Be a teacher, they said. It’ll be fun, they said…

Other teachers always ask me ‘would you recommend being a teacher?’ I always have a short think about the question and then I answer. ‘No.’ They look at me and say, ‘no, I wouldn’t either.’

People looking in from the outside (having not a single clue what being a teacher actually entails) always think we teachers moan too much, exaggerate our workload, make excuses for poor results, blah, blah, blah, let’s get the violins out. Well, let me tell you. We don’t exaggerate. Not even in the slightest. And let me tell you another thing; unless you have worked a term- or even a week- in a mainstream school under the current conditions, I can tell you that you have no idea about how a modern day teacher feels.

Now I have my own child I will never encourage him to become a teacher. Never. And here is why:

  • The starting wage of a newly qualified teacher is currently £22,244. That doesn’t sound bad for some people. But once all your deductions have been taken for NIC, pension, student loan repayment, tax, you are left with a paltry wage for the amount of work you do. The Metropolitan Police graduate scheme offers around £29,000, dentists start around £30,000, graduate jobs in IT are around £28,000. Hmmmm. You see what I mean?

 

  • Funnily enough, you don’t actually teach that much. The majority of your time will involve marking, setting up things for your lessons, marking, resource making, marking, assessment, marking, planning and yep, you’ve guessed it more marking. And if you have a bloody star spangle marking policy that involves two stars and a wish, green pen for positive, red for improvement, pink highlighter for what went well and the tears of a unicorn for what could be better, then your marking time will most definitely surpass your teaching time.

 

  • You will be criticised. You will be told ‘this is not a criticism…’ right before you get heavily criticised. Your learning objective wasn’t clear enough, the lower table didn’t understand what they had to do, behaviour management wasn’t quite what it should have been, the new EAL kid that arrived from Latvia last week wasn’t fully engaged in the lesson. No matter how strong you are as a person, it does affect you when it feels like nothing you do is ever good enough.

 

  • The hours can be horrendous. During my NQT year I was in school from 7.30am until 5.30pm and I would then do more paper work/ planning when I arrived home. Then there’s the working every weekend and all through most of your half terms.

 

  • You’re constantly tired. Constantly. It didn’t matter what time I went to bed, I would always wake up in the morning thinking about going back to bed that night. I felt like I was constantly living in a fog. You never, ever feel fully awake or energetic. It was draining.

 

  • You always feel guilty. Guilty about the work that you should be doing instead of watching ‘Real Housewives’, guilt because you haven’t the energy to read a bedtime story to your own children, guilt that you are cancelling dinner with your friends again because you’ve got work to do… the list of guilts are endless.

 

  • No one will understand your ‘stress’ or the pressure that you are under. Friends not in the profession always say, ‘but what are you actually stressed about? You’re teaching seven year olds?’ Everyone hates us, from the media, the government and your class parents who don’t understand why you have chosen to strike. Again. People think teachers are spoilt, with too many holidays, a good pension and part time hours. If only they knew the truth.

 

My list could be endless, but that’s enough negativity for tonight- my glass is close to becoming half full.

The current situation, (not helped at all by the government and the media), is a very worrying affair. I do not see how the profession can withstand the new changes and implementations created by privileged individuals who have no idea what the real life day to day challenges of a mainstream teacher faces on a daily basis. The fact that schools can now choose to employ unqualified teachers (?!), not award pay progression and set their own standards is not just a huge worry for current and prospective teachers, but more importantly parents. I wish that as many parents who criticise teachers would get behind us and support us, then maybe, just maybe we would have a fighting chance in saving education in the UK and answer ‘yes’ when somebody asks us if we would recommend becoming a teacher.

Writing a resignation letter

You may have been offered a new dream job, you may have just decided to quick; either way you will need to formally resign from your post.

I was a little taken aback when my Head mentioned about a resignation letter straight after I told her about my new job. The word ‘resignation’ sounds so scary. I had only ever encountered it in negative situations; a teacher who resigned a term before me because of stress, a Deputy who was being forced to resign over a safe guarding issue- it never seemed to be a positive thing to do.

However, I soon realised that when you have told your current Head that you will be accepting a new post you must resign, it is a legal requirement. Here are the term dates that teachers must abide by:

To leave at the end of:                                        Teachers must resign by:
Autumn Term (31 December)                            31 October
Spring Term (30 April)                                         28 (29) February
Summer Term (31 August)                                   31 May

I got my new job in the first week of December and my Head was encouraging (almost pressuring) me to hand my resignation in by the end of the Christmas term, round about the 21st December. I hadn’t yet signed my new contract so I didn’t want to be left without any job if something was to fall through with my new job so I wanted to resign officially as late as possible. My Head kept reminding me when she saw me about my letter and she only backed off when I showed her the above dates. Eventually I resigned around the 20th February as with half term I would not have been in school to resign on the 29th Feb. It was a scary time as I had still not signed my contract but I had to resign or I would not have been able to legally start my new job.

Which brings me to the next point- the actual letter. People may disagree but I think that no matter what the circumstances are of you leaving, you must always, always leave on a positive note. If that is impossible to do (i.e. if you said positive things in your letter it would come across as sarcasm) you should always be professional.

Now I didn’t have the best last term in my school (more to come on that in future posts), in fact it was one of my worse, much worse than my whole NQT years. There were numerous occasions when I would cry in my classroom, cry on my drive home and cry at my home and I am angry that I would let another colleague (bully) affect me in such a way. I did complain, management knew about my problems (nothing was done due to different factors). On one particular low day I decided that I would name and shame this bullying colleague in my resignation letter, I would mention how she had ruined my last term in school, but then I came to my senses. No. I would not do that. I would not let any individual have that much power over me, I would not have people think that she had affected me that much. I would leave on a positive note. And I did and it felt SO good to leave with a smile on everyone’s face.

And teaching is such a small world that you never know when you are going to bump into ex colleagues again. So I wrote a nice professional letter with some personal touches. Below is a draft of my letter:

 

Resignation from post of teacher at X Primary School.

Dear Mrs X,

Please accept this letter of resignation from my post of year 2 teacher effective from ____________. My last day teaching in school will be _______________.

It is with sincere regret that I am leaving X Primary School. My time at X Primary has been a very positive and enjoyable experience and I have enjoyed being a part of the school for the past three years.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your staff and all of your support since my NQT year.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs G.

As you can see I kept the letter very positive, I thanked my Head for the opportunity and I didn’t mention anything about my negative experiences with an individual colleague. I don’t know what the previous teacher’s resignation must have said but my Head came to see me at the end of the day after I had handed in my letter and thanked me. She said she was ‘really touched’ with what I had written and that made me feel really good inside. And she is right- I might see her again sooner rather than later. At a training course, a CPD session or even at a future OFSTED inspection. I’m glad I kept it positive:)

Leaving main stream = inner peace restored

inner-peace

I always said that I was only going to do 5 years maximum as a teacher in a mainstream school before leaving the profession. I wanted to move into a pupil referral unit, but knew that those jobs are very few and far between. I didn’t really have a plan, I just knew that I could not physically or mentally continue past 5 years and Im thanking my lucky stars every day and night that I was able to leave after 3 years.

The current bleak statistics show that around 70% of all new teachers leave the profession after 5 years. That is in no way surprising. Teaching has always been a difficult profession for me personally, but once I went back to work with a new baby, it was almost impossible. I felt like I was very close to having a nervous breakdown. I was neither a good teacher or a good mum. I was a mess. I was sleeping for 4 hours a night in-between night feeds, then getting up at 6am in the dark, maybe seeing my baby for 30mins tops (sometimes not at all if he was still sleeping), then I was somehow making it through the day on auto pilot. Marking up to 60 books a night, driving home for an hr, picking up baby but not actually having the energy to interact with him and then planning throughout the night, then finding it difficult to switch off before bed because I was so stressed before waking up to do  up to two night feeds before waking up like death at 6am to do it all again. One morning I actually said out loud ‘this isn’t how life is supposed to be.’ It was relentless. I knew that something had to change and only I could make that change. The final straw came when I had a lesson observation in my SECOND week after coming back from maternity. With the Deputy Head and numeracy co ordinator on a new maths scheme of work that I had only just taught for 8 sessions. The feedback was patronisingly dire. ‘We need to do a lot of work with you…. Don’t close down, don’t put the barriers up…. you are our priority… we will do lots of lesson study sessions with you. (Code for ‘informal’ lesson observations). Keep trying…. I mean X’s lesson was brilliant, just fantastic, but she’s been teaching for years, you on the other hand….’ I felt like utter sh*t. But more than that, I felt angry. Furious. How dare they? How dare they absolutely drag someone down like that after only two weeks back? Where was the support? The encouragement? That was the night that I made up my mind. It was time to leave.

As a teacher I didn’t feel well. I’m not afraid to say that at times I didn’t feel emotionally or mentally well. It was a mixture of hormones too after the baby, but teaching was definitely playing a part in my mental UNwellbeing. And it wasn’t me. I am not a depressive person. I am very strong. Happy and positive, but it was just dragging me down. I had another awful eczema flare up all up my legs again, something I hadn’t had since I was a little girl. The backs of my ankles were broken skin, bleeding and weeping. No amount of cream was working. Thank goodness it was winter and I didn’t have to show my legs. I finally made a Dr’s appointment when it hurt to walk as the cuts were cracking every time I moved my feet. The Dr said it was one of the worse cases he had seen on someone so young. I told him it didn’t matter what he prescribed, I knew it was down to stress from my job. ‘You need to get a new job.’ Didn’t I know it?!

The moment I told my Head that I had got a new job and I would be leaving I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulder and the impact on my well being was instant. By the time I left, my eczema had cleared up and it is still the best my legs have ever looked since I started my NQT post.

Now, I am a completely different person. There are many reasons why:

  • The 5 minute commute- you don’t realise how travelling for an hour each morning before you start work can have such a negative affect.
  • No pointless marking policy- at a PRU everything is all about the children, if it has no  positive impact on the children it should not be done.
  • Not having to mark 60 books a day- amazing.
  • No horrendous lesson observations- the teachers at the unit understand the children in the school and understand that lessons cannot be taught in the traditional way.
  • No cliques at school- there is no time for staff breaks (we have breaks with the children) so no cliques can be formed.
  • I leave work at work- I completely switch off when I get home as lessons are all prepped in the afternoon after the children go home.
  • An extra hour in bed- this is my favourite. The closer commute means that I can have this fantastic luxury each morning.

I could go on and on but I won’t. But what I will go on and on about is how important it is to assess your job if you are not happy. Your mental well being is so much more important. Do not be afraid to say that you are struggling, that you are not enjoying the job that it isn’t for you. You are not alone in feeling like that, but better things are out there for you.

I got the Job!

Champagne

So, my last full post was in December when I wrote about how I had gone for an interview and the lesson observation part of the process went really well. I desperately wanted the job. It was 5 minutes from my house (the hr commute to my old job was really getting me down), it was more money due to an SEN point and most importantly, it was in my desired field- a Pupil Referral Unit.

I have worked with children due to go to PRUs on a 1:1 basis in London before I did my PGCE and I absolutely loved it. Now they are not for everyone, they are certainly not an ‘easy’ option and there are tough times, but ultimately I have always, ALWAYS wanted to move from mainstream into a PRU. The problem was that there are just not many of them around and jobs don’t come up that often, especially in Yorkshire! However, I just so happened to find the interview for my new school one random night and as they say, the rest is history.

There is nothing worse than waiting for the phone to ring. I also had the added pressure of informing my current head at the time, how the job went. She did come to speak to me at the end of the day after my interview and asked me how it went. I was honest with her and said it went well. She then asked me about pay and said ‘I’m assuming they will also be giving you an SEN point?’ When I told her they were, she said straight out, ‘well you would obviously take it, then.’ She is a mother herself and knows how challenging it is with a new baby after being on statutory maternity pay.

Anyway, back to the story. I went home, wrote on the blog to get the news out of my system (I hadn’t told anyone apart from my Head, TA and family). I then went food shopping and my phone rang while I was at the tills. It was just before 6pm. The Head on the phone didn’t give anything away, she was very neutral, and I was setting myself up for the ‘I’m sorry, but…’ I mean, I had heard it so many times when trying to get my first NQT post and then she said ‘so, we would like to offer you the job.’ Her whole voice changed when she heard how enthusiastic I was. I couldn’t help it. It was an amazing feeling- it is really sad to say, but it felt better than when I was offered my NQT post as this time I was just so much more relived. No more marking 90 books every night. No more weekly scrutiny about my marking, my WALTs, my displays. I was absolutely ecstatic! I was then worried about my starting date as my Head had already said that I would need to give a whole terms notice or I would have to pay back my maternity! But my new Head must have been a mind reader as the next thing she said is ‘I know legally that you need to work a terms notice. We’re happy to wait.’ With a huge grin on my face I rang my parents first and told them the news.

It didn’t even feel real until I started 10 days ago because I got the job so long ago, but I had to continue working for three months at my first school. But now I’m at my new school I can only say that leaving my first school was THE best decision ever.

5 months since my last up date… so much has changed!

laptop-

Wow! 5 months since my last post and SO much has changed. I haven’t even got time to formally write about all the things that have happened- it would be a borderline novel, but I will be including details in posts soon.

Here are the things that have changed since December:

  • I HAVE A NEW JOB! (and I’m loving it. LOTS more info coming up on this…)
  • I had my first job interview after 3 years.
  • I handed my notice in at my first NQT post after 3 years.
  • I left my teachers union and joined another one.
  • My last 3 months in work were made horrendous due to a bullying colleague.
  • I have realised that teaching is really not sustainable in the long term, due to the constant (almost unachievable) targets from Head teachers, SLT, government etc.

I hope that everyone coming to the end of their NQT year keeps plodding along- not long to go now! Keep it up, don’t quit!

 

Love Mrs G xxx

 

 

I had a job interview!

I’ve just read over my last post and I am a little embarrassed about how negative it is. I am a naturally optimistic person so I am guessing that I wrote that post on a particularly tiring day. I know us teachers are always tired, but having an eight month old baby really does up the ante.

Anyway, I am not one of those people who just moans about their situation and doesn’t do anything about it. I am pro active.

Since returning to work I just haven’t been ‘in’ it. I can’t explain it, but I’m seriously ‘over’ my school. The fact that it became an Academy while I was on maternity has added to the pressure and low morale at the school. So has an imminent OFSTED visit (no we won’t be allowed the three years new academy grace period as we were already over, overdue), low SATs results in year 2, a new scheme of work for maths, new data input systems and a lot of unrest SLT wise; I just think it’s time to move on. And so, hopefully, I soon will be.

I decided to look for jobs and as luck would have it, I just so happened to see a job that was perfect for me. It was as if the job description was describing myself. I wasn’t even being big headed when I told my family that I would definitely get an interview. I just knew. The job was for me. And thankfully I did get a job interview. I had it yesterday and I will hopefully be told a positive outcome by Friday.

As an NQT who didn’t have the easiest of rides, I have been observed a lot of times. This helped me with my nerves yesterday and if nothing comes of the job interview I have gained something invaluable from the experience. I have gained some confidence back. This was down to the fact that yesterday, during the lesson observation part of the task, I had a good lesson observation. The children loved it, the understood the task- they even wanted more! The interview panel observing nodded their heads at times and even, wait for it, smiled on a few occasions. I realised, walking back to my car that ‘wow! I am not rubbish. I am not inadequate.’ I am a good teacher and just because I am a teacher that constantly needs improvement at my current school, it does not define me.

So I’ve made up my mind. That whatever happens with this job, it has given me the confidence and knowledge that there are schools out there for me and I am ready to go and find them. I’m ready to move schools.

Maternity Leave is over!

My maternity leave is over. I started back at work on Monday after eight short, but amazing months off. Ideally, I would have loved a whole year off, or even to start back in January, but financially I just couldn’t do either.

My maternity teacher is staying until Christmas half term so I am being eased back into things slowly. However, I have come to some conclusions. 1. I don’t actually want to be in school. I don’t think I enjoy my job anymore.

2. I don’t think I would enjoy my job anywhere. Teaching seriously sucks.

3. The tiredness of being a full time teacher and having an eight month old baby is horrendous.

4. This profession is not sustainable. I think 5 years is the maximum amount I can see myself coping being a teacher.

5. I’ve applied for a new job.

Now the thing is, I know I’ve not been back for long, I know I should ‘give it time’ but I know in my heart of hearts that I’m giving myself a hard time by choosing to work in a challenging area of Yorkshire, with challenging behaviours and challenging children. After having a baby I think, ‘why make life harder for myself?’ Why I am travelling over an hr in heavy traffic to work at a school that is no intense; teaching, paper work, observation wise?

So I’ve applied for a job that is closer, has smaller class sizes and has no EAL pupils. Do I feel like I’m ‘selling out?’ Yes, I do. Do I care? No. No I don’t.