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Career change: high school vs. primary school teaching

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At the beginning of this year I enrolled in a postgraduate diploma of secondary school teaching (I have already completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree). Along with finding it quite unenjoyable and stressful, I had to drop out due to illness and am now taking a year off to concentrate on my health. I'm thinking about transferring into a Primary School teaching diploma for next year.


I was just wondering what the thoughts are on high school teaching vs. primary school teaching. I've weighed up the two careers for months and think I would be most suited to primary school teaching. I realise that the pay may be less and there may be less opportunity to move upwards on the 'career chain', but I love children and think I am a very friendly, caring, and creative person. I really didn't enjoy teaching high school.


So, High School teaching vs. Primary School teaching. Thoughts?

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I have substitute taught K-12 (US schools, so my answers maybe different from Australia's education standards). I also hold a teaching degree in the secondary field. There are pluses and minuses to teaching elementary/early childhood levels.


1. Do you connect well with younger children or older children? Your personality and tolerance determines the outcome of your teaching success.

2. Primary School teachers don't get many breaks or even "planning" periods in between classes compared to middle/high school teachers. It depends on the school you teach at. However I have meet several ex primary teachers moving to secondary level because of this issue. I even found complaints from elementary teachers about not getting enough planning time.

3. How WELL can you control a classroom? Even though younger kids like pleasing adults, a lot of them are learning how to behave better and follow directions! They also have a LOT of energy.. can you keep up with children who have high energy?


I love teaching high school students, but that is due to my personality connecting with them easier and understanding the materials I am capable of teaching. HS students are VERY testy if you do not know your stuff and are not confident around them. The one benefit of being an elementary school teacher is that there are more jobs available in that field.


Just some thing to consider.


Have you tried middle school teaching yet? You may want to take a look at that first before stepping in to primary level.

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I think you need to identify what aspects of teaching caused you stress and caused to fall ill first. I have taught nursery children, primary school children up to the age of 12 and now teach college students 16+. Teaching different ages IS very different, but the amount of stress, responsibility, organisation and paperwork is always the same.


Younger children can be just as hard to handle as older children, but in different ways. Also when teaching in primary you are responsible for MANY DIFFERENT subjects, not just one specialism for high school, so this will probably bring more stress etc.


I think before you make a descision you should highlight what made the work unenjoyable before...if it was just worknig with children in general then you may not be suited to teaching at all..in any group of kids, no matter the age there are the well behaved and the disruptive (for whatever reason) and unless you are willing to encourage the well behaved and find out WHY the disruptive ones are unsettled you will struggle with any age.


ALSO, have you checked that you can indeed transfer onto a primary qual? Because I know here in the UK they are quite picky about the graduates they take onto primary school teaching quals...an art degree is more relevant to high school than primary, usually here in the UK to teach primary you need a degree in a primary subject, english, maths, science, or a degree in something that is a bachelor of science and has shown you can deal with maths and science at a degree level, for example ICT or Psychology. Or you can do an early years/education degree which qualifies you for primary teaching quals.


You may not be able to just switch over.


I think you should go volunteer in some primary schools first, to see what you think. Before you commit to something else...usually the degree quals specify you have experience in the field you want to train in...


Hope this helps. Yes in theory you can teach primary and high school and above. I am a firm believer that if you enjoy teaching, are confident in your role and your subject knowledge for the relevent area is sound, you can theoretically teach any age (I nearly have!) but if there is an element of teachig which you dont enjoy you should try and figure out what this is.


The workload with paperwork, inspections, quality reviews, etc is HUGE and there are smoe days I really struggle...btu it is the students I teach that keep me going, it is them I am doing the job for...this is what keeps me going sometimes when I am bogged down with paperwork and lists which dont stop...especially this week when we are under inspection


If it was the kids at the high school that were maknig the job unenjoyable because for whatever reason you couldnt manage them then I would think very carefully about whether you want to teach at all.


If it is the paperwork etc then this would not change in primary schools and to some extent it gets much worse with health and safety etc with younger pupils. However paperwork and organisation can be dealt with by managing stress levels. The joy of being with a group of kids cannot...


...you either revel in the challenge of each child...or you don't....

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Thanks for both of your responses.


I understand that the teaching profession is stressful at times and a lot of work (I found that when studying secondary teaching and on my placement when I was actually teaching!) The reason why I'm considering primary is because I didn't really find a connection with the older students at high school. I enjoy working with younger children more, and have held several jobs working with younger children which I love (I'm a part-time nanny and also work at an after school care centre).


I've done my research and I do qualify to transfer into Primary. I've completed an entire undergraduate degree to a standard which allows me to enter a postgraduate diploma of primary teaching. I've discussed it with my university and I do qualify here in Australia which is great. I have all the qualifications/ experience needed to enter the postgraduate diploma. Over here in Australia you can't really volunteer at schools. The practicum experience/ volunteering is a part of the diploma I will be completing. So fingers crossed with the experience I have and my degree results, my transfer will be successful.


Kumatora, in Australia we don't have middle school. We just have Primary School (Prep to grade 6) and then High School (Year 7 to Year 12).


Although the pictures you have painted of the profession seem to want to steer me away from it, I think I can answer yes to all of your questions. I love working with younger kids, I have high energy levels and can deal with stress/ high workloads, and I also have a sound knowledge in many subject areas. All of my jobs where I've worked with children I've really enjoyed. But I guess I won't know if it's for me unless I try it?


Thanks though for all of your advice I really appreciate it!

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