Harry Hudson is a state secondary school History teacher in London. He graduated in Classics from Pembroke College in 2017, and has since written for a range of publications, including The Times, The Telegraph, and The Spectator. He talks about why he believes teaching is a fantastic career.
I remember there being a lot of rubbish talked about teaching among my peers when I was at Cambridge – and in fact, I’ve encountered quite a lot of it since I graduated too.
‘Why would you just go back to school?’
‘Isn’t teaching just a waste of a Cambridge degree?’
‘Don’t you just get really bored all day talking to kids?’
‘Teaching might be OK for a bit, but wouldn’t you then want a proper job?’
Questions and thoughts along these lines were not uncommon, and – full disclosure – I had my own doubts about teaching too. Wouldn’t teaching be a bit of a come-down after the rigours of a Cambridge degree? Shouldn’t I go and make some money somewhere first?
But I needn’t have worried. I’ve been working in schools for five years, and I don’t regret a moment. Here are just some of the reasons why.
First, the knowledge that I am doing a job of arguably unparalleled societal importance still gives me a thrill.
Is there anything more important to the future of society than the education we give our children? Every day when I walk to school I know that what I’m going to be doing that day has genuine, real purpose and will benefit not only the individual children I teach, but also wider society in the long-term too – there aren’t many jobs that can truly say that.
Second, and on a related theme, teachers change lives.
I’ve already seen that in action in the schools I’ve worked at in my career so far, and it’s awe-inspiring. You hear testimonies from celebrities about the impact teachers have had on them – if you haven’t seen the YouTube clip of former football Ian Wright talking about one of his primary teachers, go and search for it now! – but to see it and feel it for yourself gives you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction which rivals anything you get from personal academic achievements. Again, the knowledge that as a teacher I have the potential to improve the life-chances of some of the most disadvantaged children in the country is a massive motivation.
Third, teaching is intellectually stimulating and keeps my brain working.
It’s one thing simply to understand the content of what you’re teaching, but quite another to be able to explain it as clearly and engagingly as possible. And this is where the real challenge lies. Some days I go from teaching Year 13 one lesson to Year 7 the next, but in both of those vastly different contexts I am faced with the same challenge: making complicated historical material accessible and enjoyable. It requires real thought and I relish the challenge.
Fourth, no two days are the same.
I couldn’t stand working in an office all day, every day – it’s just not me. But with teaching, you’re on the move the whole time, you’re constantly interacting with different people – pupils, parents, other teachers – and you’re always being confronted with unexpected situations. While this can be hard at times – what should I do when pupil X comes and tells me Y? – it means that every day is different, and it keeps you on your toes. And if you like working with people, what better job could there be? The camaraderie with colleagues and sense of common purpose is also priceless.
Fifth and finally, it’s a really exciting time to become a teacher.
We know more now about the science of learning than we have done at any time in human history, which is quite a thought when you actually stop to think about it. Developments in neuroscience and cognitive psychology mean that trainee teachers are able to enter the classroom better equipped than ever before with a knowledge of how children learn and how teachers should therefore teach. What’s more, the really exciting thing is that our understanding of the learning process is only going to increase over the coming years, opening up an even wider range of possibilities for the teacher as it does so.
And yes, teaching’s hard. It’s long hours and, because you’re on your feet for much of the day, it can be physically draining; like any job, it has its tough days.
But it’s also rewarding, fulfilling, challenging and stimulating. It’s a truly fantastic career, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.