After seven years of teaching I am struggling to muster the motivation to enter the classroom come September, a feeling that sits heavily with me . There used to be a day when my summer holidays were willingly spent tidying the classroom and scouring car boots for new resources (purchased out of my own pocket obviously). I loved my job. I had done my school work experience in a primary school and I knew there and then that I wanted to be a teacher. For years I gave my job my all and I was happy to do so.
Lately however that endless enthusiasm and consuming passion has eluded me and I am becoming cynical about the education system (surely not). Now I know I’m not the only one to ever feel fed up with their job, nor am I the first to complain about teaching and education. What I hope to do is provide a balanced yet honest view of my experiences…so here goes nothing. Prepare for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
It really can’t be said enough, but I have worked with some amazing children over the years. Children whose talent, humour, sensitivity, intelligence and general cheekiness amaze me. I can go to work in a bad mood and within seconds a child will say something that has me in stitches, e.g. Me; “does anyone know what a nightingale is?” Child: “ladies wear them in bed”.
See, children are brilliant antidepressants.
The job satisfaction.
You really do make a difference to the lives of the children you work with. Working in reception/Early Years I often start the year with children who do not recognise a single letter, yet by the end of the year they can read simple books independently. It is such a gratifying feeling to know you have helped a child discover how to read or write. Even small achievements like getting their coat on for the first time are celebrated and these moments really make teaching worthwhile. I recently got a leaving card from a pupil who I had taught in reception and was now in Year 5 that said inside, “You have had a significant influence on my life”. I cried.
Yes. Having school holidays off is wonderful. Although there is slightly more to it (see cons) I know I am very fortunate to have this time to spend with my family and appreciate it as being a huge perk of the job.
The professional development.
I chose to be a teacher because I enjoyed learning at school myself. Teaching is a great job because you never stop learning. Whether it’s the children, your colleagues or training events, you have ample opportunity to continue your own learning journey.
I have worked with some amazing staff. Teachers that inspire me, leaders that guide me and on one occasion a teaching assistant that even made my breakfast! In the right place with the right people you can make some real friends and if you’re lucky, have some real laughs.
I am overwhelmed by the amount of paper work teachers feel compelled to do. Plans, annotations, assessment, marking, observations, reports to parents, reports to governors, staff meetings, the list goes on and on. At one job the weekly planning consisted of over seven pages. Seven pages! To tell me what? I was teaching reception at the time. Do I really need to document the fact that I’m putting playdoh out on the table? Seriously, I spent more time planning than I did in the classroom and I’m pretty sure all of this documentation did nothing to enrich my pupil’s learning.
The data stroking.
I’m not sure if there are men in black (or possibly tweed with leather elbow patches) that will hunt me down for admitting this, but to a certain degree children’s assessments and levels are fabrications. Data can be presented in certain ways to certain people to tell the required story.
I’ve spent hours thoroughly assessing each individual pupil in my class, only to be told “you can’t put them that high, it will make it too hard for the next year group to show progress” So hold on, I have to grade down a child who has succeeded, made progress above expectations due to my hard work, just so the results tell the right story? Shut the front door!
I hate to say it but for me behaviour has deteriorated greatly over the last few years. Behaviour management has always been a strength if mine. Yet in the past year, bearing in mind I work in a primary school, I have stood in a classroom whilst pencils, rulers, glue sticks and chairs have been thrown at me. I have evacuated my class to keep them safe from other pupils. Colleagues have been kicked, hit and even bitten by out of control pupils. What’s worse is there seems to be little to no consequence to this. It feels as though schools are too scared to put their foot down and stand up to these children and more importantly their parents. Why should 29 children wait in the playground until 1 child has been calmed down enough to stop lobbing furniture around the room? I admit it’s a small minority, but it’s a huge impact on the class as a whole.
Increasingly, and I’m not sure whether it’s the higher you climb the career ladder, or just a general shift in the profession, I feel like schools are becoming more and more like businesses. Children are viewed as numbers and in turn as price tags. The more children on role, the more money in the bank, therefore let’s admit as many as possible, regardless of whether it is best for the school community and the existing pupils.
Whether its data, professional development, school improvement or Ofsted, nothing is ever good enough. As I said I love learning new things and am therefore a firm believer that we can always improve, but once in a while it would be nice to get a pat on the back and a bit of time to consolidate. We know children need time to internalise and master a new skill before moving on to the next one, so why are teachers expected to jump straight through the next hoop before their feet have even touched the ground?
It is so hard to get things into place when a child needs support beyond what you can provide. There are the barriers placed by a fear of parent reprisal, lack of communication between organisations, impossible amounts of evidence to collect and downright refusal to acknowledge the depth of a problem. Whether it’s social service issues of matters of special needs, nothing is more disheartening than knowing that there is only so much you can do and if the powers that be don’t follow through you feel you have failed that child.
At the moment I am definitely feeling unbalanced. 2/5 of teachers leave the profession within five years, perhaps I’m overdue? I would undoubtedly miss the children, but I have one of my own now who teaches me something new every day (even if it is how to get playdoh out of my hair). I feel saddened that I lack that unflappable enthusiasm I once devoted to the profession, but I wonder, if I can’t give 110% any more will I be ever be happy being an average teacher?