I love my job, I really do. In fourteen years of teaching there has never been a day when I haven’t got a buzz from going into work. I love the banter with kids, colleagues. I love the chaos of the school day, the unpredictability of a huge establishment full of people. I love learning to be better, helping others to learn to be better. I have seen the way I can affect change in a child’s life – both positively and negatively – and understand the importance of what I do. Being a teacher is a great life. I love it, but it hasn’t been easy.
Scratch below the surface and you’ll find a teacher who struggles to keep up at times. I’ve seen teachers who are naturally suited to the job. They connect wonderfully with people in and out of the classroom. They immediately click once lessons start. I’m not one of them. I’ve had to work hard at that. There is much of this job which I find difficult everyday. I still can be tetchy with kids when my message doesn’t get across. Not often now, I work very hard at that too. However, the soft side of teaching has been a problem for me in the past. I’m better now.
Added to that, what others outside teaching may not see, are the late, late nights marking and preparing. The extra early mornings when I need to go in and prepare classes, photocopy etc. The odd, unfathomable, undeserved, unprepared for parental complaint. The punch in the solar plexus which leaves you winded longer than it really should. Sacrificing social events, visits to the cinema and the theatre – weekdays especially – that you can never get back. Being a teacher is a wonderful fairground ride but it can make you feel slightly queasy at times. I think we have responsibility to talk about those things more than we do.
After my last post, on marking, I received some comments from people who felt that marking everything was just not possible. I tried to explain in the post that I only mark things which pupils will work on afterwards. It is challenging but necessary. It takes up an awful lot of my time. I often want to avoid it but I know that I will be doing the children a disservice, and letting myself down. I wrote the post because I thought it was an important change in my teaching life. I wanted to share that.
I was present at PedagooLondon last week and I heard the great, great John Tomsett talking about how he felt it was his professional responsibility to share. He’s right, of course. However, we must ensure that, for the sake of every colleague out there, that we share the failures and the disasters and the private dark moments we all feel at times. The ugly things we sometimes feel that we don’t want to do. The sinking feeling we get when we see that pile of marking eyeing us aggressively from the corner of the room on a Sunday night. The problem pupil who seems to be winning. The things we try to push out of our minds.
But when we face up to it, do the work and come out at the other end it is, as I said at the start, a job and a life which I absolutely love. I make the sacrifices and I see the benefits of everything I do and it makes me a better teacher. It does us no favours if we turn away from the challenges we face. I started blogging to discuss all things teaching but I now feel more of a responsibility to be honest about the difficulties I face. It is my professional responsibility to do that.
I’ve had discussions with others this week about the life of a teacher, especially now that one starting in the profession may be working until their late sixties, at least. If you’re not up to that, don’t do this. It is a job which never goes away. It’s a commitment that you need to sign up to whole-heartedly or not at all. I love my job. But it is never easy.