This is a post that earlier in my career I never thought I’d write, and if I did I’d be much older. As of Tuesday I will no longer be a classroom teacher.
When I graduated, in 1999, I thought that I would be teaching until I retired. But now, after working with a total of around 600 children on a day to day basis in my classroom and hundreds of others in my SENCO role, the time has come to hand in my door security fob and laptop and say goodbye.
Teaching has always been a tough job. Even in the early days of my teaching career when I ‘only’ had the responsibilities of a class teacher it was tough to plan a curriculum that would meet the needs of a wide range of abilities and allow me to teach lessons that hooked in every learner and kept them engaged. It was really tough to keep up with the amount of marking and assessment that was required by the school, I often missed social events because I had too much to get done for the next day.
As my career has progressed, I have taken on additional responsibilities. As a maths and assessment coordinator in a relatively small junior school it wasn’t too difficult to manage my differing roles of teacher and leader, but once I moved into the role of Inclusion Manager in a very large primary (close to the size of a small secondary school), I quickly realised that it was too much. There is no way on this earth that you can balance the pressures of being a classroom teacher with keeping up with paperwork and fighting battles with different external agencies for the 22% of the school who were on the Special Educational Needs list.
The thing that I’ve always found most difficult was the children. Putting 30 kids in a classroom together and trying to teach them when one has a hungry tummy because no one fed him that morning, another is worrying because their mum was rushed into hospital overnight, another doesn’t really see the point of learning about ‘fronted adverbials’, another can barely keep their eyes open after being woken by an incidence of domestic violence in their home last night and yet another who just wants to have 5 minutes with you so they can have a chat about something that’s happened on social media before she came to school this morning. It’s not that I was a bad teacher, it’s that our education system is focused the National Curriculum and meeting a set of academic assessment objectives which, had the people who wrote them ever considered what they were actually expecting of a 10 year old, should never have been assembled together in a document. There is very little in the National Curriculum that sets out what we should be teaching them in terms of learning how to be a human being that is able to maintain relationships, look after their own wellbeing and to find their place within their community.
It isn’t all bad. The times when a child perseveres to solve a difficult problem and is so proud of their self when they find a solution are pretty great. The times when you’re reading the class book and they’re literally sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what’s coming next are special. And then there’s the time when you get to the end of the term or year and you realise what a great group of kids you have and how much they’ve changed while they’ve been with you, makes you feel so proud that you’ve been part of that change.
But I don’t believe in ‘the system’ any more. I don’t think I’ve believed for quite some time, but after a succession of governments who appear to be more interested in their own power hungry ambitions and completely out of touch with what our children are having to deal with, I have come to a point where I can’t keep putting myself through the constant expectation to make everything perfect just in case Ofsted should ‘make the call’ and appear on our doorstep the next day. Yes we get long holidays, but we’re only actually paid for 1265 hours of work each year. I kept a time sheet one year and I’d worked my hours between September and February half term, many of them during evenings, weekends and holidays. I still had half of the academic year to go.
Now that I’ve got my own young children, who I barely see during the working week, I need to change what I’m doing. I need to be there to have time to read with them, to support them with their homework, to be there to listen to their worries and to share the fun stuff. I need to be a Mummy and that isn’t going to happen if I stay in the same role in the classroom.
I’m not saying I’ll never go back, but while I’ve got little ones of my own it won’t be happening any time soon.
So now I’m off to pastures new, I’m going to work for a Local Authority in a support role. It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be an adventure, but hopefully I’ll have more time to be Mummy.