What's your problem?

Should a headteacher warn his grandson off teaching?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I'm a headmaster, close to retiring. My grandson is about to start his university course and has expressed a strong interest in becoming a teacher. This should be great. But having been a teacher for the past four decades, I cannot bring myself to advocate it as a career for him. I'm afraid he has fallen for the glossy government ads, not realising how difficult children can be, or indeed the Government can be. Obviously, I don't want to crush his enthusiasm, but neither do I want to lie to him. What should I do?

A: There's a chance - an extremely remote chance, you may think, but nonetheless a chance - that your grandson will become an excellent teacher, will remain a teacher for the whole of his career, and find almost all of it extremely rewarding. It does still happen. And should that happen, not only will your grandson have enjoyed a fulfilled life but many thousands of children will have benefited from his skills. So while you can't bring yourself actively to advocate teaching, you obviously shouldn't set out to deter him either.

Just remind him that all jobs - all professions - have their good bits and their bad bits; expectation and reality don't always coincide. Teaching is one of the most valuable professions a person can enter (I hope you still believe that), but you're concerned that he should enter it with his eyes wide open. Accordingly, using your contacts in education, plan to set him up with a series of first-hand experiences: in different schools in different parts of the country, meeting and talking with working teachers of all levels and ages. I hope you can do at least some of this.

In other words, don't give him advice; give him experience. And let him come to his own conclusions.

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