What kind of teacher are you?

March 2011


Facebook       Tweet

How can prospective teachers choose which branch of the profession to enter?

WAYNE ERB reports.

Little tots or strapping teenagers? Who would you rather teach?

Training requirements usually force aspiring teachers to decide early on about becoming an early childhood, primary or secondary teacher.

Alternatively, ploughing into the academic route to become a tertiary lecturer could come after relevant career experience is accrued.

Teaching at each level is quite different. Aside from different behaviour management, you may need to take an holistic view of development, teach a broad curriculum or be a subject specialist. Given the complexity, most teacher education programmes only equip you with the skills to work in one or other sector.

What can motivate your choice? Clauses in collective contracts mean both primary and secondary teachers have similar salaries, starting in the order of $45,000. Pay is similar in ECE but does vary more, according to Career Services.

The chance to one day own your own centre as a business is another attraction to early childhood teaching for some, says Auckland University’s education marketing and recruitment manager

Antoinette Vaha.

She says the university insists that people visit schools or centres before they enrol, so they can see first-hand if the work setting suits them. It is difficult to change courses midway through study.

“We don’t want to get them in and send them on a practicum and then they decide this is not their environment.”

Victoria University student recruitment manager Susan Harper says people are often fairly well decided by the time they go to her team for course information.

“Quite frequently it is because they have had an experience like being a teacher aide or they’ve done youth work.”

People wanting to become early childhood teachers may have been inspired by work as a nanny, while prospective secondary teachers are often attracted to a subject.

“You get far more drivers on the subject side – ‘I’m really interested in a particular subject and want to convey my passion for that with students’.”

It’s not her team’s role to advise people on their suitability for teaching – other sources of career advice do that first. Besides, admission into teaching courses includes an exercise to assess your ability at working with groups of people – crucial for any branch of teaching.

Victoria offers a conjoint degree which provides students with a subject speciality and general teaching skills so they are qualified to work in either primary or secondary schools. One way, perhaps, to delay your decision a few years longer.

Supply and demand for specific types of teaching jobs can provide motivation too. The logic: more vacancies mean more chance of landing work. Teach NZ, a division of the Ministry of Education, dangles a carrot in the form of scholarships which target areas of teacher shortage.

Its 2011 ECE scholarships target people who are capable of working with Māori and Pasifika students. Other areas of focus are Māori-medium primary teaching, and secondary maths, English and te reo Māori teachers.

More information: