I think this post has been brewing for seven years now. Since I left teaching. I want to talk about why I left.
Firstly, the strike isn’t just about pensions, it is about pay, conditions and the affect of ‘teacher churn’ on classes and children. Teacher are leaving in droves and it has a huge impact on children. It is also about the structure of education which is in chaos, councils can’t open new schools and hastily opened free schools and academies are operating without qualified teachers. Today’s strike is about encouraging the government to:
• Ensure all teachers are qualified
• Make sure every child has a school place
• Stop attacking teachers and ensure there is no teacher shortage
• Work with professionals and experts to develop an exciting modern curriculum
• Fund education properly
Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but I was an excellent teacher. I built a new department from scratch, my department achieved results with huge dollops of value added. Kids didn’t just meet their potential, they exceeded it in their time with me. But after a few years I became utterly fed up with it. It was a never ending cycle of paperwork, observations, box ticking.
Five years after qualifying, 2 in every 5 teachers are no longer teaching. National Union of Teachers
I get that you need to be accountable, that we can always improve. But I hated that feeling that I was constantly failing when my results were anything but. I would sit in my line manager’s office, she would be telling me what a great job I was doing, I would be in tears about how totally out of control everything felt.
Michael Gove keeps criticising teachers. Morale is plummeting. NUT
I’d always been known as an incredibly organised person, but my desk constantly resembled an avalanche. I rarely had time to eat or go to the toilet, I got to school at 7.30, I left at 6pm, taking work home with me.
I was under too much pressure to enjoy time with my students. They were amazing kids, but trying to juggle constant new initiatives, manage all those personalities, issues and trying to shove your beloved subject through the framework of the latest Ofsted approved lesson plan completely sucked all the joy out of it for me.
Rushed changes are stressful for children as well as their teachers. NUT
I won’t skip over pay completely here. Being a Head of Department was simultaneously a privilege and the biggest joke. I once worked out I was paid the equivalent of £25 a week extra to line manage 3 other people, look after two classrooms, to be responsible for huge amounts of expensive equipment and be responsible for the progress of hundreds of students’ exam results, not to mention the painful process of chasing and moderating hundreds of pieces of coursework, oh and the extra weekly meetings, weekly bulletins and ‘Ofsted friendly’ handbooks, you know just in case they dropped in at a moment’s notice.
I would be up at 5am some mornings marking, because I had fallen asleep on it the night before. ‘Holidays’ were spent in a kind of shell shocked daze trying to reconnect with interests, friends, family and a partner I had ignored for the whole term. Trying to mark, and prepare, to fight the never ending battle to get ahead. There was no work life balance.
Basically teaching stopped being fun.
One day a friend and I joked about getting pregnant so we could get out of there. In reality that was my exit strategy.
I’ve looked back lots since then, but I won’t teach again. That makes me feel guilty. Having the power to change lives, all that training, energy and creativity I invested, all those lives I could change. I’ve found other ways to change the world, but I miss working with young people.
Since then I have watched so many of the highly qualified and committed group I trained with leave teaching completely or move into private education. This made me realise it wasn’t me that failed at teaching, but teaching that failed us. We made huge sacrifices to train to teach and we gave it our everything that PGCE year. I’m going to blow their trumpets too here, they were all seriously amazing teachers, A huge loss to mainstream education.
Academies and free schools are now allowed to employ unqualified teachers. This is a big threat to standards of education. NUT
I taught creative subjects. I taught some of the actors, film makers, journalists, advertisers of the future, The UK’s creative industries drive growth and attract tourism, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry. They accounted for 1.68 million jobs in 2012, 5.6 per cent of UK jobs. Michael Gove doesn’t see that, he’s driving a draconian return to traditionalist education that just isn’t working.
The Government should start listening to what teachers and education experts say. It should work with them to develop an exciting and inspiring curriculum that equips children for the modern world. NUT
I’m watching it now in my own children’s primary education. Amazing creative teachers. Exhausted, grumpy, over worked kids who are switching off learning. It doesn’t add up.
Parent’s evenings where we talk through levels in numeracy and literacy, where I have to ask what my 5 and 7 year old kids painted, sang, danced played with or created. The teachers know of course, because they’re great teachers, but it feels so far off the educational agenda it is as if we have to be given permission to talk about it.
All this isn’t good enough, for our teachers or for our children. Which is why I urge parents to support the strike. There is more information on how parents can help here. The NUT Twitter is @NUTOnline, the hashtag is #standupedu