Going into Teaching? Read This First
If you are going into teaching having been persuaded by the rose-tinted ads that the government have been running over the past few years, read this article and think again.
Teachingis great after the first five years, and for the next ten. After the age of 40 most teachers are past it and planning their escape from teaching. If you are going into teaching having been persuaded by the rose-tinted ads that the government have been running over the past few years, read this article and think again.
Teachers are poorly paid and have appalling working conditions. Forget the holidays you will be too exhausted to appreciate them and you will have school work to do in them any way.
I was told to mark every student’s book once a week. This was an impossible task when I taught 14 classes from year 7 through to A-level, with an average 30 students in a class, 420 books to mark every week. If each one takes only 5 minutes, that is 2100 minutes, 35 hours or 5 hours a night 7 days a week.
Teachers are expected to achieve the impossible. They are expected to prepare lessons, teach in a bright and breezy manner, attend pointless meetings and at the end of a stressful day do bus or detention duty and then spend another 5 hours marking books!
I stopped giving homework, so I would not have to mark so many books. Homework is a pointless exercise anyway, imposed by parents on teachers and students. The time homework takes from a 40 minute lesson destroys the lesson. Consider:
- 5 minutes for class to arrive and be seated
- 5 minutes to take check everyone is present and to give out books
- 5 minutes to go through the homework
- 5 minutes to rebuke those students who had chosen not to do the homework, while other students listen
- 15 minutes teaching time
- 5 minutes to give the next homework
20 minutes out of every 40 minute lesson taken up with homework related tasks.
I was given a few slaps on the wrists for not setting homework, agreed to change my ways and carried on regardless. I thought and still think that the important part of the teaching job is being fresh for the classroom, with energy and anecdotes to make the teaching relevant and interesting. How was I supposed to have any energy to teach if I was supposed to mark books for 5 hours every evening?
Every teacher I knew was making compromises somewhere in the endless series of impossible tasks expected of us. Some did no lesson preparation, some sat in class marking homeworks and some gave up all life outside teaching and had nervous breakdowns.
A teacher’s salary is not enough to drive anybody to a nervous breakdown.
Most teachers need to earn extra money to pay the bills because the pay is not good. I was in this position and had to spend my evenings giving private tuition for three hours a night. Exam marking was another little earner I had.
There are four stages to a teacher’s career:
- Knowingly Incompetent – Years 1-5
- Knowingly Competent – Years 6-8
- Unknowingly Competent – Years 9-30
- Unknowingly Incompetent – Years 31-40
When teachers start in the classroom they cannot do a good job of teaching, and most are aware of the problems that their lack of experience causes. At 22 years old student/teacher relationships can cause problems as well. This is the Knowingly Incompetent stage of your teaching career. You know you are not a good teacher yet and you are working on it. You think about your teaching.
If a teacher sticks at it for five years until age 27 he or she should be a good teacher by that time. This is the Knowingly Competent stage of your teaching career. You know you are a good teacher and you think about it and work on it all the time.This stage lasts for about three years to age 30.
From about age 30 to 50 most teachers are at the Unknowingly Competent stage of their teaching careers. They are good teachers, but they don’t think about it any more.
The final stage of your teaching career starts somewhere between ages 50 and 60. This is the Unknowingly Incompetent stage of teaching. You fail to recognise that the standard of your teaching is deteriorating, that you are not putting in the effort that is needed any more. This is the stage when most teachers start to plan their retirement or to look into early retirement. They stop thinking about their teaching altogether.
Before you commit to a teaching career spend some time in a school and talk to the teachers there, listen to everyone, from the young and enthusiastic new recruits to the battle hardened cynics. Listen and think long and hard. Yes the holidays are good but are they worth enough to you to make up for the rest?