Secondary school teacher

How to be a successful Secondary School Teacher

Secondary School Teachers play an important role in guiding young people through an important stage of their education. At a time when they are becoming more independent, yet are still very impressionable, a good Teacher will not only educate their pupils in academic subjects, they will support them with social and emotional issues and help them with decisions about their futures.

Importance of a Secondary School Teacher

The move from primary to secondary school is a big step and Secondary Teachers play an important role in this transition for 11-year-olds entering Key Stage 3. As pupils reach Key Stage 4, Secondary Teachers are responsible for teaching and guiding them through their GCSE exams, providing career advice and helping with their next steps when they leave school at 16. The secondary school years see children become teenagers and young adults which can be a challenging period in their lives, so having the support of a good Teacher can make a big difference.

As a Teacher in a secondary school you will specialise in a specific subject. Having specialist knowledge enables Secondary Teachers to use their strengths to teach pupils more in depth subject matter. You can read our job descriptions to find out more about being an English Teacher, a Maths Teacher or a Science Teacher in a secondary school. Read 'Teaching in a Secondary School setting' to learn about the different types of schools you could work in.   

Key attributes of a good Secondary School Teacher

Seeing the success of your pupils as they complete their exams and move on to accomplish new things makes the job of being a Secondary Teacher very rewarding. A good Teacher is one that you remember as being interesting, fun, supportive and understanding. To do this job well there are certain attributes you need to have:

Knowledge - You will have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and a degree in a specific subject area. Having this subject knowledge is necessary, but you must also be competent in your teaching skills to successfully pass the information to your pupils in a way that they will retain.

Leadership - As a Teacher you are leading your class in their learning, which, with a group of young people with varying attention spans and different needs, can sometimes be challenging. Strong leadership skills are therefore necessary to be a good Teacher.

Communication - Clear communication is very important to ensure pupils understand not only the subject content, but also what is expected of them. It is also important to listen to your pupils, so you know their individual needs. At this age, pupils are becoming more accountable for themselves, but it is still necessary to have good communication channels with parents and carers to discuss progress and any behavioural concerns. It is also important to be able to liaise with other key members of school staff.

Organisation - Having a well organised classroom and being prepared for your lessons is conducive to a productive work environment. If you have a clear plan of what you are teaching, your confidence in the topic will encourage your pupils to actively participate. Good time management is also necessary to ensure you get through all the required material in the classroom. It is also important for managing all the administrative tasks and marking that a Secondary Teacher must do.

Flexibility - In a secondary school you teach various classes across all year groups, so you need to be able to adapt your lesson plans and teaching style according to the age and ability of the pupils. You may also have to cover other classes in a Teacher’s absence and must be confident to pick up and teach someone else’s lesson plan. As a Teacher you need to be ready and prepared for anything, and willing and able to switch as needed.

Empathy - Secondary Teachers often have to take on a pastoral role. It is important to understand the kinds of things that children of secondary age must deal with; changing friendships, going through puberty, emotional issues, academic challenges, exams and careers are all concerns that pupils may have, and a good Teacher will provide the support they need.

Patience - When working with groups of pupils, all with different ideas, abilities and behaviours, patience is extremely important if you are to keep your class calm and focused. A patient Teacher will also be more relaxed and able to cope with what can sometimes be stressful situations.

How is the success of a Secondary School Teacher measured?

The Department for Education (DfE) Teachers’ Standards are used by school leaders to assess all Teacher trainees and Early Career Teachers (ECT), previously called Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), during their first year of induction. These standards can also be used to assess the performance of Teachers throughout the stages of their careers.

The Teachers’ Standards assess the values and behaviour that Teachers must demonstrate, including both their personal and professional conduct. They also cover specific aspects of the teaching job role such as planning and teaching skills, subject and curriculum knowledge, pupil progress and outcomes, behaviour management and accurate assessment.

You can read the Teachers’ Standards in full here

Secondary Teachers will also have regular appraisals which are designed to ensure they receive the appropriate support for them to carry out their jobs effectively. Appraisals assess Teachers’ performances according to individually set objectives. Assessment is by classroom observation and aims to identify strengths and areas that can be improved. Following the assessment, Teachers receive an appraisal report which sets out an assessment of their performance, recommendations for training and development needs and a recommendation on pay progression.

The Teacher appraisal and capability document from DfE provides more information about the process.

Continuing professional development (CPD) for Secondary School Teachers

Secondary Teachers play an important role in educating the next generation. To achieve the highest possible outcomes in your pupils, you need to continually improve your own knowledge, skills and teaching ability. This may be in your specialist subject, the latest teaching practices or in a pastoral capacity.

The world of education is always changing, so continuing professional development is extremely important for Teachers. Not only is it necessary for career development, it also helps keep you motivated and inspired to do your best. 

Schools may provide their own CPD opportunities according to the needs of their staff. This can be in-house, online or Teachers may go to a regional training centre. You can also find your own opportunities for professional development. There are many online, remote and in person training courses available. See the Career Teachers Continuing Professional Development page for more information.

A successful Secondary School Teacher is one who continually advances their own expertise, encouraging them to stay enthusiastic about a much valued role.

5 Top Tips for being a successful Secondary School Teacher

  • Plan lessons according to the curriculum and pupils’ abilities.
  • Stay organised to establish a positive learning environment.
  • Have clear 2-way communication with your pupils.
  • Understand the challenges pupils may face and support them appropriately.
  • Improve your own performance through continuing professional development.

Find out more about the latest opportunities for Secondary School Teachers here. 

Where next?

You can stay up-to-date with our latest blogs here. For our latest news follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Jobseekers

To find out about teaching jobs in other sectors, regularly search the job vacancies on our website:

Earn up to £200 in vouchers just for recommending your fully qualified teaching friends to us. We can help find work for Teachers, Nursery Nurses, Cover Supervisors and Teaching Assistants; all you need to do is click here.