So here it is, the week where we’re all back to school as teachers and pupils. To mark such occasion, I wanted to talk about what being a teacher is like from my perspective. Of course these opinions are my opinions and may not necessarily represent the views of the general population.
We hear all the time about what being a primary school teacher is about from the perspective of the government, but what we also hear is what the teachers themselves describe as their daily life. Things that the government often mention is that the job starts at 9am and finishes around 3.30pm, the job has a significant amount of holiday time amongst other things. These are often joked about by comedians when it comes to education, but I’m going to offer an insider view as to what the profession is really about. Yes I’m a final year student, but having spent 4 years in the profession already, I have already had a good amount of experience of what it means to be a teacher.
What you see as a parent is that you drop your child off at school around 8.50am for school to start at 9am (obviously I’m aware that times vary from area to area but this is an average) and then pick your child up again around 3pm. In that time you expect a teacher to be teaching lessons of different subjects and broadening the depths of knowledge that the child can take forward. But what you don’t see is the amount of work that goes on in order to make those lessons happen. The hours of planning and resourcing spent both in school and at home, the marking of the kids’ work to inform these hours of planning. I often arrive at school around 7.30am and often leave sometime around 6pm and sometimes even later in order to keep up with the workload. I have to say even with this amount of time, sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough hours in the day to keep up. What does this mean? We need to use our weekends as well. In short, teaching isn’t a 9 till 3.30, 5 days a week job, it’s a lifestyle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This notion of doing the job for the holidays as well is naïve. Whilst the children get a 6 week holiday or sometimes 7 week holiday in the summer, what are the teachers doing? Well whilst some people believe we all go on holidays in the sun, what the vast majority of us do is spend a lot of time planning lessons for the next batch of children coming through our classroom doors in September. We also have to set our classrooms up (these things don’t appear by magic you know) in the best possible way to promote a love of learning in our classroom. In reality we might be lucky to get a couple of weeks to be able to wind down to ourselves.
Pay and salary is a topic that has come up a lot in the last few years with all these strikes over pensions and conditions. I’ve done a bit of research and the average pay per annum for an NQT (which I will be soon) is around £22k outside of London, around £28k inside London. With the amount of hours put into our work, that equates to around £3 per hour. Doesn’t seem like much does it?
So despite all this, what brought me into the teaching profession? Well Sue Cowley describes education and teaching as one of the most challenging yet most rewarding professions in the world. In the current circumstances you’d find it hard to disagree with that. I went into the profession because the thought of having an impact on the future of our children’s lives, from being able to put a smile on their face today, to seeing them graduate into long and successful lives in the days of tomorrow fills me with a great sense of pride and honour that you do not get from a desk job. Sure the job has it’s stresses, whether it’s caused by the government constantly on our backs, or the child who just decided they didn’t want to do the work you put so much effort into planning in that one day. But do you know what? For me the rewards outweigh the stresses. You pour all your emotion into teaching, and I have all sorts of cards and drawings that the kids have made for me, and there is no greater thing than a memory of every class you teach. I will look back on my journey when I eventually retire (who knows how old will I be when that happens) and will look back on all those young people I’ve had an impact on and be proud of what I’ve achieved.