A move brings a change of stress

Michael Duffy wrote perceptively about making the switch from teacher to teacher educator in these pages recently (The TES December 6). My own recent move into higher education followed very closely the route he described: first acting as a mentor in school, teaching part time in a university and finally the higher degree studied part time by evening class and summer school.

But if you are tempted, don't expect a gentler life than before, though the stresses will be of a different kind. You'll enjoy meeting dedicated new colleagues and of course yours will be the unique and privileged position of a welcome visitor to other teachers' classrooms. There will be opportunities to develop your specialist interest and hone your teaching skills while working with committed, young and not so young students.

There will be those things that you must forgo. You may crave for the highs and lows that only daily contact with real live kids can produce. You may miss the backs-to-the-wall camaraderie that develops in the best staff rooms and primary teachers will surely mourn the satisfaction of the tangible progression brought about by a full year of contact with "their" class.

Your new department may well have more members of staff, possibly dispersed over a larger site, than the whole of your previous school and this can result in communication problems, resulting in a different sort of team-work to the one that you are accustomed. Players in a close-knit team know that their success depends on their ability to adopt new positions in accordance with their teammates.

Larger squads can find this problematic and can settle for the team-work more commonly associated with the swimming pool or an athletic track relay race; not so much passing the buck as passing the baton; making an individual contribution and passing the task on to another.

If your prime motivation for leaving the classroom is to pause for breath and escape the constant change then forget it. I'm advised by the older and wiser in my own institution that no single education degree has yet been allowed to run its four-year course before new legislation has ensured that it has passed its sell-by date. And now of course we are promised the national curriculum for teachers.

School teaching is an open-ended task requiring many hours of planning and preparation outside the classroom and devising your lectures will be little different though there is the attendant danger that what was a hobby and interest during your MA or diploma can become your life. And if it proves that higher education is ultimately not for you then a return to the classroom and possible promotion is not out of the question.

Ray Porter is senior lecturer at University College of St Martin, Lancaster

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