College focus: We ask a teacher about training, inspiring students and why he loves the job
It was a love of maths and science that first inspired Conor Maxwell to consider a career in teaching.
For the Leitrim native, wanting to share his passion for the subjects would ultimately sow the seeds for a career as a secondary school teacher.
“When I was in school, teaching was something that I always thought about,” Conor explains. “Maths and science were two subjects that I really enjoyed so it was something that I wanted to pass on to other people as well.
“I wanted to reduce any fear of maths that people have in secondary school and get them to enjoy it as it’s something that I really enjoyed.”
He was also indirectly encouraged to pursue a career in education by his own teachers and the way they inspired him as a student.
“My teachers in school would have been big inspirations because they shared their love for the subjects. It was infectious in a way because those subjects became something that I loved as well.”
With Irish schools finding it difficult to recruit qualified teachers, it is currently a great time to pursue a career as a teacher. Approximately 6,000 teaching jobs have been created since 2016 and more than a thousand positions will need to be filled in 2019. That’s great news for anyone interested in becoming a teacher, with an estimated 93pc of education graduates working or about to start a job.
The government recently rolled out a new initiative called ‘Teaching Transforms’ in an effort to attract more graduates or final year undergraduates to apply for the Professional Master of Education (PME) and to attract qualified teachers back to the profession.
Graduates or final year students who studied at least one subject on the post-primary schools curriculum to degree level are being encouraged to sign up as soon as possible, with the application deadlines for PME courses fast approaching. The Teaching Transforms site offers practical advice and information on how to train as a teacher, what courses are available and what you need to qualify.
Conor qualified as a teacher last year and he’s currently working in Educate Together Secondary School in Sandymount Park, Dublin. He’s qualified to teach maths, coding and science although he also does classes in PE and Irish. He initially studied a Science with Education course in Maynooth before transferring to do the second year of the PME.
He had already done work placements as part of his Science with Education course but the PME ramped up his practical training. PME students were placed in a school three days a week as part of a year-long placement.
For Conor, that immersive experience helped to prepare him for life as a qualified teacher by giving him the chance to shadow a variety of teachers and to teach a range of classes. It also gave him more of a sense of what the job would be like.
“There were more opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities as well as we were there more often. So we could get involved in different sports, different clubs or different things that were happening in the schools.”
Conor believes the PME was a great preparation for the workload and that it helped to set realistic expectations about what it means to be a full-time teacher. He loves “how challenging it is but at the same time how rewarding it is.”
“It’s a lot more exhausting than I thought it was going to be but it is good!” he explains. “No two days are the same. That’s probably one of the big things that I’ll take from this year. It’s so, so varied.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is seeing the growth and development of your students over time.
“We can actually see all the young people grow and learn as people, especially when you see them in first year and get them the whole way through to sixth year. It’s nice to see the growth that they’ve had across those years.
“We do inspire them and we do motivate them to achieve their potential all the time. Hopefully, that’s something that they’ll then pass on to future generations. Not only are we doing it for them but for future generations coming forward as well.”
With schools finding it challenging to meet the demand for teachers, the new campaign aims to encourage graduates and final year students to consider doing a PME. It is also calling on qualified teachers who are working overseas to return to Ireland and make a difference on these shores.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in teaching, the Teaching Transforms site provides information on careers in teaching, details on post graduate options, advice for teachers working or studying abroad who want to return to Ireland, recruitment requirements, salary scales and school holidays and more.
With 6,000 new teaching posts created since 2016, and more than 1,000 posts to be filled in 2019, there’s never been a better time to help shape Ireland's future.
For more information, visit the “Teaching Transforms” website.