Tired of spending time with family and friends? Fed up of switching off and relaxing after work? Then we’ve got the career for you!
A former teacher from my own primary school was reminiscing about that era. “Oh, you’d have loved it. You just got to teach. It was wonderful.” Those days, dear reader, are dead with no prospect of resurrection.
One scamp from the Education Policy Institute recently claimed the average working hours for a teacher were 48.2 hours a week. Piffle. This lie was presumably taken either from a poll of part-timers, or was simply invented so as not to put off the next slabs of meat for the grinder that is the teaching profession.
Be under no illusions, my friends. If you, or anyone you know is looking to join our happy band, be sure to have skin like a rhino, as you will need it. If you have a family, be sure you’re not that fond of their company, as you won’t be seeing them that often. Friends? Well, they’ll need to be content with the odd text where you used to be able to chat on the phone or go for a drink.
Once you step foot in a school, it is a relentless experience. You are but a hamster on a wheel, and the kids are merely numbers on a spreadsheet. This is not my view, you understand, but the view of those in charge of education and, in many instances, the attitude of management within schools. When I recently heard the philosophy that “we should think of schools as a business and the students are clients” I realised education in this country was dead, and only the great kids and parents – and the teachers who’ve not yet been corrupted by this robotic mindset – are propping it up.
Teaching lessons is only a fraction of your time, the enjoyable time. Outside of that, you’ll have to reply to emails asking you to look for a child’s jumper (wish I’d made that up), staff meetings before and after school, subject meetings, year group meetings, break and lunch duties, after school clubs, running detentions, parents’ evenings, open evenings, updates on the latest Ofsted views, dry soulless courses (always in long-forgotten corners of the kingdom), assessments, endless data input and other jolly japes.
Amidst all this, you are also expected – though we often forget why we’re here – to actually plan and teach lessons with energy and dynamism sounding knowledgeable and enthused. There is also marking, which, when you have close to 300 books to keep track of, the amount of time this takes varies depending on how ludicrous your school’s marking policy is. The people who write the policies are never the ones who have to carry out these tasks, and it’s easy to donate someone else’s time.
Even if you can manage to do all this without losing your mental and physical health, when it comes to your pay, it really is a case of who you know, not what you know. There are endless ways you can be stitched up, and I’ve seen or experienced most of them. I worked out I’d been done out of around £6000 so far, and others have probably been far worse off. One could call a union, yet the school system has a thousand ways to make life unbearable for you if you try. Those denied a pay rise are usually the ones who aren’t the big shouters, and it is a laughable pretence that pay rises are based on merit in schools.
If you’re a teacher now, your hours will get longer, your life expectancy will get shorter, and unless you’re one of the lucky ones who management are scared of, or you climbed the scale in the good old days, your pay will never be worth the toll it takes on you. The kids and my amazing co-workers keep me going in each day. I try desperately not to think about my future. Each time I do, I remember Johnny Cash’s words: “What do you get, another day older and deeper in debt.” 48 hours a week? Hollow laughter.