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.
- Handwritten planning is no longer acceptable. It is unheard of in most schools now.
- 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.
- 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.
- Risk assessments have to be done for so many things. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork!
- 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.
- Parents who turn up to bring or collect their children whilst smelling of alcohol needs to be reported.
- Children divulging sensitive information needs to be communicated straight away.
- We need to look out for bruises.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep doors open. Cover your back!
My experience of how our role has changed.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.’
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Reports must include all subjects, be individual & truthful. Some heads wont allow teachers to be too honest.
- 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.
- All staff should be in assemblies so there’s no time to have a break or set up for the next lesson either.
- 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.