have at school. I try not to take books home to mark – if that means working through part of lunch, so be it. I’d sooner come home and spend time with my wife, than look at books I could have marked at school. Ensuring you are prepared for the next day's lessons before leaving is also a great idea and means that, overall, your work can stay at work. With career progression, this would obviously change in line with increasing responsibilities and accountability.
The school holidays are obviously a huge benefit to teachers. The thirteen weeks of every year are an inarguable luxury. Although much of this is ‘time off work’, be under no illusions, there is always planning to be completed for the incoming term, policies to write, classrooms to tidy, and resources to be gathered as well as numerous other tasks.
This is a responsible job, but with that responsibility comes a tremendous opportunity. As a teacher, you are in loco parentis of other people’s children for around 200 days of the year, seven hours a day. Pause for a moment and think of the influence for good that Christian teachers can have on the children in their care. I don’t mean that we preach the gospel to our class – it is not the role of the teacher to enforce their personal views on minors. We can live the gospel in front of them though. Remember the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5? There, the Lord Jesus taught that His followers are the light of the world and told them, ‘let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’, Matt. 5. 16. The way you interact with children, care for them, learn with them and even discipline them is a witness in itself to the love of Christ.
The National Curriculum dictates what teachers teach – and whilst on the whole, purely academic and harmless, occasionally it throws up some difficulties. For example, in Year 6, children are taught about the basics of evolution. Having taught in Year 6, this can be taught as a theory because, after all, that is what it is. As a Christian teacher, I have no issue with informing the class about the theory, because they are going to hear about it sooner rather than later. Similarly, the issues that arise in sex and relationships education could cause concern for Christian teachers, but in these cases seek advice from more experienced Christian teachers if it is something that is concerning you. Having said this, very rarely do topics come up in primary teaching that cause any issues to Christian teachers.
If you are looking to embark on a career in teaching, I would highly recommend it. It is hard work, but you will have time for church responsibilities, family and a social life. The most important thing is to choose the right school with the right leadership. As with any workplace, the people at the top can either make it a great place to work – or they could make your life as a Christian a misery. Be prayerful. Take advice. Get into teaching!