Advantages Lots of lovely holidays - and the pay's not bad
Disadvantages It can be a 24 / 7 job if you let it
I love teaching. Most people who know me and are not teachers think I am mad - hence the title of this op. Before I go about dissecting the pros and cons of this profession, I'll first give you an insight into the highs and lows of a week in teaching. Everything I am about to report is true. I apologise now if I swear, or offend anyone.MONDAY:
Today is 'S' day for every Year 9 pupil in the country - yes, they're sitting their SATs. Most specifically they are sitting their English SATs today which, as Head of Department, I am responsible for ensuring run smoothly. Myself and my trusty second in command haul the packages of papers out of the high security vault wither they have lain for the past 'x' number of weeks and proceed to sort them out. With trembling fingers we open the paper to see what delightful texts have been thrown at the year 9s. We breathe a sigh of relief - nothing too boring - unlike last year!
For some reason unknown to us, the powers that be have decided to put each of us in one of the exam halls for the whole day. Imagine it - six hours of pacing up and down a smelly, airless gym, keeping an eagle-eye out for would-be cheaters. I limit the boredom by offering encouraging smiles to the pupils I have been preparing for this day and, when necessary, offering words of comfort to those for whom the whole exam situation is just too much. Lunchtime is spent sorting out the papers from the morning exam and setting up the hall for the afternoon exam. Who needs lunch anyway?
The Shakespeare paper, the one everyone dreads, takes place in the afternoon. At one point I am called over by a boy I have been desperately trying to help understand 'Macbeth'. In a low whisper he tells me that the 'Macbeth' question isn't as hard as he thought it was going to be. I smile and tell him (tongue in cheek) that's because he's had such a brilliant English teacher to help him. He grins in response and continues writing.
I get irate when, at the end of the day, my 2nd and I are left to sort and check the papers ourselves DESPITE promises made by a deputy head to help out.
The English SATs extension paper. The same deputy head who agreed to help sort out the papers on Tuesday, tells me that we will complete the marksheets etc during lunchtime so that the papers can be bagged and sent off to the marker. I go to the arranged meeting place and find myself doing the marksheets alone. To say I am p****** off is an understatement - for the third day this week I have forfeited my lunchtime. I leave a note for the deputy telling him how much I was able to get done during the lunchbreak and asking him to finish off, seeing as I had done most the work. At 3:00pm I got a note saying he couldn't finish the papers as he had (and I quote) '.. a cup final to go to.' The air turns blue.
A beautiful thing happens in my Year 8 class, reminding me of exactly why I became a teacher. A notoriously difficult boy, who has a home life you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, proudly presents me with the first piece of homework he has completed this year. The obvious pride he takes in this achievement and his response to the praise I heap on him, brings a glow to my heart and reminds me that in this school I CAN make a difference to people’s lives.At the end of the day, the whole staff are invited to partake of a pint of stress-relieving lager by our magnanimous head teacher. Being grabbers of anything that’s going for free my 2nd and I head for the beer, only to find we are the only ones who have bothered to turn up. We find ourselves doing what has become something of a Friday ritual for us – we sit and yap about school, the week, the incompetence of certain members of senior management – until we are joined by three more de-stressing lager louts. By four o’ clock we have supped up and gone our separate ways. The weekend beckons and the sun is shining – what more could you ask for?
I think that the above demonstrates the very best things about teaching and some of the worst things too. The relationships you develop with pupils (oy! Don’t be rude!) and the positive input you can make into their lives cannot have a price tag attached. Which is why, despite all the gruffling and grumbling you get about pay from teachers, this is one profession where the money will never add up to corporate salaries. Teaching is a vocation, and there will always be people called into teaching by a set of values that do not measure success by monetary gain. The holidays are good too, although there is a growing tendency in certain schools to expect teachers to go in during half terms and holidays to offer revision classes / coursework classes / extra teaching classes. I would recommend all teachers in all schools to resist such moves – what starts out as a voluntary activity becomes obligatory and it can become hard to say ‘No’.The biggest thing against teaching is the paperwork and the jumping through hoops that seems to be a part of the current educational climate. That, and incompetent senior management teams who make the lives of those lower down on the educational ladder unnecessarily more complicated than they need to be. I wish I could say that this experience was very much a personal one, but having spoken with teachers in other schools, sadly I know that this is not the case.
As a young high flyer (I made Head of department after five years of teaching), I would heartily recommend not rushing headlong towards the promotional ladder. Take the time to learn your craft (for teaching is a craft) and develop the resources you will come to rely on so heavily when you find that the administration of the job you applied for to add that £1,000 per annum to your salary takes away all time for planning and preparation.And don’t forget the holidays – they really are the best you can get. Thirteen weeks of paid leave each year - it makes even the most difficult pupils in the school seem worthwhile!
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