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How to make a success of a subject switch

Teachers are asked to teach outside their subjects for a variety of reasons, and schools are increasingly relying on teachers to be prepared to leave their specialism and deliver quality teaching in a subject they haven’t thought about since leaving school themselves.

When one of the most common reasons given for going into teaching is a love of the subject, does it mean that by swapping to a different subject you’re going to reduce your enjoyment of the job?

Here are our dos and don’ts for teaching outside of your speciality:

1. Don’t rely on being ‘just one chapter ahead’

Subject knowledge is absolutely crucial for confidence in the classroom, and part of a teacher’s expertise is being able to make connections between different parts of their subject’s curriculum.

Make sure you’re secure with your subject knowledge by seeking out CPD.

2. Do be honest when you need help

Just as we tell our students, there is no shame in saying when you are in need of guidance.

The best place to start is with a member of your own department (but don’t ambush people). Arrange a time that is mutually convenient out of respect for the person whose help you are seeking.

3. Don’t feel like an outsider

If you’re serious about changing subject, then go all in. If there is a subject-specific association, join it. Call yourself a teacher of the subject, and tell yourself you belong.

Feeling like a fraud is totally normal when you first switch, but half the problem is in your own confidence.

4. Do the tests…and all the rest

Yes, past papers are helpful, but there is so much more on offer on the exam board website. Use your department log-in to have a look at all of the teaching materials available.

You’ll find model answers, exemplars with commentaries, and examiner reports: everything a newbie could wish for.

Excerpt from Grainne Hallahan’s ‘Can you make a success of a subject switch?’.

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