Being a teacher

Being a successful teacher requires a broad combination of skills, attributes and qualifications as well as passion and commitment.


What do you need to succeed?

Teaching needs enthusiasm and creativity. You need to genuinely want the best for all your pupils and have the ability to prepare and deliver lessons that are relevant, interesting and accessible.

Teaching’s challenging too – from the first time you stand in front of a class until your very last lesson – constantly pushing you to find new and inventive ways to present your specialist subjects.

So what do teachers do all day?

Schools in Scotland follow Curriculum for Excellence. Within that overall framework, each teacher must plan and deliver lessons to suit the needs of all the pupils in their class.
With a focus on learning that’s based around real-life contexts, lessons should be interesting, meaningful and memorable. As well as planning and delivering lessons, teachers also:

  • work with other teachers across the school
  • evaluate each student’s progress and mark their work
  • maintain good behaviour in the classroom
  • discuss progress with parents and carers
  • organise study trips and other events.

Helen Murray – Chemistry Teacher at Bucksburn Academy

“I was working in an environmental monitoring laboratory before switching to becoming a Chemistry teacher. I was happy enough but felt I had much more to offer, and I missed interacting with people. I absolutely made the right choice; the biggest difference has definitely been job satisfaction. It is so fulfilling to celebrate your pupils’ achievements, even the smallest victories. Don't get me wrong, I certainly feel the need for holidays when term ends, but I love my job and I can't imagine doing anything else.

“If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher, spend some time observing at your local school and see if you could juggle the demands. It took me a while to adjust to the routine of the bell, but you quickly realise that every class and every day is different; that is one of my favourite things about the job.”

Gillian Angus - Maths Teacher at Hazlehead Academy

“I’ve been teaching for 10 years, both in Scotland and abroad. The biggest myth about STEM teaching is that it’s just science. I’ve been a technical teacher, an engineer, I’ve taught science, done experiments… There is a lot of scope to express your creativity. My students often have mixed abilities, so I have to cater for all students. You learn what works and you learn how to develop in order to make your lessons engaging and interesting for students.

“My advice if you’re considering a career as a STEM teacher is just go for it. The kids find it interesting and it’s a great way to show them the relevance of the science and technology and maths and to show them the types of careers they could have. So, just go for it.”

David Buchanan – Maths Teacher at Airdrie Academy

“After graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering I first worked as project manager in private banking, using my numerical and problem-solving skills. After a short while I decided to retrain as a teacher. I have definitely made the right choice. Due to my experience of the applications of mathematics, I can bring this into the classroom. Being able to draw on examples from engineering helps the students understand principles but also makes lessons more engaging.

“If you’re thinking about a career as a STEM teacher I highly recommend it. There are few careers where you are part of something that is always evolving, with discoveries or breakthroughs. Teaching a STEM subject to students allows you to be part of this evolution and to transfer this excitement and enthusiasm across to the young people in front of you every day.”

Stuart Law - Physics and Science Teacher at Douglas Academy

“I graduated with a degree in engineering, and was working in sports development and then in sales. I really wanted to challenge myself in an interesting and varied career and I thought ‘what about teaching?’. You need to keep on top of developments and the curriculum, and you’re challenged every day by the great questions young people ask. The job does have its difficulties, like being super organised and keeping on top of work. But it’s ultimately great fun, really interesting and very rewarding whenever you see some of the pupils having a light bulb moment like the great scientists before them once did. Teaching a STEM subject is a great career and I love almost every minute of it.”

Andy Williams - Home Economics Teacher at St Kentigern’s Academy

“As a Head Chef and a contract catering manager, I always enjoyed training and coaching my staff. But after getting married and starting a family I wanted to get away from anti-social hours. My interest in food, and enjoyment of coaching meant teaching felt like a perfect choice. I genuinely love being a teacher; I really feel I have found my vocation. It is immensely fulfilling to teach students life skills and skills that will assist them gain employment and to watch their progression.

"A number of my students have pursued careers in hospitality and this makes me incredibly proud. In teaching I feel I can really make a long-term difference. I have the opportunity and responsibility for helping shape my students to give them the best chance of a successful future."

Natalie Finlayson - Biology Teacher at Leith Academy

“One of the most important things about teaching is showing my enthusiasm for the subject. When the pupils see how passionate you are then they start to care too. I don’t think that I’ve ever taught the same lesson twice. Even though you’re teaching the same curriculum every year, it doesn’t mean you teach it the same way. Every pupil and class have different needs, so you have to be creative and adaptable; it’s exciting that every day is different. Working with young people can be challenging but that’s a good thing. They give you the drive to better yourself and better their learning. If you’re interested in teaching, get into a classroom and observe teachers in action. You’ll get a feel for the job and hopefully you’d find it as fun as I do."

Angela Barclay - PT Technologies at Monifieth High School

“I love this job: it is different every day and it’s amazing to give young people the opportunity to engage with technology, especially at the current rate of development. With the wealth of courses we offer, I find it very rewarding to see young pupils progressing.

"Across our Technologies faculty we have three workshops and eight IT suites. We work with the latest technology: 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, BBC microbits, and a vast range of software.

"There are challenging times but I love being able to inspire people and make a difference to their lives. There are opportunities to be creative every day. For example, the way I taught a topic last year might not suit this year’s students or I may have been inspired by something another teacher did, or even by something I read in a book or saw in a film, which I adapt and bring to my class."

Amanda McCrorie - Design and Technology Teacher at Prestwick Academy

“One of the most important qualities in a teacher is being passionate, both about teaching and your subject. You need to enjoy it in order to create a positive learning environment for your pupils. I want to motivate pupils to achieve their best whilst enjoying their educational experience, therefore I work hard when creating new units of work to make them fun, interesting and relatable to the pupils. I think pupils can see how much I enjoy my job which encourages them to be more enthusiastic about the subject.

"There’s a myth with being a teacher that you’re going to be teaching the same thing every year but this isn’t true. One of the advantages of Design and Technology is that technology is always changing and we’re able to adapt our curriculum to meet that. This also gives you the chance to come up with creative lessons that will inspire pupils."

Ian Power - Computing Teacher at Auchinleck Academy

“I switched from a career as an electrical engineer to become a Computing teacher after being made redundant. I found the job security very attractive and I also knew I would enjoy the social aspect of teaching, the interaction with pupils, and the variety that their personalities bring to my work. Even after 15 years in the role, I’m still happy with my decision. It’s very rewarding to see pupils develop their skills over their time from S1 to S6. Pupils don’t all learn the same way, which keeps lessons varied as you have to adapt your teaching style for every class and pupil. This makes each day different. New technology also means the Computing course has continually changed over the years and this has driven me to develop and learn new skills in my subject as well."

What makes a good teacher?

While every teacher is different, the best share certain attributes:

  • They are enthusiastic specialists in their chosen subjects
  • They are committed to developing each individual child’s full potential
  • They have a good sense of humour
  • They are patient and dedicated.

If that sounds like you, it’s time to become a teacher.