Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Why I can't proceed with teacher training

Some of you might be aware that at the beginning of the year I made a life changing decision. I decided to become a teacher. Upon making this decision I proceeded to do lots of research, gain school experience, I attended the Train2Teach Roadshow and I started reading up on my chosen subject so that I would have a good chance of getting accepted onto my PGCE course and so that I would be confident by the time I was let loose on a class of 12 year olds.

I was committed.

Lots of people observed that I would make a fantastic English teacher, I had a good few years of publishing experience, I love literature (and talking about it) and I had a good deal of experience doing public speaking and presentations through church so people knew that I could engage a crowd. I'm also passionate about young people fulfilling their potential and rising up to be all that they're called to be.

I knew that it would be hard. I knew that there would be some tough days ahead. I watched Tough Young Teachers with great interest but it didn't put me off. This was something I really wanted to do. I really wanted to share my passion for the English language with the next generation.

I wanted kids to be passionate about reading and learning.

I knew that a good grasp of the English language would hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives because if you can communicate the written word effectively, you can go on to achieve anything.

I wanted children to experience the joy of reading - and understanding - classic fiction as well as contemporary fiction.

I wanted to educate the next generation of authors, journalists, play-writes, screenwriters, actors and politicians.

I embarked on work experience with great excitement and trepidation. Would I be able to engage with teenagers on any level? Was this all a pipe dream? Could I really become a teacher?

I loved it.

So why, come September, will I not be entering the gates of my local university with my fellow PGCE students?

Well, quite simply, I have a life.

I have a child, who I love more than other people's children.

I want more children, and my body clock won't wait.

I have commitments outside of employment which require my evenings and weekends.

I need to work to live, not live to work.

I knew that it would be tough. I knew that teachers work hard and work long. I knew that. But what I realised during the course of all of my research and all of my work experience, was that every teacher I spoke to was working, on average, 70 hours a week. They work 8am-6pm at school, they work for two hours every evening, and most devote time (often one day) at the weekend as well. This was the same across the board, whatever level of responsibility, whatever type of school.

And when they're working, the level of intensity with which they're required to work, is beyond manageable. There is no let-up. They don't get breaks. They spend their lunch times having meetings, supervising clubs or the canteen, holding detentions, marking, planning, assessing. Even when they take a quick break in the staff room they use that time to have quick chats with fellow colleagues to discuss and resolve classroom issues. They do not stop.

It was recently reported that one in four teachers don't make it past the first year with four in ten quitting within five years. Why? Because they're burnt out.

In the corporate world if you have to give a presentation you would spend a good few hours - even a day - researching and preparing for it. And yet teachers are expected to deliver six high quality, hour long, unique presentations to the toughest of crowds every single day. How is this possible?

So, Nicky Morgan, if you're reading this. You need to do something. You are missing out on a generation of high quality candidates because you can't find a way to give teachers the chance to do their jobs well and have a life at the same time. I would have made a really rubbish teacher straight out of university - I had no confidence, no life experience, and was barely five years older than the kids I would want to teach.

But now, at a point in my life where I would make an awesome teacher, when I am more passionate about English than ever before, when my previous work and life experience actually gives me the credibility to teach, I have other commitments that will not wait for me to finish all that planning and marking.

My daughter will not care that she has my undivided attention for five weeks every summer, if I can't give her my undivided attention of an evening to help her with her homework. No amount of money in the world would make up for me missing out on my family.

So, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to the generation of kids who are missing out on awesome, passionate teachers because they're unable to devote the 50, 60, 70 hours per week required.

I'm sorry to my future self who may well regret my decision not to proceed.

I'm sorry to my kids and family, who would have benefited from me having a stable career.

And I'm sorry to the existing teachers, who are picking up the slack and filling the gaps because there are not enough new teachers, and because so many are buckling under the pressure.

I'm sorry I couldn't help.


  1. I've been teaching for 5 years and it's rough. I manage my workload well so I leave shortly after school ends, to get home to my child, and I don't work in evenings. But the stress, the paperwork, the daily abuse from children who think you are scum ruining their lives, the lack of gratitude from management, the sheer workload of being expected to plan lessons, complete professional development, set and mark exam papers, find work for missing kids, find missing kids, and do it all with a smile is overwhelming at times. You're best off out of it. And, let's be clear, usually I like my job. But the reality is above!

    1. I have so much respect for you Sarah, all the teachers I worked with were amazing at what they did. It was a good school and a good department. But I couldn't help but think that if this was what it was like in a good school with good support and good management - what would it be like in a school where the support isn't great? And there's no guarantees that you would end up with that support. I just couldn't take the risk. I hope the positives outweigh the negatives for you though!

  2. I can totally see why you have made that decision! You had a gut feeling it wasn't right and your future self shouldn't regret your decision. You've made it with a good reason! :)

    1. Thanks Michelle, I'm sure that in a few years I'll have carved out a different path for myself and it will be just as satisfying. :)

  3. I wish that as a teacher of 6 years, I could disagree with you and encourage you to do what you love but I can't. I would like a way out of teaching. I spent too much time working and I'm glad that you have recognised that simply as someone looking into teaching as I think people often think we're exaggerating and moaning for the sake of it!

    1. Sadly so many teachers have said something similar to me. I so wanted people to reassure me that it isn't that bad, but unfortunately I think my observations were relatively accurate. I hope you manage to find some balance soon - but I have so much respect for what you do.

  4. It's a shame, but I can only see things getting worse rather than better, so you've made the right decision for you and your family

    1. Thank you. I hope there's still some quality teachers left by the time my kids enter the education system!

  5. Well done for taking a step back and recognising that your decision was the wrong one. That is very brave. I really admire anyone who goes into teaching...it is a generally thankless task and people really don't appreciate how much work goes into it. Good luck!

  6. Well done for taking a step back and recognising that your decision was the wrong one. That is very brave. I really admire anyone who goes into teaching...it is a generally thankless task and people really don't appreciate how much work goes into it. Good luck!

  7. I'm in the system myself (albeit currently on maternity leave). It's not an easy place to be at the moment and I have some worries about how challenging it will be with two small children.


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