Chris Smith has been teaching Maths for 14 years at Grange Academy in Kilmarnock. After graduating with a Maths degree in 2003, Chris went on to study for a PHD and also taught undergraduate students. It was during this time that Chris realised his passion for teaching. Following a postgrad in teacher training at Strathclyde University, Chris joined Grange Academy and hasn’t looked back since.
“I love being in the classroom – inspiring and helping improve the lives of young people. Of course, teaching a subject like Mathematics is brilliant but teachers do so much more than pass on subject knowledge. We help young people learn actual life-skills like socialising, resilience, manners and problem solving – things that will stay with them throughout their life. New teachers maybe don’t realise the impact they’ll have in developing not just the academic dimension of their students but also their confidence, personality and character!
“Of course there are loads of different pathways that teachers can take; heading up a subject or department, being a guidance teacher, leading as a deputy or headteacher, or even training and teaching the teachers themselves. For me though, you can’t beat being a classroom teacher for the young people day in, day out. I love the daily banter, and it’s a privilege to see the kids mature, flourish and grow into young adults.”
Like many people, Chris has seen people’s perception of the teaching profession change over the past eight months.
“Chatting to parents they’re overwhelmingly grateful for the hard work teachers put in and the positive impact that we have on their kids. It’s always encouraging to hear that teachers are valued members of society and it’s absolutely right that they are respected because of the key role they play in developing the young folk who are the future of Scotland. There is a vast difference between the kind of learning and teaching we experienced from March to June of this year during lockdown and what’s happening now. There is no comparison to being in the classroom. And its reinforced for me that being physically in a classroom for students and teaching them in person is just so powerful, much more than online teaching.
“There are many professions and industries that are struggling right now, but teachers have job security, and this is something I don’t take for granted. Through lockdown the reality became so obvious – even with the best online resources around, computers simply can’t replace teachers and being in a classroom and interacting with the children is best – it’s the real deal.
“Teachers are well paid, and the pay scale system works well, especially for new teachers as you move up each year. There are of course more lucrative jobs, but if you balance everything like job security, excellent holidays (I never underestimate just how special it is that I can spend every holiday with my own three kids), and the opportunity to share a subject that I love and get paid for it, teaching really does tick all the boxes.”
Chris’ advice to anyone who is thinking of becoming a secondary teacher:
“You need to want to motivate young people and you need to be enthusiastic about your subject. These are the key factors in teaching – without either the job is so much tougher. It’s probably obvious, but you also have to have great communication and people skills (not only to talk to and teach the class, but also to work with colleagues, parents and students). As a teacher you also need to be keen to learn new skills yourself.
“Working with teenagers is not for everyone, but Maths teaching is pretty much the dream job for me. There are so many exciting opportunities and every day is different with different stories to tell.”