Advice to potential Computer Science teachers

The UK Government has announced today a scheme to entice Computer Science graduates into teaching in England with a £20,000 incentive.  I am delighted by the message this sends out about the importance of Computer Science.  I hope it doesn’t detract from the very important job of retraining hundreds of excellent ICT teachers to teach Computer Science.  I also hope that Computer Science graduates in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be similarly tempted soon!

7 years ago I started a PGCE in ICT after a career in industry.  Several of my friends have sought my advice about going into teaching and it’s always the same, do it, but do some preparation.

Before applying to do the PGCE I spent a week in a secondary school (coincidentally the one I work in now).  The school and department were kind enough to plan a programme of lessons for me to observe and even take part in.  I was able to find out about the curriculum, the way it was applied and the pressures of teaching.  I could also observe the rhythms of the teaching week.  I started the week with the determination not to see it through rose tinted spectacles and finished it more enthused about it than before!

I was on maternity leave at the time so time off work wasn’t an issue and I managed to sort childcare for the week and I know for some of my friends, the ability to take time off work is limited.  Consider this though, a week of unpaid leave is NOTHING compared to the fact that your salary in a years time will probably be 1/3 what it is now.  If you’ve made the right career choice then that won’t matter to you but if it was the wrong decision – it’s a costly mistake.

  • Find out about your local secondary schools (this link will help)
  • Check their website for the name of the head teacher
  • Write to them enclosing your CV and ask to spend some time observing lessons, point out your expertise
  • You don’t need a CRB check to work in a school if you are not alone with children – a qualified teacher will be with you at all times
  • Check how much input the teacher wants you to have during the lesson (we’re all different)
  • Go round the room and speak to children about their work – get involved!
  • Ask if there is anything you can help with during lunch time or after school.
  • DON’T tell them that they’re doing it all wrong and when you start teaching you’d wipe the slate clean – we’re in a state of curriculum flux in ICT/Computing in schools and we know how to handle it!
  • Remember that this could be a week-long interview if a job comes up later (it was for me!)