Discussion: Would You Recommend Teaching?

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.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Discussion: Would You Recommend Teaching?

  1. Gavin Boyd April 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm Reply

    No. Howard Stevenson sums up the problem. @hstevenson10: High turnover – low cost profession. Bring in-burn out-replace-bring in-burn out-replace-bring in-burn out- repla

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  2. itsnotalwayslikethis April 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm Reply

    I’m an NQT; teaching is beautiful.

    Eight of the people I trained with had left the profession by Christmas and it is impossibly hard. Personally, I am a true believer in the idea that your teacher can be everything between passing or failing, and I agree that if you don’t enjoy the profession, you should.

    For me, I consider leaving almost every day, but never because of the teaching. I absolutely LOVE teaching. I love that every hour of every day is different and that I laugh at least once every ten minutes on any given day. I love the relationships that I have with students and I love that they invite me to their plays and bring me gifts and genuinely appreciate everything I do for them.

    And so I would recommend teaching, but, as you say, only if people are aware of the workload that lies ahead. The greatest struggle for me has been the pressure to remain a good teacher despite various issues and pressures on the department. I have lived in constant anxiety since september, worrying that one day I will be observed and not be good or outstanding any more, and I am not sure that is a healthy way to live. I wake up at night time thinking about books not marked and emails not replied to, and this is because I was always such a conscientious person. If you go into teaching you have to accept that you will never, ever finish your work and never be satisfied that you did enough – no matter how long or hard you worked. However, you also have to accept that your heart will be filled with joy and laughter on a daily basis, and that students will respond fantastically to truth, care and attention.

    Students are amazing, teaching is an absolute pleasure and as long as you always do what is morally right, you will be doing a fantastic job. Just remember the most important mantra of all; ‘paperwork, shmaperwork.’

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  3. Garry Freeman April 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm Reply

    37th year and, would I recommend it? Yes. It’s about going in with eyes open, as you should do with any job, being willing to adapt and change, accepting that every day is different and you will make a real, hopefully positive difference to the lives of many people. It’s about knowing and accepting that those who lead and manage you may well know less than you do about what you are doing, may well have a skill set that doesn’t much yours. It’s what millions of other workers accept and work with every day of their working life. Teachers are no different. Take the opportunity. Shine. Stand out. Be a positive role model. It will work.

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  4. Nicola Richardson March 31, 2014 at 6:03 pm Reply

    I would still recommend it, it is hard work without a doubt and there are days I want to scream at things that we are asked to do, or the children are expected to do, but I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than seeing a child learning something new. Or any other job where I can go in planned to the nth degree and something happens to change that round and make the day a whole lot better. There cannot be any other job where you go through so many emotions in a short space of time, but still come out knowing that the opportunities you give to the children day in and day out can change their future forever. 19 years in and I am going nowhere!

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  5. nialiax March 29, 2014 at 7:50 am Reply

    Reblogged this on educatingthoughts and commented:
    Very insightful

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  6. Nic March 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm Reply

    Right now, I would find it pretty hard to recommend teaching. I left 5 years ago after deciding the rewards did not match the incredible effort demanded from an unlikeable senior management team. Now in a (mostly) regular job (where we respond to increased burden by increasing resources) I look back and wonder how teachers can possibly not realise the extent to which they are exploited.

    I’m continually reminded of my fortune as my wife continued in the profession. Originally, she had found it easier than me – partly due to innate ability, and partly due to there being relatively little change in the primary curriculum at the time. In the last 4 years this has changed dramatically as the curriculum uncertainty and an increased rate of new ‘initiatives’ has meant she has dramatically more planning and marking to do.

    The thing that is hardest to take is that the system exploits the fact that you are doing something that you care about. “You care about children?” they say “well if you really care you will not refuse this initiative”. Teachers are treated like an inexhaustible source of labour – as if any ‘change’ is reasonable.

    The problem is systemic, and worse in academies (or at least certain chains). I honestly feel that until teachers regain control of teaching practice/policy (e.g. through an established college of teaching) this problem will get worse. The system will burn out recruits at a faster and faster pace until teaching becomes another deskilled+high-churn McJob.

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  7. teachingbattleground March 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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  8. Clare Dibble March 25, 2014 at 7:29 am Reply

    In theory, I knew all that had been written before I retrained to be a primary teacher. I had been an LSA for 9 years whilst my younger children were at school and was always told I’d be a good teacher! The financial climate such as it is at 52 I took the plunge when my youngest was in year 8.

    I’d naively thought that having originally worked in TV production, where you worked until the job was done … often well into the early hours and then up for a 7am call the long hours wouldn’t be a problem…

    I love my job, but am still only in my first year post NQT. I get to school at 7.30 and am last to leave as the caretaker locks up. I work most of the weekend from from Saturday afternoon and hate those weekends there are family commitments that take me away from my computer, marking or planning as I start to panic that the work just wont get done – but part of that is my own commitment to the best of my ability and being a middle-aged learner – it just takes longer!

    My eldest son trained two years before I did – it was he who finally inspired me to teach. An excellent teacher, he left the profession after 2 years, needing time to still be a 20 something with a ‘life’!

    Nothing actually prepares you for the workload … a bit like nothing preparing you for parenthood … but if you persevere, just like bringing up babies, as each challenge is mastered the next one appears …..

    Would I recommend teaching? Yes, but in the same way that I recommend parenting – its not a job, its a lifelong commitment!

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  9. herecosyouare March 24, 2014 at 10:51 pm Reply

    Agreed. I’m in my seventh year of teaching. I taught in Cairo for two years, and without my career I would not have had that opportunity. Coming back to the UK has been a shock. In my first placement, I built relationships and a place for myself in my school. I got to the point where I was using PPA effectively and not spending all of every night working. In Cairo, the work pressure was not as high. There were other frustrations, including an unreliable management team, but I got to focus on my class and my drama club and I did my job well. Now, in a new school with the new curriculum I feel like I’m back to square one. Planning new lessons. Doing things the way of this school. Which is a great and supportive place, but I am starting to find myself thinking about all those other jobs where people get to do whatever they like when they get in. But I also wonder, what else would I do? I love teaching.

    Long story short, I’m not surprised many leave in the first 5 years.

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  10. A Brodders March 24, 2014 at 6:38 pm Reply

    Completely agree. I think everyone is a bit naive at first – generally (at primary anyway), you do it to work with children, to make a difference…but ppl don’t tell you about everything else that goes with it…the getting to work at 7:30am and getting in at past 6….then carrying on working in front of the tv! The endless pressure of targets, ch making progress etc etc, data upon data! But. If you can get through it, if yo have an understanding partner, a love of the job…it’s worth it in the end.

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  11. bt0558 March 24, 2014 at 6:14 pm Reply

    ‘Yes’ I eventually replied, ‘but only if you know what you’re letting yourself in for’.

    I agree with the points you have made above. I would suggest however that anyone who knows what they are letting themselves in for and still chooses teaching in UK state education as a profession should seek treatment/therapy.

    Having said that, of course as you suggest if the sort of daily routine you describe above is that which a person thrives upon then go for it. I wouldn’t embark on a career in teaching in the UK state sector given all the tea in China if given my time again but would train as a teacher/professional educator.

    There are many roles that one can take on as a professional educator which are enjoyable and rewarding. Teaching overseas and in the UK independent sector have both been fun and rewarding.

    So a career in education, a qualified yes. A career as a teacher in the UK state sector without control over the roles you undertake, no chance.

    If you do not have a burning desire to teach, do something else.

    An interesting topic.

    Thanks for the chance to contribute.

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  12. Tim Taylor March 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

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