Any students approaching the Leaving Cert will be well aware of the importance of having a good teacher to assist them in their studies. An enthusiastic, passionate, and talented teacher can make the most boring and difficult areas of study seem vibrant and interesting.
One of the most popular reasons to become a secondary school teacher is that it offers the opportunity to concentrate on a particular area of interest – be it music, art, language, or physical education. Inspiring curiosity about your passion in others is extremely satisfying, and you get to talk about something you love all day!
The most common path to becoming a secondary school teacher is to complete a primary degree in one or two subjects and then take a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. You will find a list of recognised third-level qualifications – and the subjects they enable graduates to teach – on the website www.teachingcouncil.ie. For example, graduates of Athlone IT’s Bachelor of Business course can teach Accounting, Economics, or Business. Essentially, students must first develop a thorough knowledge of a subject during their degree course. Once they have done this they must then develop the teaching skills required to impart this knowledge.
Students who wish to become Art, Business, Home Economics, Music, Religion, Wood/Metal Work, and Physical Education teachers can take dedicated degree courses that bypass the need for a postgraduate qualification. Dedicated Science Education degrees have also been recently introduced. Some subjects (e.g. Physical Education, Art, Music, etc.) require the candidate to demonstrate a certain amount of proficiency in the chosen area.
Teaching courses combine academic and practical classes in a student’s chosen specialist subject with pedagogical and education-related subjects such as teaching skills, administration, assessment, and educational philosophy. Teaching practice placements often form a large component of teaching courses. These give students the chance to gain valuable experience by teaching in a secondary school.
Graduates with general degrees can move on to the postgraduate diploma, while those who have taken a specialist education degree can enter the work environment directly.
The challenges of teaching are indisputable. Subjects, theories, and practical skills can be difficult enough for many people to master themselves without also having to pass this knowledge on to others.
Day-to-day work will depend on which subject you teach. For example, an English teacher’s day will be different to a P.E. teacher’s; a teacher of religion will have different tasks to a music or home economics teacher. What all teachers have in common is the necessity to abide by the curriculum and prepare students for their Junior and Leaving Certificates. The success of new examination practices (such as continuous assessment) and the growing use of technology in the classroom are also dependent on teachers’ efforts and skills.
Teachers may also be involved in devising study plans, teaching ‘grinds’, supervising exams and after-school study sessions, organising sports teams, and other extra-curricular activities such as drama, art, music or debating, and planning field trips and school tours.
Secondary school teaching is a tremendously rewarding and engaging career, where participants have the opportunity to make a real difference to young people’s lives by preparing them for the world beyond school.
Did you know?
Traditionally, a high number of TDs come from a teaching background. The trend has declined recently but with over 30 in the current Dáil, teachers still make up the largest professional group.