I had a few meetings last week where I found that my year 11s would be having a different teacher for the rest of the year. This was because me leaving in January would be a big disruption and we all agreed the earlier it was done the better. However it left me thinking of how that would affect me when I came back from my travels.
I know that leaving just one term after completing my NQT year is not ideal anyway, but not having really taught year 11 could cause me serious issues when trying to find another job. I also thought about what I want when or if I come back. I don't want to come back and go into the same job with the same people. I want to do more, contribute more, I want to be a second in department.
Years ago I'm sure this would have been impossible, but with the job climate for teachers, especially math teachers, there is the possibility I could do this, if I put the effort in now and possibly while I'm away.
So, what can I do?
Last year I ran a more able borough completion for KS4. It went great and I'd love to make it an annual thing. My head of department agreed and was more than happy when I suggested I do it again.
I also similarly ran a primary school day, but I just won't have time to do that again this year, though it was so much fun! We did the spaghetti and marshmallow challenge, the library was a mess but well worth it!
But a year or more gap in my employment history is allways going to be a red flag in education. So bottom line I have to do something while I'm away. I'm really close to getting my level 1 BSL, and I'd really like to complete my level 2 online while away, but this would majorly eat into my budget!
Mainly though, I want to visit schools while I'm away, experience the culture in schools, see how different they are to the ones here in England. I have nothing forcing me to return to England so if I manage to get into other schools I could end up moving to another country.
I realised a long time ago that teaching was what I wanted to do with my life, at the end of it all I do love my job. BUT our education system doesn't work and it's getting worse, I think if I found one that was good I'd want to stay there.
Ofcourse I'd like to see all the different types of schools, even those that are not well off. I did my dissertation in Kenya going into various schools in small villages. The schools were made of corrugated metal or mud, but the students passion for learning was incredible. Students would walk for 3 hours to get to school! They wouldn't even complain as they knew how much of a privilege it was too be able to go to school. Unlike a student I had today, who tried to make a case for why students should be paid to go to school, like they're doing us a favour. Needless to say I was shocked. But that may be the crux of the problem with some of our students, they think that school is a chore, something they are forced to do, so they don't appreciate what their lives would be like without it.
So the five year plan?
Do what I love for as long as I can, teach, somewhere, and experience everything I can.
I just really hope that when I come back I can find a second in department job up the payscale and the housing market hasn't gotten so rediculous that I end up living with my parents forever!
My first day back was yesterday and for the first time in a long time I had an anxiety attack. I was laying in bed the night before and I just started to panic, overthinking every single thing. My heart was racing, I could hardly breath and I felt closterphobic in my own body. I was up until at least 3 am worrying leaving less than 3 hours sleep. I went to work the next day, a training day, saw my friends and had a laugh about how rediculous it was to get an anxiety attack over coming back. But, as I spoke to them almost all of them said they had had a similar thing happen. I couldn't believe it, could that be real? Do that many of us really have that bad a reaction to returning to school?
The guardian did a study in March of nearly 4,500 teachers, 75% of which said that teaching was having a serious impact on their mental health. The study also talks about teachers leaving, with 43% saying they were planning on leaving within 5 years.
I found countless blogs and tweets with plenty of anecdotal evidence of this, but you have one right here! I was so depressed I decided I had to take a break from my career to sort myself out, I've only been out of university 2 years! Ofcourse I can't blame all my issues on teaching but it's a contributing factor.
If we are going to be forced into longer days and new curricula, focused only on data, then teachers are going to suffer, but more importantly this will impact on the students. Do we really want to churn out robots who can only regurgitate what we've told them, not think for themselves?
I don't know where the education system will be in a year let alone 5 or 10 but honestly, this level of stress and anxiety cannot and will not be maintained by the current workforce. We already have a serious shortage of staff, our school has numerous long term supply, many of whom they acknowledge are not great, but whom we need. When I interviewed for my job I was the only interviewee. None of this is surprising when you think of how a teachers life is portrayed: long hours, naughty kids, poor pay and a government that doesn't care.
I personally don't work that many hours, mainly because I refuse to, but also because NQT timetables are lighter, this year I fear things may change and I'm not sure I'll be able to handle things if they do. I love the kids, it's the reason most of us go into teaching, the majority of them are lovely and even those who act up are usually good kids at heart, but there are classes where I know they have just put all the kids who play up together in a lower set, which is far from fair on the lower ability students who generally care. I teach this group first thing tomorrow morning and I honestly have already cried over it. Does that mean I won't turn up tomorrow, optimistic as hell to try and get these students an education, absolutely not, they deserve for me to walk in and treat them as if I have no idea who they are, which is exactly what I'll do, but it will take every bit of energy to do it and I have 3 other new classes afterward. Which brings me to the pay. I don't mind telling you I earn around £25000 soon to be £28000, personally I think that's pretty good, but I am a math teacher so I did the math :
Assuming I only work 8:30-3:30
That's 7 hours a day or 35 hours a week, we teach 39 weeks a year, so 1365 hours a year.
25000/1365=£18.32 per hour
Now can anyone tell me a single teacher that works these hours? Even i get in at 7:15 and leave around 4 and I'm one of the earliest to leave!
The same survey I mentioned earlier found over 75% of teachers work between 49 and 65 hours a week £10.41-£7.85 an hour.
And that is a joke. Really. Our profession has become a punchline.
So what can we do? Go to the doctor get signed off sick? Maybe. For some that should be the answer, for now at least, while they get better. Go private? Where the students are better behaved, there's more pay, more control over curricula. Again a valid option, but not easy to get into, those jobs are highly sought after. Quit, find another career? I couldn't, but plenty can and will.
I guess I chose to take a break and wait it out, see if the grass is greener on the other side of the world or if our grass can be brought back from the brink of ruin.
Id love to know if anyone else has had similar problems, comment or message me on twitter.