Time and time again I have had people tell me that I am so lucky to have such a dream job. To an outsider, teaching is all about the 9 to 3, the playing games and of course the school holidays. I cannot tell you the fury that builds up inside whenever someone tells me I have an easy job!
Until I was a teacher I didn't really have an opinion on the matter, I didn't know or appreciate what was involved in the job. All I knew was that I wanted to teach the children of our future, to give them knowledge to set them on their way through life. I thought that was the job I was applying for- I was wrong.
Within a few short weeks I knew I had entered a difficult profession, not that I had wanted an easy job of course but I didn't have any idea how difficult the job would turn out to be, how different it would be from the impression you are sold when you are training. It was not about the children at all.
For anyone who has ever wanted to go into teaching or ever felt the need to tell a teacher they have an easy job, here are the realities behind the ideal.
1. The Hours: People have the impression that teachers have it easy, they turn up just before the children and leave shortly after hometime. Unfortunately this is not the case, I would be there at 7.30am and would leave just before 6pm. That is a 10.5 hour day, putting in work behind the scenes long after the children have gone home, never switching off completely.
2. The Paperwork: This was the thing that really ruined the job for me. The amount of paperwork we were expected to do each day could cause deforestation on its own! Apparently having a degree in teaching isn't enough these days, you need to write a novel for each lesson.
"Teachers don't know they're born with all of those holidays!"
3. The 'Holidays': Oh the 'discussions' I have had with friends over this one! First of all, of the 13 weeks we get as holidays, I would say I only ever enjoyed five weeks off each year. The rest of the time was spent catching up with paperwork or actually spent in school putting up displays or preparing the classroom. Secondly, we have to take those holidays when we are told, no galavanting when we fancy like other jobs. Don't even get me started on peak prices for holidays!
4. The Parents: I worked in a very difficult school with some challenging parents. I have been shouted at and made to feel very intimidated at times- not something you want to face every day. On the whole, they are fine but even the loveliest of parents can leave you feeling drained when they spend an hour after school wanting to discuss their wonderful child.
5. The Job Description: I am a teacher, a caregiver, a parent, a social worker, a cleaner, a friend, a nurse, a speech therapist... to name a few. I have bought clothes for the children, fed them breakfast and dealt with the most horrific of circumstances. Teaching was a side job to the rest of my duties, a minor piece in the jigsaw of my days.
6. The School Day: The amount we are supposed to fit into one day is absurd. Our days were filled with so many lessons the children didn't know whether they were coming or going! The government is constantly bringing out new initiatives and we are then expected to squeeze another lesson into the already jam packed timetable!
7. The Life: Teaching isn't a job, it is a way of life- that is why I had to leave. As a full time teacher I worked seven days a week, my house was always full of books and planning folders and I spent many sleepless nights worrying about the children in my class. When I had my own children I knew I couldn't be that person anymore, my own children would have to come first.
When I first started teaching I was full of hope and excitement but after years of school politics, observations and mounting pressure, my chosen profession was ruined for me. I knew that to be the best mother to my girls I would have to give it all up- there is no room for both in my life.
Will I go back? There will have to be serious changes to the system to tempt me, but never say never. The children will always remain the same, they are still little minds that need moulding and that is something that I will always love.
Katy blogs about her life with two little girls over at What Katy Said- a Parenting and Lifestyle blog aiming to inspire people to have happy days.