But teacher to teacher, you know I don't mean you personally. You just might not ever be good enough for the current system. And once you realise this, you can possibly breathe a sigh of relief and make some choices.
Are you like me and know many friends and colleagues who have had nervous breakdowns? Have stood in lessons and cried, who get home in their car night after night, weeping at the wheel and who get up in the morning and dread going to school? You might be this person. And there is no shame in it.
And it's not even just about the paperwork. What exactly is it? Can we have this conversation? Because when we pinpoint it, change will come.
A memory comes to mind.
When I started teaching in 1998, I enjoyed myself immensely, until OFSTED came in and told me that they had to fail a lesson because the inspector couldn't see how my class 'progressed from A to B'. She turned up ten minutes late to my lesson, left ten minutes early and my class (who deemed themselves to be 'bottom set' did make huge strides in their learning in that short time, she just didn't know them so didn't realise. I was so proud of them all. I ripped up the report. I felt childish doing this but it didn't make any sense to me what had happened.
An inspector with UFOs on his tie was called into another lesson promptly after the 'failed' lesson to double check me. This lovely chap came in, all smiles, watched me for ten minutes, came over to me and whispered in my ear, 'Nothing to worry about here - I'm going to leave you to it,' and left my classroom.
I know many people who are wonderful teachers but if someone just pops in with a clipboard and a very official and stern looking face then they turn to jelly. Can there be another way to assess each other rather than striking fear into the individual? I wonder if an inspector could turn up half way through a surgeon's operation? No one is completely themselves when being observed so formally, so why continue with this practice?
Teachers observing other teachers. Continual assessment. Always feeling watched and plotting results on a chart or graph. Yes, we need to grow and we need to develop but this system is not working. It can't be because now a large percentage of new teachers are leaving the profession within five years of starting.
This debate is going to continue and continue and there will be many more casualties. Unfortunately I have witnessed too many to count but I have something to say. I hope it may be of some comfort to you.
Dear teacher... you are good enough. Yes, you! I am talking about you who was so sweet and kind and a wonderful teacher but no matter what you did, it was never good enough, even when people turned up half way through your lessons and then graded you down because it wasn't the part they actually wanted to see. You, the teacher who was left with 30 five-year olds for a whole lesson with no teaching assistant and was expected to keep an eye on all those little tender souls moving around the room by yourself. You, the teacher who was told you were in danger of losing your job. You, the teacher who finally fainted and had to leave and are still recovering and re-building your life today.
The teachers, including me, who cried because they skipped lunch but still didn't have a lesson prepared. The teachers who didn't have a clue what they were doing because their team were not united and they didn't have proper plans in place. The teacher who had an observation of a near perfect lesson but couldn't pass because one child finished his work too early. The teacher who was bullied consistently, by another teacher, not physically but by being routinely ignored and cold-shouldered. The teacher who stayed up until 1am every single night planning, preparing, marking and not seeing his children, nearly getting a divorce because teaching was taking every ounce of his being.
Dear teacher, you are good enough but this situation doesn't just need fixing, it needs to be completely re-built from the ground up and it is going to take time. You may have to decide if you want to carry on regardless, because of your love for the children whilst education reforms. It is not going to happen overnight.
If you feel ill because of your job... please don't keep going for the sake of your school. I have seen too many casualties now and some have still not repaired. Take stock and reassess. If you can carry on, do. If your health and family are suffering, please do not feel bad in the slightest if you decide to leave. You have not failed... you are in the midst of a failing system.
Dear teacher... please don't judge yourself from other teacher's feedback. Assess yourself by the happiness and well being of your students. I did, and I still consider myself a bloody fabulous teacher! I bet you are too.Suggest a correction