When I walked away from teaching to become a stay at home mum I was at the top of my game. An outstanding teacher who had secured two promotions and I was about to be promoted again. I was in a job that I loved yet I chose to leave.
I worked in a secondary comprehensive school in Bradford. According to a recent survey, Bradford is a Local Authority where two thirds of the teaching profession are likely to leave their school in the next year and over half are considering leaving the profession entirely. That survey paints a picture of a very dissatisfied workforce yet the teachers I worked with were anything but. Yes they were exhausted and burnt out but they were also passionate, driven and extremely hard-working. The most loyal group of people you could ever find with the kind of camaraderie that I doubt I will ever find again. I worked hard, leaving the house at 6:30am before my daughter had even woken up.
By the time I had arrived at school the staff work room would already be busy with teachers checking resources, planning lessons and looking over their marking. It was hard work and it was relentless. I wanted to ensure that I delivered the best lesson for my pupils, that every pupil was engaged and learning. Yet this took its toll and became more and more of an administrative nightmare and less about the teaching. There were the constantly moving goal posts, changes to how you should mark, and shifting expectations of what constitutes good progress. After I had finished teaching for the day I would then either be marking, planning, filling in paperwork, ringing parents, running detentions or after-school booster classes.
At quarter to 5 I would dash out of the door to collect my daughter from her childminder and on arriving home cook her dinner and start the bedtime routine until her Dad arrived back home at 6:30. He would then take over and I would go back to marking and planning. I usually worked until 10:00pm most nights and most of Sunday. Sometimes it would be Saturday too. I probably saw my daughter for less than ten hours a week. My family life was suffering but I loved teaching and didn't want to have to choose between my career and my family.
I was passionate about teaching. I wanted to enthuse and engage every child in my classroom which with the average class size being 30 pupils plus was no mean feat. But I did it. I prided myself on teaching everyone well. But Gove signalled the end for me. His elitist views on what constituted as teaching and what our pupils should be learning baffled and angered me in equal measure.
The man was completely out of touch as to what goes on in a school and out of touch with the needs of pupils. My daughter at 6 years old spends her Friday nights doing grammar work which last Friday saw her working on possessive pronouns and prepositional phrases. Work that is so tedious I worry that it is going to turn her off school. You might think that learning the nuts and bolts of grammar at such a young age is a good thing but the problem is that the teacher is under so much pressure to get through everything in class that the parent also has to help by teaching their child when they get home. Trying to teach a six year old about apostrophes when they are already exhausted from a day at school is not easy and I'm a teacher! Teaching is no longer about inspiring your pupils instead it's about ticking the boxes. Gove and his successor, Morgan, are creating an army of drones.
My children's generation aren't allowed to be creative instead they are drilled on how to regurgitate facts and pass exams like robots. Politicians have made the new curriculum so elitist that it is zapping the joy from teaching and learning. There is no time for my six year old daughter to just read a book purely for enjoyment, now she needs to be explaining in complex sentences what can be inferred from the book.
I saw my pupils as individuals yet the new expectations meant that I wasn't allowed to, instead I had to view them as a statistic. They became grouped; below target, on target, above target. With more paperwork to be filled in on how I was going to ensure each group reached their target. Ludicrous. Despite this I continued. I was dedicated to teaching and I hoped and wished that common sense would eventually prevail. Yet whilst off on maternity leave with my second daughter I had an epiphany. I was enjoying being at home with my children, having the time to sit and chat with my oldest about her day. I now had the time to listen to her. I had to admit to myself that I had been sacrificing the needs of my daughter for my pupils. Yet Gove would have scoffed saying that I needed to work harder. Well he was right I did need to work harder but on my own family.
I was good at my job but I was failing my family. The birth of my second daughter made me realise that I couldn't continue as a teacher. I was one of the many teachers leaving the profession but this wasn't for the reasons the media would have you believe. I wasn't lazy and I wasn't a failure, I just realised that I couldn't balance being a good teacher with being a good Mum. I have not regretted my decision for one minute but do I miss teaching? Absolutely. However I decided that it was about time I put my family first and with the damage this government has done to our education system I don't think I will be returning to teaching anytime soon.
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