Stephen's return to teaching story

Published 21 October 2021
By Stephen

Returning maths teacher and Methodist Minister Stephen, in the school library.

Why did you originally want to be a teacher?

My sheer love of the subject and an enthusiasm for sharing this sense of enjoyment with others. This was motivated in no small part by my own maths teacher and by my subsequent reading of Martin Gardner books on Mathematical Recreations.

Why did you decide to return to teaching?

The realisation that church models are changing; a sense that my own calling into ministry had been ’seasonal’ rather than permanent; a sense that my love of maths had never gone away and that I could help to address the shortage of maths teachers by offering myself again back ‘at the chalkface.’

How did you make the return? Did you face any challenges and how did you overcome them?

The challenge initially was to get ‘permission’ from the church to leave full time ministry. They agreed to a part-time transition period for one year followed by a three-year time of discernment while teaching full time. The challenge was trying to establish which career needed me most. The next challenge was trying to find a part-time job within commuting distance from my current address for a period of one year.

How did the Return to Teaching service help you back into the classroom?

In Zaid, my Return to Teaching Adviser, I found a sympathetic and wise counsel. He took considerable time to understand my situation and was keen to review my various applications. The Return to Teaching Adviser service provided specific help in its training videos and learning materials via their Facebook page, which helped not only to remind me of the basics, but also to point out some of the things which are different from when I left 12 years ago.

How easy was it for you to find a part time teaching post with a view to going full time after one year?

It was easier than I thought. Despite my lack of recent teaching experience, my maths degree, postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), and my 20 years’ experience of teaching gave me a major advantage. I applied to other schools before securing my current position. The third, and successful, application was in response to an advert seeking two days maternity cover for one year. The gap in teaching was hardly an issue - apparently, I sailed through the subject knowledge assessment, the trial lesson, and the interview. The feedback was that having an experienced teacher in the young department would be a definite asset.

What are the benefits of teaching part-time?

The benefit to me is that I can continue part-time as a Methodist Minister, which itself makes heavy demands on my week, and clear my mind of all teaching thoughts. I am wearing two hats now and so I must put one down to pick the other up.

As far as the students are concerned, this means that whether I am coming in on a Monday or a Thursday, I have had a mental break from them and can give them a fresh start in class, so behaviour issues are not pursuing them through the week and affecting subsequent lessons with soured relationships.

I deal with and sign off all the positive and negative behaviour points at the end of each teaching day and so far, this has meant a quick rapport with all the classes.

What is it like to be back in the classroom? Have things changed and how have you adjusted?

Every teaching day I come home grinning ear to ear! I am loving the work. I am in two days a week and have picked up a full teaching load on each day, including break duty, helping with breakfast club, and running an after-school chess club.

What would your advice be for someone looking to return to the classroom on a flexible or part-time basis?

Absolutely, crack on and apply. It’s the most exhausting and rewarding job in the world.

If you are considering a return to teaching, find out more about the resources available to support your return. If you have a passion for maths, find out more about becoming a maths teacher.