As a new feature on this blog, I wish to generate an educational topic to discuss on a fortnightly basis. Readers can then feel free to add comments to the discussion at any time and we can gain a general consensus on the issue. To kickstart this process, I would like to ask you: would you recommend teaching?
Last week I was in the company of old friends when we found ourselves discussing our chosen professions. A younger sibling of a friend chose this time to tell me that she was thinking of embarking on a career in education and asked me a simple question; would you recommend teaching? I must admit, I stood looking at her for an awkwardly long time as my face made an expression that suggested I’d bitten a lemon and my eyes looked as though they were searching for the moon on the ceiling before I came to an answer. ‘Yes’ I eventually replied, ‘but only if you know what you’re letting yourself in for’. For the next half-hour or so I explained my thought process to her.
Remembering back to when I was in that position, all the teachers I spoke to warned me away from the profession. I recall thinking it must be some kind of ‘insider’ teacher joke. I thought maybe one day, when I was a teacher too, I would get it. And in many ways now I do, except of course I realise now they weren’t joking. There are many reasons to avoid teaching. Firstly, there is the simple fact that a lot of those who consider teaching simply aren’t cut out for the job. Either they lack the social skills to talk to and not at kids, the determination, focus, drive, resilience, hard skin or reliability. You must also consider the fact that it is more so a vocation than an occupation. You must be determined to sacrifice a great deal of time, work and energy to simply get by (especially early on in the profession) and understand that there will be times where you work until you sleep, get up and repeat the process; there will be holidays where you work everyday; there will be periods of exhaustion and emotional turmoil and there will be times when personal relationships are forced to take a back seat (and this is just your teacher training; the NQT year will knock you for six!).
Frustratingly there are also the politics, bureaucracy and blue tape which ensure that at least half of your time working will be without a child in sight. There is no way of looking back at my first two years in teaching without conceding that I lost two years of my life. Not so much the weekends and the nights out, but from Sunday afternoon until Friday evening I was working. I wonder sometimes if I was mature enough to enter the profession when I did, but also am thankful that I didn’t have a wife or young family to distract me. My sole purpose in life at that time was to jump through hoops and become the teacher people wanted me to be. It was far from easy and my time was anything but my own. I was so busy I often met myself coming backwards and this was simply to scrape by achieve the bare minimum standards expected of a teacher. The prospect of a life in the profession was a daunting one indeed.
Yet, if you are prepared to accept that some degree of what is written above will become reality (at least initially), then the juice is worth the squeeze. It is cliché to say that no two days are the same, but it has only become cliché because it is true. The pupils will challenge and motivate you in a way which inspires you to do the same for them. The positive relationships you build with pupils and the influence you have on their development is truly incredible. Life in the classroom is a rollercoaster but I have yet to wake in the morning dreading the day ahead. No matter what, at the end of the day you know you are having a positive impact on somebodies life and that is why I teach. Most people make a living, teachers make a difference.
So, back to the question. I would recommend teaching but only if the candidate is coming into the process with their eyes open, fully aware of what’s to come if they are to successfully embark on a career in education. It’s tough, but there are few better or more important jobs out there.
Do you agree with me? Are there any important points I have left out? Should teachers wait until a certain age to enter the profession? Is teaching a career to turn to later in life? Was my experience of induction extreme or perhaps you still work in that way deep into your career? Is teaching a career to turn to later in life?
Please feel free to share your thoughts below.