Recently constantly juggling family life and being a teacher has taken its toll. But I can’t work out why. Family life is the same as ever – a mixture of chaos and cuddles – and on the face of it my job is the easiest its ever been. My timetable is lovely. The students are lovely. My colleagues are lovely. So everything is lovely, right?
Wrong. To paraphrased Hamlet – there is something rotten in the state of education and it is draining many members of the teaching profession, including me.
The shadow of austerity has hung over pretty much half of my teaching career and it is making the vocation that I entered even harder than ever.
So how was my job different pre-2010 to post-2010 and how are the children in our schools being effected?
Teaching has always been intense. During my first two years of working in the classroom I would regularly work a 50+ hour week. I used to jump out of bed on a Saturday morning and plan all my A Level lessons for the week ahead. However, as a profession we were less stressed.
Morale was fairly high and so it was easier to be engaging, compassionate and empathetic with colleagues and the students in our charge. This may not be the case in lots of schools at the moment. Stressed out teachers are just in self-preservation mode and may appear snappy, ‘jobsworthy’ or unsupportive due to the immense pressure and strain that they themselves are feeling. This is not to say that there are not still lots of teachers going ‘the extra mile’ for those they work with but this is becoming more difficult when paperwork and the pressures of student attainment are mounting up for those at ‘the chalk face’.
And yet while the situation in classrooms worsen, expectations of our teachers continue to rise. It is clear that the drive to raise standards rests firmly on the shoulders of teachers.
But our own living and working standards are falling. Real pay is falling, workload rising and morale is at rock bottom. We are being squeezed. There is only a certain about of time people can work in this situation before it negatively affects their well-being and that of their family. And so teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
So far I have continued to teach in these times. It is not a decision made for financial reasons. I pay as much in childcare as I earn. You see I’ve always got enough signs from the people I work with that I am making a difference. The thank you cards, the examination results, the smiles and heartfelt goodbyes at the end of an academic year. My gut feeling.
And yet this seems to be changing. I don’t believe in the curriculum I teach anymore. Anglo-centric history that doesn’t celebrate diversity nor teach about other cultures the way we did pre-Gove (yes his legacy as Education Minister still lives on despite him no longer being in office). And I am constantly thrown into situations I feel out of my depth in as CPD opportunities dry up due to budget cuts. We are finding our way with lots of things – new GCSEs, how to help students in this age of social media, the mental health crisis hitting our young people, the list goes on.
And so to get to the title of this post. The other day I was listening to the radio and it was a feature about toxic people and how to handle them. The expert advised for people to ask a question of the people around them and if the answer was ‘yes’ then essentially you should cut and run.
The question was: ‘Am I being harmed more than the good that I do?’
It dawned on me that this question could also apply to the teaching profession. And in all honestly I think – yes. At this moment I may be being harmed by my day job more than the good that I do for the students I teach.
Maybe it’s just because it’s January I’m feeling this way.
Or maybe the career I entered fifteen years ago has become a toxic profession.
This post was first published here.