So you want to be a Teacher

by Debbie O'Halloran, Editor-in-Chief

TeacherThe difficulty facing many seconary school teachers is the prospect of only part-time or temporary work for the first three to four years.

If you are thinking of embarking upon a career in secondary school teaching in Ireland, then you should be prepared to deal with the effects of precarious employment.

"One difficulty many teachers experience is that their first three to four jobs are part-time or temporary", the Association of Secondary School Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) told WorkWise, "and they can spend five or eight years in a precarious employment situation".

According to official statistics from ASTI, only 6 per cent of teaching graduates obtain permanent positions in their first year after college, with the majority having to get by on temporary positions until a better opportunity comes along.

Subjects landed with big recruitment problems, however, include Science, Technology and Irish, with teachers for these subjects in great demand. So if you're still thinking of entering the profession, it is in these subjects where there is a shortfall of teachers.

Sceince graduates going into teaching are highly sought after, and have a strong chance of securing full-time employment. The reason for this is that there has been a particular shortfall in teachers that have Physics or Chemistry as their main degree subject.

There are two ways of training to become a teacher in Ireland. You can complete the Higher Diploma in Education after successfully completing a primary degree or you can complete a primary degree which specialises in a particular subject as well as teaching skills.

The primary degree should normally be in a subject area you intend to teach. The Higher Diploma in Education is a one-year course, which combines the full-time study of education with hands-on experience of teaching in a school.

The HDip is taught in the following colleges:

Trinity College Dublin
University College, Dublin
University College, Cork
St Patrick's College, Maynooth
National University of Ireland, Galway

Capability in the classroom is an important part of the course. Some of the areas dealt with are classroom management skills, methods and materials. Candidates also learn about special teaching methodologies.

The final module of the course is Teaching Practice. You will have to complete about 100 hours of teaching practice in the subjects you did to degree level and also spend time observing teachers in the classroom.

The other route to teaching in Ireland is to complete a primary degree which specialises in a particular subject as well as teaching skills. Such qualifications include Art, Home Economics, Music, Woodwork, Metalwork or Religious Education.

Some of the colleges which offer these courses include:

Home Economics - Trinity College/St Catherine's College
Music - Trinity College/DIT/Royal Irish Academy of Music
Physical Education - University of Limerick
Materials & Construction - University of Limerick
Materials & Engineering - University of Limerick
Physics & Chemistry - University of Limerick
Biology with Physics or Chemistry - University of Limerick
Art - National College of Art and Design

Teaching is a challenging yet rewarding career and as a body of professionals, secondary school teachers are highly educated and committed. In addition to classroom activities, they also plan lessons, prepare tests, grade papers, prepare reports, organise extra-curricular activities and meet with parents and school staff.

Qualifications obtained outside the EU must be acceptable to the Teachers Registration Council. There are special arrangements for teachers whose qualifications were obtained within the EU under the mutual recognition of qualifications directive.

Interest in teaching amongst young people and graduates is very high but there has also been a steady rise in the number of mature students taking up positions as trainee teachers in Ireland. Almost a quarter of all entrants to the BEd and HDipEd programmes in St Patrick's, Drumcondra, are aged over 30.

For those teachers lucky enough to secure full-time jobs, salary prospects are good. Permanent teachers enjoy a minimum starting salary of €33,000 a year, plus allowances and an index- linked State-funded pension. Teachers also enjoy regular raises as they move up the scale, which currently reaches almost €60,000.

Those in senior roles such as Principal will also earn additonal money on top of the amount given for their experience, while those with additional qualifications or who teach through Irish also enjoy salary boosts.

Added to that there are good holidays, with a lengthy summer break, as well as Christmas and Easter proving attractive to many graduates. There are also opportunities to take 'career breaks' once a full-time position has been secured.

Characteristics needed for teaching include an interest and knowledge of your subjects' area and a desire to work with young people. "Teacher training will help you build on other vital skills needed for teaching - communication skills, people management skills, creativity and adaptability", ASTI said.

"New teachers who join ASTI receive a CD-Rom containing comprehensive information on all aspects of teaching", they added.

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