An open letter to teachers everywhere,
How do you do it? I mean seriously, how?! I did one year of teaching through the charity Teach First and their Leadership Development Programme and it almost killed me (or at least killed my mental health).
I had always wanted to be a teacher, or at least, always wanted to teach for a little while hence why Teach First sounded right up my street. I was a bit fed up of University. I was sick of being skint and was totally done with writing essays and revising for exams. My Dad told me about this great charity that offered a free PGCE and aimed to tackle educational inequality in the UK. I thought it sounded brilliant. I did my research and stuck in an application and low and behold, after a vigorous interview process, I got an offer.
‘Congratulations! Your references have been received and meet our requirements, you have successfully passed your Subject Knowledge Audit and professional skills tests, and we have received your acceptance form. This means you are now fully enrolled on the 2014 Teach First programme.’
Well didn’t I feel clever? I was going to be part of an educational movement in the UK that was going to change actual lives. Screw you graduates – I am going to work in a ‘challenging’ school and inspire the shit out of some kids. Little did I know the shit storm that was going to hit me, otherwise known as being an ‘unqualified teacher’.
I was placed in the West Midlands in a small town called Telford. I had to google it when I was on the phone as I pretended to be happy that I had been placed nowhere near any friends, family or travel links (my 5th regional choice). I did 6 weeks of intensive training whereby I realised I had no clue how to teach and even smaller knowledge of what it would entail day-to-day.
I met 5 wonderful people and we all decided to live in Telford together. 4 of us were in a Telford school, 2 were in Wolverhampton. We had 3 cars between us. Helen (my housemate and fellow Teach Firster) couldn’t drive and we were placed at the same school. In the first few weeks of teaching we thought it would be a good idea to get the only bus that would be able to get us to school before 8.30am – the school bus.
Now as an unqualified teacher or a new teacher at any school, the way to make an impression is certainly not to get on the school bus with all your kids. However, as we were carless and moneyless at the time, we had very little choice. Once payday came, we decided to get a taxi instead. It was £6.50 a day – I took my driving test 6 times by the time I left Teach First.
It wasn’t the kids I didn’t like, it wasn’t even the teachers. It was how it was an accepted thing that you would work 12/13 hour days, have half a day off at the weekend, and the holidays would surely make up for it.
I was recently asked in an interview, ‘If you were Nicky Morgan and you could change one thing in the education system, what would it be?’ I said the rate of pay. If you were to honestly work out how much a teacher was paid per hour, they would be well under the minimum wage. I’ve seen teachers suffer with stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hell even divorce because of the job – so why do they do it? Because they care.
In a very similar way, I see care workers, doctors, nurses and emergency service staff killing themselves for not enough money simply because they care and they will not walk away from the people who they’re helping.
I’m telling you now, investment bankers and stockbrokers, lawyers and recruitment consultants – I’m sure your job is hard and you work stupid hours, but if you want a real challenge, be a teacher. Please, I dare you!
I’ve never seen people work so hard to be told they’re school is in ‘special measures’ or ‘requires improvement’ and I simply think – I don’t think these teachers could work harder.
Please, do not go into teaching light heartedly because you can’t think of anything else you want to do. Go into teaching because you care.
I suppose my point after this HUGE rant is this… Teachers – I have SO MUCH RESPECT for you. You are the superhero’s of our society – say the spidermen and women who are leading double lives and spinning a million different webs because you are amazing at what you do. I do believe something needs to change because you shouldn’t have to be breaking your back for the kids you teach, but the fact you do and you are still doing it after all the pressure that is put on you, truly makes you an inspiration.
Have a great summer. Heaven knows you need it.