Just read this sad but true story by Hannah Fearn in the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/teachers-crisis-education-leaving-profession-jobs-market-droves-who-would-be-one-a7591821.html) about the recruitment crisis in education and couldn’t help but think how avoidable and tragic this whole situation has become.
School managers and government ministers have been putting their hands to their ears about our complaints about workload for too long, yet are now scratching their heads about why fewer people than ever are wanting to enter the profession. Personally, when people I know ask me for my advice on whether or not they should become a teacher, I am starkly realistic: Do it if you are willing to sacrifice the bulk of your free-time to endless, needless paperwork; interminable piles of marking; meetings that accomplish nothing; policy fads that achieve even less; planning lessons that the nature of school timetabling, student illness and arbitrarily placed sporting events will likely make redundant; and churning out useless data that attempts in futility to quantify the unquantifiable. Do it if you love your subject enough that you are happy to dedicate days, months and years defending its place on the curriculum against budget cuts and parents, colleagues and bosses who can’t immediately see how the thing you have such passion for links directly to jobs and economic growth. Do it if you enjoy the idea of long holidays…but even more so if you enjoy the sensation of seeing much of those long holidays consumed by work you had no time to do in the previous 60+ hour weeks of term-time and feeling guilty whenever you do take the time to enjoy yourself with those 30 Year 9 books still unmarked. Do it if you like feeling perpetually undervalued and are keen to work within a culture of demanding the impossible without thanks. Where great exam results mean the test must be too easy but any failure is entirely down to you. Do it if you enjoy an environment where over a decade of expertise and experience may be called into question by a single parent complaint if they can’t quite believe their dear, infallible child has some part to play in their own academic struggles. Repeat after me: it is always the teacher’s fault and do it if you enjoy eating shit like that to appease those who know nothing about education when they accuse you of incompetence, giving up more of those holidays, more of your lunchtimes, to provide “interventions” for those students who have realised that if they simply don’t do the work, we’ll be forced to do it for them. Do it if you want to be the friend who can never be there, the parent who has to put other people’s children first, and a spouse incapable of carrying a conversation that isn’t yet another diatribe about the latest ridiculousness at work. But most of all, do it because despite all of that you just might – might – actually change someone’s life for the better. You might be the one who puts them on a path that defines their entire future. You might be the person who shows them the thing which becomes their own passion. The person who helps these young people become who they are.
Because teaching, those glorious few hours in the classroom each week. They are fucking brilliant. It is merely the job of teaching that the powers that be have made untenable.
Too many classes. Too few teachers. Too much untested and unevidenced educational dogma driving unsustainable and indefensible policies for marking, recording and reporting. And the worst thing is that when we look back at this period in the profession, and the sanity destroying tasks and demands that have made the job so miserable for those of us in it, and undesirable for those who are not, we can’t even say that they helped anybody.
No student ever benefitted from a frayed and tired, overworked teacher.
No one ever passed an exam because of meaningless targets and questionable data.
And no change will take place in teacher recruitment while the job of teaching remains something existing members of the profession can only complain about.
But complain is all we can do – because the job is not only killing us, its killing itself! Teaching has become a suicide note written in three different coloured pens, in a code of value added and progress 8 forecasts, on the back of a parents evening appointment sheet. A suicide note broadcast across a thousand different education blogs and editorials. A suicide note read in fragments, a news report here, a white paper there.
The profession is crying out for help. It has been for a long time. If those cries continue to fall on deaf ears, it is only a matter of time before despair will set in and something irrepairable will be done.
Worryingly, Hannah Fearn’s article suggests it may already be too late.