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.