Teaching in the UK often means starting on a temporary contract. This allows the school to see you in action. Once you’re through the interview, here are some key ways in which you can stand out from the crowd and make yourself an effective staff member.
1. Offer more than one subject
If your teaching qualification is in a humanities subject, you may be able to teach English at Key Stage 3 (11-14 yrs). If you speak another language, you may well be able to support the school’s MFL department. If you are a scientist, chances are you will be able to offer maths to GCSE level. Make it clear that you are willing and able to try different things. It will add to your CV and show you to be a real team player.
2. Be an ideas person
Don’t be afraid of putting forward new ideas at meetings or via emails. Schools thrive on innovation and while they might not say yes to every suggestion, they’ll love that you care enough to come up with solutions to problems. It may be a new type of CPD or an amendment to the homework policy. Be aware that if you have a good idea, you may well be asked to form a working party to make it happen.
3. Have extracurricular interests and be willing to share them
Extracurricular activities breathe life and personality into a school so it’s no surprise that they are always keen to employ people who play sports or instruments, or have other interests outside their working life. If you can offer a club to students, you will not only be supporting the school but also building great relationships with your students in a context outside the classroom.
4. Understand the importance of results
All teachers dread targets but the hard truth is that schools live and die by the performance of their students and all staff need to understand the need to achieve the best possible grades for the school and, most importantly, for the students. Ensure that you have a plan of action and that you have a clear understanding of where your students are and how you will get them to where they need to be. If you think your class is in danger of missing their targets, bring it up with your head as soon as possible so that you can work together to support them.
5. Know your faults
Teachers are nothing if not self-critical but this is an enormous benefit in many ways. Knowing that you are disorganised (for example) means that you are already on the road to managing that problem and means that you can coach students who have the same issues. It also gives you something to discuss at your performance management meetings.
6. Be positive
Be under no illusions; while teaching is rewarding and fun, it is also gruelling. After the enthusiasm of September has worn off and when the pressure of exams starts to kick in, most people begin to feel stressed. Every staff-room has one or two people who seem to exude negativity about everything from the students to the leadership team. Don’t be one of those people. If you want to be seen as a valuable addition to the school, make sure that your attitude is focused on problem-solving rather than just carping.
7. Know your exam boards
One of the best ways to really get to know the requirements of an exam is to apply to be an examiner for it. If you don’t have the time for that, make sure you are attending the courses that they provide which will help you understand some of the subtleties of the different questions. This sort of insider knowledge is invaluable to your students as it helps them target their revision.
8. Create things
If you have a great idea for a worksheet, activity or display, make it and, most importantly, share it. All schools like to see what you can bring to them and a willingness to share your creativity shows you as a real team player and someone with added value.
9. Offer training
You have skills that others in your school do not. It may be that you can make a really useful Excel spreadsheet or you know how to get a really tricky student on board in your lessons. The best teachers recognise their strengths as well as their weaknesses and being able to pass on knowledge and skills makes you a great investment.
10. Care about your students
This is the most important point of all. While results matter, never forget who you’re actually working for. The more you get to know your students and their interests, the more you can tailor your teaching to them.