Thanks to my stand in the Vice-President election, I have received emails and letters from teachers across the country who want to share their stories about the realities of teaching. This is an edited version of one letter that I was sent from yet another teacher who has decided that they are going to have to leave the profession:
" I'm a teacher, but then I guess we're all teachers in a way. I entered this profession for honourable reasons and I enjoy teaching the children ... I dare say I'm pretty good at it, in fact I'd go so far as to say I'm a natural.
Everyday I'd get in at around half past seven, work through my lunch break, then leave sometime between five and half-five. Upon getting home, I'd then continue to work until I reached the point when I was too exhausted or had simply had enough. Then I'd fall asleep and repeat again the following day.
At weekends I'd have to commit at least half a day minimum to getting work done. Though the salary is pretty decent, if you calculate it on an hourly rate it's not as great as it seems. Factor into this useless morning briefings, staff meetings that last a minimum of an hour, having to provide evidence for everything you're doing. I mean it's not like teachers are ‘trained professionals’, so of course it makes perfect sense to check up on us as if we can't be trusted to do our jobs...right?
There are other niggles that I personally find really irritating, for example being sent emails at 4am, or being asked why I didn't check my 'work' email over the weekend.
I've worked in schools for many years in a variety of roles. I've seen an abundance of behaviour from senior management and indeed other staff that we are supposedly meant to be stopping the children from exhibiting. Bullying, gossiping and spreading rumours, inconsistent treatment of staff. Let's not get started on the ethics of the Year 6 SATS administration…are they a true reflection of the children’s levels or data that has been manipulated in line with an agenda that has nothing to do with the children?
I've been graded as 'outstanding' on several occasions now and to be honest I never really cared. I'm fully aware of how subjective the grading is and how fickle SLT are. The minute you fall from 'grace' you can kiss those outstanding grades goodbye. There's no objectivity...if SLT have an issue with you it doesn't matter how good you are at your job.
The profession is so ridiculous, the bar is constantly being moved, and it would be nice if every so often the teachers were informed.
These days the number of children with additional educational needs seems to be increasing ... fill in a form for any children that you are concerned about. That's fine but how long does it take before anything happens? Well, when I know the answer I'll let you know as I'm still waiting.
Providing evidence for EVERYTHING so that SLT can monitor your every move, submitting plans that are barely stuck to, going through the motions of 'having your say' but knowing full well that you don't have a voice. In reality, the job isn't about children, it's about data.
More and more of those teachers who, in my opinion, would make the biggest impact on children's lives, the creative, free thinking individuals are being pushed out. The way some heads operate is disgusting, all powerful dictators able to get away with murder as long as they're producing favourable data. If a school is unable to hold onto its staff isn’t that a signal that something is wrong…but the data is ‘good’, so who cares?
Why is it that you're expected to work extensively outside of work and contracted hours? Well it's simple, there are so many that will do exactly that, that those who refuse are ostracised and easily replaced by someone that will. Some won't stand their ground out of fear, increasingly head teachers thrive on this.
Securing a job as a teacher is the only time that the colour of my skin has counted in my favour. But then again it's not nice doubting that you're wanted for your ability rather than because you tick a box. As Cecil Gaines (The Butler) said "I guess I wished I was there for real, instead of for show". It's not a nice feeling, having to walk on eggshells for fear of being labelled aggressive or intimidating. Having had this label thrown at me in a diverse school, I am completely disillusioned. Part of the problem is that unless it's direct, overt racism it's not seen as so or it's "maybe you're interpreting it in the wrong way". So what are my options; become completely passive or compromise aspects of my identity?
It's a shame because I do genuinely enjoy teaching, it's challenging but rewarding. I became a teacher so that I could help children achieve standardised levels to make the head teacher look good?...yeah right!
Teaching is 80% marking, meetings, discipline, tidying the room, working through lunch, at home and weekends, planning and preparing resources...only 20% teaching. This is one situation where the 80/20 rule doesn't work...I got into this gig for the 20 not the 80, so now I'm making my exit. "
I can think of so many teachers who could have written this letter. It is very sad to think that outstanding teachers are leaving the profession because they are not valued and are under too much pressure.
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