I went to a Bloggers Meet Up last week and I got talking to a lovely gent called Jason. Although we talked for a while he said one thing that really stood out for me. He managed to articulate something that’s been in my mind for some time.

Recently, he was speaking to a friend who’s a teacher and they came to the conclusion that teaching’s not a career for life any more. Jason was saying that teachers get burned out within a few years.

I’m going to explore why it may not be a career for life any more.

Education has been overhauled many times! During the time I’ve taught, I’ve seen huge changes, especially during the last 5 years. They’ve mostly been driven by Ofsted and the media.

A snippet of the status quo which exists in the majority of schools.

  1. Handwritten planning is no longer acceptable. It is unheard of in most schools now.
  2. Consistent planning format! This may mean, rather than photocopying a book and highlighting the relevant bits, we need to type the content into an agreed planning grid.
  3. Learning Assistants are no longer ‘general’ for teachers to guide per lesson; they may be employed to work with ‘specific’ children which means ‘general tasks’, such as, mounting work, putting display paper on walls, photocopying etc. fall upon the teacher. Budget cuts have driven this particular change.
  4. Risk assessments have to be done for so many things. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork!
  5. Subjects must be taught for a specific time each week. There are legal requirements stating how much P.E. & R.E. should be taught each week. There’s clear guidance about Numeracy and Literacy. It’s quite rigid and doesn’t allow schools to be creative or teach in a cross curricular way.

The list below shows the additional pressure that we have on our shoulders to safeguard the children we teach & make sure they’re healthy overall.

  1. Parents who turn up to bring or collect their children whilst smelling of alcohol needs to be reported.
  2. Children divulging sensitive information needs to be communicated straight away.
  3. We need to look out for bruises.
  4. Even though we are not with them at lunch time we need to know whether they have a healthy meal (from home or school) & whether they eat or not so we can remember to talk to the parents about it if/when they collect them.
  5. The Government said “you can restrain children”. Then they said “no you can’t.” so we had key members of staff were allowed! Now we’ve returned to “yes you can!” The reason we’d need to do this is to protect the child/children who need restraining or to help those who are on the other end of that.
  6. Keep doors open. Cover your back!

My experience of how our role has changed.

  1. Resources are costly so we need to ensure that items are accounted for. Are we supposed to teach or make sure all the glue sticks have been put back? Just an example!
  2. Parents nowadays keep their children dependent so they don’t know how to tidy up, put things in the right place, work together. We have to teach them this to make class management easier.
  3. We can’t start getting ready 15 minutes before home time as that’s an excessive amount of lost learning lost but if we don’t, the children are late and parents complain. Again, because they are disorganised.
  4. Some parents come and collect their children from anything between 10 minutes to one hour late. We have to take the child somewhere, reassure them and ensure that they are supervised. This is time which could be spent marking, planning, putting up displays, writing up ‘incidents’ etc.
  5. Sometimes parents send their ‘friends’ to collect their children but if it’s not happened before or they’ve not told us in advance; we don’t let the child go with them. This is to protect the child. However, this is often the cause for confrontation. We get ‘attacked’ for being on the safe side!
  6. If you are dismissing 30 children, would you remember who each child went with? As long as you know they went with an ‘authorised collector’ would you remember who they that person was? I once sent a child home with a his elder brother and his father came to collect him. There was a panic because I couldn’t remember who he’d gone with, other than, it was someone who was ‘allowed’ to pick him up. When communication between family members isn’t tight, the child often suffers.
  7. Children falling out is no longer that! You need witness accounts written up. It needs to be investigated quickly. Punishments dished out/talks had before anyone’s got a chance to say we’ve not acted on something. We’re not machines. How can it be done when we don’t have ‘free’ periods in Primary School? We also don’t have Learning Assistants to do the investigating.
  8. We need to have really good memories and notice everything that happens even if we’re not there! Impossible right? Well…when parents or guardians come to school to question/verify/challenge something that their child experienced, we need to be able to quickly explain the details of what happened in order to ‘nip things in the bud.’
  9. Most teachers lead a subject area so our subject knowledge needs to be good in that area as we need to be able to guide other staff. We also need to monitor planning, observe lessons, order resources for the area we’re leading etc. When? Also some schools pay teachers extra for this role whereas others don’t.
  10. Everything has to be marked and ticks aren’t enough. Comments take time! The older the children, the more there is to mark. If we mark the work straight away, most days we’d be there until 6:00 p.m. just marking!
  11. Targets are key to progress. 30 individual targets each term, three times a year. Remember them, monitor the progress, move them on some more etc.
  12. Reports must include all subjects, be individual & truthful. Some heads wont allow teachers to be too honest.
  13. Morning breaks are not an entitlement so if you’re on playground duty you need to take some time out of the playtime to go to the toilet/get a quick drink. This can cause problems for L.A.s, as well as, teachers.
  14. All staff should be in assemblies so there’s no time to have a break or set up for the next lesson either.
  15. Lunchtime is often used to set up for the next lesson so it’s not a time to sit, eat, relax and take some time out. The day becomes a rushed haze yet what we do is so important. It shouldn’t be that way! Should it?

Why do you need to cover your back?

A teacher whom I know was suspended because a child alleged that she threw him out of class and into a wall.

What really happened was that she asked him to leave. He did. He then ran into the wall and accused her of throwing him into it.

The whole class validated his story! Luckily, after the official investigation began, some children saw sense and told the truth.


I was accused of calling a child an idiot. He ran to the head and told her (at the top of his voice) that I’d said many things which I hadn’t. He then changed his story when the head spoke to him in front of me. Luckily he’s known to ‘have an inaccurate perception of things’ when he gets angry and the Head knew that I wouldn’t behave that way. Thus nothing came of it but it would have been serious if she didn’t know who to believe or if he didn’t ‘tell the truth’ afterwards.


A child lost his jumper. The parent sent a long letter in saying the ‘Art teacher’ should pay for it because she’s replaced another 2 that he lost earlier this year.

So we have to cover our back by making sure children take their bits and bobs home.

The fact that they often aren’t named makes our lives harder. If they can’t find something at the end of the day we try and inform the parent straight away so that they can help their child retrace their steps & help them look in class, lost property etc.


Another teacher told me about a long conversation she had with a parent which she thought had gone really well. The next day, a letter was delivered to the office! One of things she complained about was ‘She talked to me by the sink!’

Could you be a teacher for 30 years or more?

Could you handle the bureaucracy, anger management, prevention of conflict, parenting, ensuring you are in a safe setting or that you have witnesses? Reliable ones!

Please do share. I’d love to hear your views.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Linda/Positive Spin · June 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Brilliant article Heena.
This should be compulsory reading for ANYONE brave enough to think they want to be a teacher. They should read it, discuss it and talk to as many teachers as possible before they even think of applying to train.
I think you should send this to as many teacher training establishments as possible. They need to live in the REAL world of teaching and not in the imagined one.
You have summed up the situation so well.
I shall Retweet immediately!

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Linda I appreciate the Retweet.
    I’ll look in to sharing it with Training Establishments. That’s a great idea! 🙂

Christine · June 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I’m only really beginning my career as a primary school teacher but I can understand many of the points that you raise. The current expectations on teachers can be unrealistic and unfair at times, with this pressure coming from many sources.
I think I realise even at this point in my career that I won’t always be able to teach in the classroom and I’m not sure that I would even want to. That is not to say that I don’t absolutely LOVE being in the classroom but I think that as teachers we do need to take a break from it for a while to really ensure that we don’t become ‘bogged down’ with the negatives of teaching and become just ‘average’ teachers.
I’m sure there are many teachers like myself out there who didn’t become a teacher just to be ‘average’ or ‘blah’ but who wanted to be inspirational and dare I say ‘make a real difference’. To make sure I am always in this frame of mind I think I will need to take breaks from the classroom so that I can get back to these core beliefs and reasons about why I became a teacher in the first place. I think without taking breaks, be it to take on other positions within schools, to pursue further study or work in other areas of education, I will not be able to be the teacher I want to be.
When you say that teaching may not be a career for life I can understand and perhaps build from it and say that teaching should not be a career for life. I believe that sometimes you do need time away from the classroom in order to sharpen your teaching tools and recharge the batteries.
Thanks for the interesting post, it has given me plenty to think about. Just sitting here writing this comment has allowed me to really focus and identify what make teaching so exciting for me, which is a wonderful thing to be reminded of.

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks Christine. What a refreshing outlook. Taking regular breaks away from the classroom may well work for many. Do you have any ideas re what to do during that time?

I know what you mean! · June 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hey Heena,

That’s a great article; and I think you’ve made lots of valid point about why the job of a teacher is becoming less about teaching and more about accounting for things and bureaucracy. Teachers are passionate about their subjects and about seeing children learn. In my experience, this passion is sucked away by the need to tick boxes and conform to a certain, rigid way of doing things, taking the fun out of what should be such an enjoyable job.

I hope that the importance of good teachers is finally realised – the future of our country essentially depends on them. If good teachers are driven away from their jobs because of paperwork and mundane exercises then we are sacrificing our children’s education, the effects of which will only be felt when it’s too late.

Thanks for the article! I hope someone takes notice!

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for your comments.
    You are so right when you say “this passion is sucked away by the need to tick boxes and conform to a certain, rigid way of doing things, taking the fun out of what should be such an enjoyable job.”
    It’s such a shame!
    So many teachers have left the profession because of it. Others have left the UK and taught abroad, finding it much more rewarding and liberating.
    Let’s hope those that need to take notice soon.

cc · June 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm

i read this article. many good points. and i think it is sad what teachers have to go thru. seems there are a lot of foolishness that you all have to put up with and i feel for teachers.

another point regarding if teaching is a career for life.. the homeschooling movement is growing at a huge pace. i homeschool my child initially because our paediatrician recommended it because our child was getting sick alot from the germs in his school. and now, few years later, we still love homeschool and plan to continue.

my personally feeling is that teaching is a long term career only IF a teacher truly LOVES it. if one is only doing it for the money/summers off etc then its not worth it. we should all do what we truly love in life. if it doesnt bring happiness and peace and contentment, its not what we should be doing. if your getting stressed, having to deal with things that are so foolish (like the things you listed) then why do that to oneself.

just my 2 cents 🙂

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks CC
    Foolishness is a good word.
    The thing is, I didn’t know about that side of things when I became a teacher and to be fair, it wasn’t SO foolish then. It’s changed and become more bureaucratic and parent led which hasn’t resulted in us working with parents and children, but rather there’s a ‘them and us’ situation now.

    The Summer breaks are a myth in many ways.
    1) We don’t get paid for ANY holidays at all. We get paid for the days we teach and that is split over 12 months.
    2) We have to do reports, assessments, planning, preparation, set up classes etc. during the holidays. Most teachers aren’t ‘free’ during them.
    3) If we worked in the evenings and were very organised so that we could go away during the breaks, we have to pay more as the costs increase.
    So all in all, if anyone’s doing it for the summers, as you say, it’s definitely not worth it! LOL 🙂

    Why would one do that to oneself? Hmmm. Good point. I guess it’s another grey area.
    Changing careers is very difficult for some and if you ignore all the reasons that make it challenging, there’s probably still a pull towards the job. How it SHOULD be!
    What do you think?

M. Joshi · June 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I don’t envy teachers at all, they have such a challenging job. I help out at an Easter school every year and appreciate how difficult it can be to deal with so many children as well as all the bureaucracy.

Those teachers that do their job well make a real difference and can bring about a positive change in the most troublesome child.

The role of a teacher often extends beyond classroom lessons, also looking out for the child’s welfare too. In comparison, teachers in the East (India etc.) understand the whole family better as there is a closer link between the child and their parents. The teachers there are also treated as important figure-heads within the community for the work that they do. Fortunately, they usually don’t have to deal with all the paperwork and bureaucracy!

I’m not sure how the teaching system will gradually change in the UK but at the moment, it seems to be a popular career move with many incentives and benefits advertised.

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for this Mayank.
    I feel so much better when those who aren’t teachers can see beyond the myth that we start at 9 a.m., finish at 3:15 p.m. and have heaps of holidays.
    I think I could deal with the extension of looking out for the child’s welfare if there wasn’t so much unrealistic pressure to make everything into a game of performance.
    Children should make a certain amount of progress per year, if they don’t we’re asked to explain why.
    I’ve heard many teachers complain of ‘inheriting’ children after the Summer Holidays and feeling as if the assessments made before the end of the year were exaggerated or simply, made up. If you hen re-assess that takes time and it means you’re questioning the assessments of another professional. That’s not good either is is?
    Some teachers have the strength to say this child hasn’t made progress because of x, y or z. Others feel they have to show some progress, even if it’s a fallacy. Others are forced to change their assessments by management. It’s not simple or straight forward at all. 🙁
    That in itself makes it harder to function well.
    The adverts and benefits are amazing. They make it sound so easy and of course, a lot of people know of the myth but think it’s a truth so that helps them move in to the teaching profession. I wonder how many will/do remain in teaching?
    Anyway here’s to hoping that the system does change for the better 🙂

Sahadev Komaragiri · June 7, 2011 at 4:42 am

Really enjoyed reading this article of yours.

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    If you have time would you tell me what was the most helpful part for you, if any?

Susan · June 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm


I quit teaching after a measly two years in the job, because I was given no support as a new teacher and was being bullied by some colleagues whose son was in my class. An opportunity arose, so I took it and left the profession. At the time I was unsure whether it was permanent or temporary, but that was 6 1/2 years ago and I still haven’t gone back. That is mostly because I now also have children that I look after full time, but even when they start school I don’t plan on returning to teaching. It’s a shame, because it can be such a rewarding job when you don’t have to deal with all the bureaucracy and extra-curricular.
My husband is also a teacher; this is his 14th year in the job. At the moment he is writing report cards (it’s end of first semester in Australia), and ridiculously stressed by it all. He took today off work because he has been unwell and was falling behind. It took him 3 hours to prepare to be away from school for one day, including needing to prepare for a child on an in-school suspension. He wants to leave teaching, but doesn’t really know what else to do.

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Susan I’m so sorry that your hubby eels this way. It’s a sad state when you can’t be ‘off’ and supply teachers or parallel teachers can’t support with what should be taught that day!
    I wish the best for both of you. Let me know how it all works out. 🙂

Susan · June 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Also, I wonder if part of the problem comes from more parents being less involved with their children’s day to day lives, if that makes sense. While I don’t think that all mothers should stay home with their children, I don’t think putting children in long daycare from such a young age helps, nor does spending every afternoon in after-school care. I think schools are having to do so much parenting that actual curriculum is being squeezed out.

    Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Yes Susan I agree with you.
    More and more children come to school at 4 1/2 years of age without the ability to put their coat on, feed themselves etc.
    More and more parents don’t connect with their children. They don’t open their book bags, read to them, play games with them etc. Now this isn’t because all parents are neglectful. Some are working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Others have issues with health. Some don’t seem to prioritise their children. Their career and lifestyle is something they’re not willing to reduce in order to raise their children.
    Either way it’s very sad. 🙁

Radhika · June 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Hi Heena,

Congratulations for an article very well written. I wonder if I can be a little controversial and say that the bureaucracy you describe exists in every career and no career is for life.

Just last week, I wondered if I had stuck a post-it note on my forehead titled ‘therapist’ because all my friends decided to have a ‘moan’ about their careers. I have a friend who is a pharmacist, a very talented one. She is a great listener and spends time really identifying a patients underlying symptoms before recommending therapies or medication. She also double-checks the prescriptions she gets from the doctors because she appreciates that mistakes can be made at the surgery, especially as patients now request repeat prescriptions to be sent directly to the pharmacies, thus bypassing any verification of the medication from the doctor. So, my friend would rather double-check the dosage/applicability of the treatments before issuing the medication to protect her patients from suffering from anything that ‘falls through the cracks’. So imagine her surprise when her area manager received a complaint from a regular customer suggesting she was ‘too thorough’ (!) This individual actually complained that my friend had taken too much care in despensing her medication thus making her miss her bus by taking too long and asking too many questions. My friend was distraught. But, the area manager has to follow up each complaint, even the ‘daft’ ones! Frustrating, I know.

The same week, I met with another friend who is in beauty who is being sued by a regular client for coming out in a rash after her regular waxing treatment, no pre-warning, no call, no dialogue, straight to court due to ‘negligence’. My friend confided in me that this client had been to her for 4 years, she had a patch test, she had a record of things this client was allergic to, this client had a bi-weekly recurring appointment, she had never had a rash before etc etc.. Despite that being the case, my friend now has to ‘prove’ that her therapist had followed best practice and that the rash was down to something else, not her waxing treatment. As a result, my friend is planning to ask all her clients to sign a disclaimer going forward accepting treatments at their own risk!! As tough as this is to believe, I only believe this as I heard it first hand!

I illustrate what happened to make this point. No job is perfect and no-body is perfect. There is certainly no job for life and it doesnt matter what happens, what matters is how you deal with it. Both my friends are passionate about what they do and will not allow these incidents from deterring them from following a career they love.

BUT YES, what they will do is take their experiences, however frustrating, into keeping their focus on increasing their expertise in their respective fields and ‘ignoring’ the noise. It seems to me that teachers need to do the same. I bet once the children you are teaching now reach university and go on to be successful adults, everything that seems like ‘crazy’ bureaucracy will blur into the distance and you will have immense satisfaction for all your hard work.

There will be people who call 999 because they are locked out of their homes, there will be people who complain to their own bank for protecting their identity, there are people who complain when their doctor wont prescribe them drugs that are bad for them and so on and so on.

I do agree the changes in education may have got a lot worse but again, take it from someone who is surrounded by politics and bureaucracy in an IT career, sometimes the thought of spending my time with growing adults over ACTUAL adults is compelling enough to put up with the problems you highlighted 🙂

Keep going, you are a great teacher who GENUINELY cares.. The world needs more teachers like you. With an ageing population in the UK, we all have an invisible person living with us who we continue to pay for from our taxes. If teachers succeed (along with parents) to raise good children, hopefully these children will be our future to ensure the country is still able to sustain the ‘invisible’ family.


    Heena Modi · June 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks Radhika.
    You’ve raised some excellent points and the comparisons are real and I agree, they exist in many jobs now.
    Without sounding like I’m saying ‘my job’s worse than yours’ because I’m NOT….I think teaching is different.
    In my post I raise many points. It’s the bureaucracy, the ‘welfare’ aspect, ensuring progress, not having enough time to manage everything that’s thrown at us, having to teach over and above what you used to because many children come to us with less skills and so on and so on. It’s not just the red tape, the threat of parents suing for e.g. their child falling over in the snow whilst playing in the playground, the monitoring of equipment, the conflict, leading a subject area whether you want to or not etc.
    There’s so much to think about, to act on, to fear….
    It’s not a good place to be for many teachers right now. 🙁

Kay · June 11, 2011 at 12:08 am

Thank you Heena. Great article. Im a Nursery Nurse who has been thinking about going into teacher training. I would love to teach, but you are right. Teaching isnt how people imagine it. I have been thinking about this for a while now and seeing the pressure teachers are put through around me has really put me off. But then some people say that only depends on the school you work in. However, in my opinion i think regardless of what school your working in there’s a heap of work teachers must get through. Its not a job you do and go home and forget about. I really enjoy working with children and wouldnt choose no other career, but i think i will just stick with what im doing now. I want to enjoy my job without the feeling of being drained out and be able to go home and just relax. You sound like a fantastic teacher. I say keep your head up and keep going 🙂

    Heena Modi · June 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks Kay.
    I appreciate your comments. Knowing that someone else sees what our job’s like and ‘gets i’ makes me feel a bit relived too! So many people believe the myth that we start at 9 a.m. and finish at 3:15 p.m. and have heaps of holidays (which we’re not paid for!). There’s more to teaching than this but you clearly know that and that’s great.
    Sorry that this knowledge has put you off though 🙁
    Also thanks for the encouragement. I need it! I’ve been out all day yesterday as we attended my friend’s wedding and a family do in South London today. Got in at about 8:30 p.m. and now I have to plan for Numeracy! 🙁

Sahadev Komaragiri · June 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Hi Heena,
I always believed that teachers play a key role in social transformation. I wrote an article on this subject(link above). But I am looking at the role of teachers as someone from outside the teaching community and I do not know how it feels like to be in the shoes of a teacher! Your article helped me understand some of that. My dad was in teaching profession all his life, albeit at the college level. At 87 he still talks about it very fondly.
I have been an IT professional for the last 16 years. I lived in the US for over 16 years and am currently in Singapore. In a few weeks I am moving to India and I will start teaching at a High School(non-profit). I wanted to do this for a long time. I do not know what I am getting into… but I am cautiously excited. This post of yours opened my eyes to the real issues faced by teachers especially in the Western world. With India starting to ape the western culture, we are not too far from facing the same set of issues that you are facing.. not to mention many other social pressures. But teaching is the only profession that can make or break our civilization. Good work on this topic, please keep posting more.

    Heena Modi · June 21, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks Sahadev
    Good luck and do keep me posting on how your teaching career goes 🙂

Comments are closed.