Teaching is mainly the profession of women. In our primary schools men are scarcely existent, and yet they seem to often get the top jobs. Women have always been drawn to teaching. Perhaps it is the maternal bones in our bodies. Perhaps it is because of societal expectations. Or perhaps it is simply because women are clever. Teaching is, after all, the best job in the world.
As the teacher who spoke of the 'broken education system' at the Conservative Party conference late last year, I have the reputation of hating state schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Teaching is thrilling because no day is the same. Teachers change lives. Indeed, they change the world.
What I miss about teaching is the children. They are so funny and interesting. They see things differently and make us adults consider alternative interpretations of the obvious. For months now, I haven't been able to sort something on my new Blackberry. It was really annoying. When I was a teacher, I would have asked a kid at school to do it, but this time there weren't any kids around.
Women sometimes choose to go into teaching because they think that the teaching schedule will fit nicely around their families. If their kids go to school and they also work at school, it seems the perfect combination. They quickly realise that this was just a pipe dream. Teachers work all hours and the fantasy of a 9am to 3pm life is a myth that was invented to back the line that all teachers are lazy. The reality is that teachers have days that resemble something more like 7:30am to 6pm or 7pm, and then they take more work home with them. Many a time I have seen female teachers struggling, because the workload is heavy, and they feel as if they are neglecting their families. I have always looked at the mothers at school and wondered how on earth they do it.
Superwomen, that's what they are. They are the kinds of women who are so extraordinary that the rest of us look at them in wonder. Somehow they manage to find that exceptional daycare centre that will allow them to drop the children off before 8am, zoom to work, lessons already prepared from the night before, dazzle children and staff throughout the day, attend meetings after school, perhaps dash out 'early' at 5pm to get to the daycare to pick up the kids, get them fed and washed and put to bed. Eventually when all is quiet at 9pm and any normal person would collapse on the bed, our superwoman gets her books out because she still has all of her planning to do for the following day!
Mother or not, teaching is hard going. But that's also why it is so rewarding. It might sound cliché, but the more you put into it, the more you get out. Teaching really is the best job in the world.
Katherine Birbalsingh is a teacher, education activist and author. Her new book To Miss with Love is currently the book of the week on Radio 4. To find out more about Katherine please visit her website www.katharinebirbalsingh.com.