Do I have to?

Back to work tomorrow. Luckily it is only a training day so I have chance to get my head into work mode again.

After seven years in the teaching profession. I’m still undecided. It’s one of the most disrespected, undervalued jobs around, along with those who work in the NHS. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve complained about something that has happened at work to a friend, only to have them reply with “well, you get six months off a year”, which isn’t true.

I’m lucky in that I work in a school that is well organised and effectively managed by an excellent head teacher and a strong management team. My colleagues are fantastic, and I have a superb boss who is calm, discreet and an excellent role model. However, I have worked in places that aren’t as good, and the negative impact that it has on staff morale becomes quite all-consuming. I think the reason for this is because teaching requires the individual to care. Yes, there are teachers who do the bare minimum and who see it as ‘just a job’, but the majority of the staff are there because they see it as a vocation. Some of the teachers I have worked with have been in the profession as long as I’ve been alive.

In all honesty, I never planned on becoming a teacher. After four years at a music college I was wanting a change of scenery (actually I wanted to smash my violin up and never go anywhere an orchestra ever again), and so I became a Learning Mentor. The school that I was working at found out that i had a degree in music and offered me a GTP, and it began from there.

It’s an unusual job in that no two days are the same. Your working day will depend on a number of factors:

1. What mood the students are in

2. What mood your colleagues are in

3. What the weather is like

It’s impossible to predict what certain individuals will be like when they walk into your lesson, and so you can’t plan for it. Some students will be a little angel in one lesson, and the spawn of Satan in another. They remember everything that is ever said, and are more than happy to throw it in your face if they’re in the mood.

It isn’t just a 9-5. If you discount the evenings, weekends and holidays marking and planning, you end up participating in and experiencing things that you wouldn’t necessarily do in other professions. I’ve been on trips to Bayeaux, Normandy, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, I’ve done lots of residentials in the UK, I’ve been to shows, concerts, even birthday parties of students that I have previously taught. I have the role of parent, counsellor, verbal punching bag and mediator. I’ve lost count of the amount of sleepless nights that I’ve had worrying about individual students. I’ll never forget my first child protection issue… It was horrific and was the first of many instances where I wonder why some people have children in the first place. It also destroys you when something bad happens to a child that you work with – a child that I’d taught for a few years killed himself after he’d left school. It devastated me, especially as the last words we’d said to each other were not nice… We had an argument because of his aggressive attitude, and never got the chance to reconcile.

On the opposite end, I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of amazing children and their families. You aren’t supposed to have favourites, but there are certain students that are fun to be around and brighten up the day. Child A has recently recovered from a brain tumour, and when he turned 18 he invited me to his party to celebrate. Child B is a thoughtful, intelligent 18 year old that always worked hard in every lesson, and actually took the time to ask ‘how are you Miss?’ when she could see I’d had a bad day. Child C has an incredible voice, and now she’s at University she keeps in contact and let me know how she’s doing. Child D is one of those disgustingly talented kids that is good at everything-she can sing, act, dance, is on several sports teams, gets straight A’s for everything and wants to be a doctor. Children E and F are identical twins, and they could always be relied upon to perform at the last minute without complaint. I’ve had cards, presents, flowers, chocolates and letters from parents who are appreciative.

At the minute, I’m not sure whether I’m happy. It’s becoming more pressured as the years go by, and the most frustrating thing about it is that it never ends – once we have supported one set of students through their exams we have to immediately move onto the next. We are governed by people who have no concept of education and so we have to adapt to the many changes that are put on us at least three or four times a year. Our performance is viewed on the students achievement. If a child hits their target grade, it’s fine. However, if a child suddenly can’t be bothered, stops turning up to school or doing their work we are left in a situation where we have to drag them in during our own time to make them do the work.

Still, it’s better than sitting behind a desk punching in numbers all day…

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

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