Sunday, 24 March 2013

I'm still here. Will I be in another 3 years? #blogsync 3

This post is a response to the 3rd #blogsync topic of 'Wasted Investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?'

To see all other posts on this topic go to

I'm still here. Will I be in another 3 years?

I would love to answer this question with a whole hearted 100% YES! However, I have no idea what the next 3 years of my teaching career are going to present me with and as other posts on this topic have suggested, some teachers may have left the profession after their teacher training year and NQT year due to the sheer amount of work just not easing off. Sure, we all know it's hard work and that the first few years are tough, but then should we also expect things to get easier as we gain more experience and get used to the pressure and workload, perhaps this isn't going to be the case?!

What I do know is that this IS the profession for me, I love what I do and I'm constantly inspired by those I work with, the people I interact with on Twitter, and most students. There's a number of reasons why I haven't left yet (and why I'm pretty sure I won't be leaving anytime soon)and I think these reasons lie in my background coming into teaching:

1) I failed Uni 1st time round.
2) I worked abroad.
3) I've had so many different jobs I can't remember them all.
4) I did 2 years as a Cover Supervisor.
5) I completed by degree part time whilst doing 3) and 4).

Back when I was at college it got to the point in my A2 year where everyone was starting to apply to University. I still didn't know then what I wanted to do, or even what I should do. So, inevitably I followed the crowd like the sheep that I had become - merely following a path that essentially was what I was told I should be doing given by GCSE grades and A-Level predictions. It was almost as if college and University were expected of me. So, I applied to Universities and chose a course (Information Mathematics BSc) that I had little idea about, but fitted with the subjects I was doing at University. No wonder, towards the end of the 2nd year I decided to leave. This was a pretty low point as I had no idea where I was going next.

So, naturally, I became a holiday representative for a '18-30' holiday company. I lived and worked abroad in Ayia Napa, Cyprus and then Kardamena, Kos, Greece in the 2 summers I held this post. The reason I mention this is that this job was relentless and the hours I worked this role are pretty similar to those that I currently work as a teacher. You were under pressure constantly to hit sales targets and got very little sleep in entertaining your customers and ensuring they had the best holiday of their lives. This, alone, stood me in good stead for what I was to experience in my GTP year and now in my NQT year. The lack of sleep I managed to get working as a holiday rep has definitely benefited me in the sense that, since 2007, my body clock has not adhered to normal social conventions; very rarely am I asleep before midnight and I hate mornings. In addition, being a holiday representative gave me confidence, resilience and the ability to stand in front of hundreds of teenagers and not be afraid to make a fool out of myself.

However, during my year in Kos I decided enough was enough and I needed a 'sensible' career. So, I returned home and looked into what it was I was going to do. I had always had in the back of my mind the desire to become a teacher, being inspired by my form tutor that I had at school (Mr Dearsley) and so this was really the only thing that I thought of doing. Now, what did I need to do this...oh yes, a degree (at least I did back then)! So, I started to do my degree around the '9-5' jobs I held over a 2 year period. Luckily, a family friend was the manageress of an employment agency and so I was able to get a good amount of temporary jobs falling back on my GCSE/A-Level results. These jobs were very limited in the amount of time they took up past the point where I left the offices at 5pm, nothing like what I currently experience. This worked for me. I was able to get home and do my course reading, essay writing, research and essentially get my degree completed. At no point was I thinking about the job I was doing at the time and these ranged from doing customer service work to doing statistical analysis for holiday companies.

I was still missing something though - I needed to get into teaching somehow! The chance came at the most inopportune of moments, I was at a birthday party and one of my old MFL teachers was there. Naturally we got talking about school, the fact I was doing my degree part time to eventually become a teacher, and then that proverbial door opened...I was invited to take part on the school's year 8 Germany trip. Following the trip I was then offered a job as a Cover Supervisor.

This is the reason I'm still a teacher today - the experience I gained and the enlightenment as to what it was actual like to teach in a school when I was working as a Cover Supervisor had me under no illusions as to how difficult the job would be. I saw the worst of the worst when I was covering lessons. Behaviour in some of those lessons was awful. I had days when I thought 'why on earth do I want to be a teacher'. I had days where nothing seemed to make sense in terms of what staff where being asked to do one minute and then what they were being asked to do the next. Nonetheless, I survived, and in some respects I thrived too. For every bad moment I was able to find at least another 2 good moments to counter-balance the negatives. This, I feel, is (for some teachers) what they are missing coming into the profession - reality. No romanticised version of what school and teaching is like, but a real idea of what goes on, how to deal with it and what to do when things don't go exactly as planned.

I'm glad things didn't go as was initially planned for me, I'm glad I didn't go School --> College --> University --> PGCE --> Teacher, I needed more than this. I've come into the profession at a later point in life than I perhaps would have, I have far more experience than the typical NQT has, and I truly believe that without it I wouldn't have the strength to deal with everything the job entails.

So now I'm here what could put me off?

1) The workload?
2) Expectations of the job?
3) Further responsibilities?
4) Behaviour?
6) Other Staff?
7) *
8) *
9) *
10) *

*add as appropriate

As the above suggests, I can't think of 10 reasons - I've struggled to think of 6 and some of them are more as a consequence of the other posts I've read on this topic.

The workload could be a finishing factor. Like in a 'Mortal Combat' battle I could become so burnt out by the never decreasing workload that I'm stood dazed, weak and waiting for someone to respond to the 'FINISH HIM' cry.

The expectations on me as a teacher to do all those other duties beyond actually teaching my classes could cause me to end it all (my teaching career that is, not life itself); I'm talking mainly about all the meetings here I think?

Further responsibilities. This may be the most appropriate one for me personally I feel. I'm keen to improve and develop as a teacher, this inevitably will mean at some point I will want/look to take on more responsibility. Whether this be as a key stage coordinator or a 2nd in department, perhaps as an assistant head of house, an AST (or whatever they're being called now). I'm cautious about not diving into these positions too soon, for fear that the extra work will become the factor for wanting to leave. Being ready is essential. Am I ready - I'm not sure yet. Is it a reason some teachers leave the profession within the 1st 5 years? I'm sure it's at least someone's reason.

Behaviour. It could be that the deteriorating behaviour of students gets to me. But I do feel this is one for the more inexperienced. Those that perhaps were guarded away from the more difficult classes in their training year/NQT year. Those without the experience I had as a cover supervisor. NQTs are apparantly not to be given the most difficult classes to teach. I don't know how much this is true but I know I've got some tricky ones - has it affected me, no. Do I moan about having some of these classes and are they difficult to teach, oh yes!

OFSTED? They've been mentioned in the vast majority of posts in this month's #blogsync, and perhaps this is due to the fact that they are the pressure; the people for whom school's are 'performing'. I've experienced them come into my school when I was a cover supervisor and put the school in special measures. The effect they had on staff moral was shocking, the atmosphere they leave in the place when they're gone is edgy at best and there is definitely a fear of them. Personally, I don't believe that someone coming into one of your lessons for 20 minutes on one particular day in the school year can have any real judgement as to what goes on in your classroom throughout the whole of the year, or even since the last time they visited you and/or your school. The process, of course, needs to be there, but by no means would I get hung up on the fact that someone's opinion of one of my lessons may not be same as mine. In my opinion the only opinion that matters is that of the students I teach. Do they feel safe and respected? Do they enjoy our lessons? Are they learning? Am I doing the best I can for them? They (OFSTED) are not a reason to leave.

Other Staff. In a recent INSET session hosted by @vicgoddard, Vic spoke about radiators and drains. Radiators being those enthusiastic NQTs that are inspired by and inspire other teachers (I got a few dodgy looks from my table at this point). Drains are those people that seem to suck the life out of the place, moan about everything, sometimes just for the sake of moaning, and essentially bring everyone else down. I don't like these people, and have little time for them. I'm lucky to be in an office where everyone is a radiator. Sure we have moments where we are drains, but for the vast majority of the time we are discussing ways to improve, sharing ideas and generally enjoying our work. My advice to anyone starting teaching is to avoid the staffroom or the particular corner of the staffroom where these 'drains' reside - they'll suck you in and you won't like the person you become and neither will other people!

Who knows what the future has in store for me and my teaching career. As I suggested in the opening statement to this #blogsync I don't think I will be one of those teachers that leaves within the first 5 years of the profession. I'm here to stay.

So, there's only one thing left to say really, one resounding thought I've had in my head whilst writing the last few paragraphs...I'm still standing!

'Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind'

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