Last term I heard parents relentlessly criticising a teacher and another criticising the head teacher in my DC school.
This article by an NQT is useful to keep us all parents reminded as to what is it like being a teacher before we complain.
Secret Teacher: why I've given up my dream job in teaching
From the Guardian - http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-netw ... b-teaching
'I have nothing but respect for those who don't find teaching a toxic environment.' After just four terms as an NQT, this week's Secret Teacher explains why they've left the profession
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Are teachers a new breed of time lord? You need a tardis to have any sort of work-life balance, says Secret Teacher. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian.
You would think that the PGCE year, complete with 24 weeks of teaching practice, would be a good time to realise that you hate being a teacher. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for me. By the end of my second newly-qualified teacher (NQT) term, I had gone from being filled with pride at my job title and key stage 3 form to searching for a job – any job – that would get me out of education. After just four terms, I became part of the statistic which sees nearly 50% of all new teachers leave in their first five years.
Like anyone who leaves a position, I have many reasons. But, aside from the odd person I was relieved to see the back of, none of them were specific to the school where I worked. I left because I could no longer cope with the demands and pressures of the teaching sector itself. There were three key factors that contributed to my departure:
Some teachers manage to get all of their work done by 5pm and spend every weekend and holiday blissfully divorced from school life. I don't know how they manage it, but I expect it involves a tardis. I prided myself on working smart – my colleague and I (the only two in the department with responsibilities for more than one subject) worked with each other to prevent duplicating efforts and my assessments were tightly defined to make marking as fast as possible.
But despite this, I rarely had an evening to myself, let alone a holiday without work. I know some people think that teaching is a job that will fill every moment if you allow it to, but I wasn't doing anything more that was necessary to prepare properly and I streamlined things as much as possible. An unsustainable work-life balance is a normalised and accepted as part of the job, but it shouldn't be.
This could fill a book, but I'll keep it simple. There is a never-ending cycle of assessment in today's schools that is deeply unhelpful, especially in lower years. I was expected to do an assessment at the end of each half term, which isn't unusual, but what's the point when the progress averages out at less than a sub-level per term? All it creates is a culture where kids (and their parents) focus on the result of a test and teachers focus on how to jump through hoops, rather than encouraging a deep engagement with the subject for the sake of its content. We taught our students to pass tests instead of teaching them about the subject and we couldn't break away for fear of looking like the children weren't progressing (they would do, just not in a way that's easily conveyed by a number or a letter).
Teachers also have their own cycle of assessment, with little hope of constructive feedback. Ofsted judgements vary from year to year and inspector to inspector, with the goalposts constantly moving. Outside consultants are drafted in to test staff – much the same way we give out mock exams – and this isn't always helpful. These assessments end with a judgement, but discussion or room for mutual reflection isn't the focus.
I met a lot of teachers through my family when I was growing up, and I had wanted to be a teacher since I was a child (apart from a brief spell when I was determined to be the Archbishop of Canterbury). Even during my first term I felt a huge amount of pride in what I was doing – thrilled that no two days would ever be the same, assured that I would make a difference.
This was derailed quite spectacularly by the realisation that education was dictated by privately-educated politicians who hadn't set foot in a classroom since they were 18. We were told that satisfactory was no longer good enough; that you didn't have to be qualified to be called a teacher; that vocational subjects weren't as worthy as academic ones; that music and religious education were less challenging than history or French. We were told that poor behaviour was the fault of the teacher for not being entertaining enough and that 11 year-olds should have a say in the selection of new staff. League tables continue to make us concentrate our efforts on changing Ds to Cs at the expense of both weaker and stronger students, focusing on one small group to raise precious percentage points in a battle to attract the "right kind" of future student.
Of course, there are some things I miss. I will always wonder how some of my students (the brightest, the keenest, the most apathetic and those who tried their hardest) will get on. I will always look back fondly on the enthusiasm of my first 6th form class and I will always be proud of my most creative schemes of work. But I can't pretend that they aren't vastly outnumbered by everything else that teachers contend with. I have nothing but respect for those who don't find it a toxic environment to work in and manage to maintain their enthusiasm – they must be far more resilient than me. The problem is that we shouldn't feel like that about a job that is so incredibly important for the future of our society. Most of all I miss the feeling that being a teacher meant something.
Secret Teacher worked at a secondary school in the home counties.
"The only one rehab centre that I long to be in, is the 11+ Rehab Centre" a quote by MSC