The thing that captivates me […]
Being a teacher: the easiest job that you’ll never do
Over the past couple of months the GCSE marking fiasco has brought about a flood of comments regarding the teaching profession, and how supposedly teachers are overpaid, lazy, and given too much holiday, whilst also giving children a terrible education, in a calculated insult to taxpayers everywhere. Now, this kind of talk irritates me greatly, since my parents have both had long careers in – wait for it – teaching. I’m now going to reflect on what I have seen as the son of a pair of teachers.
When I was younger, I remember going on holiday with my family. For most, a summer holiday is a time to forget about work, and to simply spend time with your family. A time of complete relaxation. What I remember distinctly from our long drives from Hertfordshire to Dover, then across the channel, to Holland or Brittany or beyond, is that the entire time, whichever parent was taking a break from driving would be sitting in the passenger seat with their laptop out, working on a lesson plan, or a child’s report, or marking, or all three simultaneously. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this doesn’t sound like the behaviour of someone with a huge amount of free time. Maybe my parents were just quite disorganised. Maybe like the sons they produced, they would always leave everything to the last minute.
Well, that’s all very well, but as well as all those weeks off of work, a teacher’s normal day is only nine to three-thirty, right? Again, I can only go by my own experience, but my dad’s day was scheduled thus:
5.30: He’d go out for a run.
7.00: He’d leave for work.
8.00: He’d presumably be at work, although obviously I wouldn’t see him until he arrived home.
17.30: He’d arrive home and start doing paperwork.
19.00: We’d all have dinner together.
19.45: He’d continue his paperwork.
22.30ish: He’d go to bed.
This was the same schedule he would keep every weekday. On a Saturday he may or may not go into work to do extra admin. Maybe he might have time to go shopping, and he would go to Tesco to do the weekly food shop every Sunday. But you can be almost certain that the rest of the weekend he would be working almost solidly too. I read a Times article that said that the official hours of a teacher are about 35 hours a week, but they might end up doing around 50. That is maybe an accurate estimate of hours that a teacher might spend in school, but not for their total number of working hours.
Teaching is not easy. Even seeing my parents slaving away at home gave me only a snapshot of what their job actually entailed. But apart from the long hours, the stress, the targets, the funding cuts, the Ofsted inspections and everything else besides; from my perspective, I think one of the most degrading things that a teacher has to endure is the constant implication that they are the least knowledgable about how to do their job. The current government is trying to put more power in the hands of parents. First they are ploughing forward with the academies scheme, asking high achieving schools to take ownership of their own curriculum and letting parents have a say in it. But not just that, they have also decided that the best group of people to be setting up and running a school are groups of parents, as demonstrated by their ‘free schools’ policy. There is a problem with this – the group of people who have had years, maybe decades, of training and experience within education are not the parents. The parents are the people who excuse their children’s behavioural issues by saying “He never hits at home… Because I smack him.”
But we all know about school, right? Most of us have spent at least 11 years in one sort or another. We know about teaching because we’ve been taught. Well, then by extension we should all be excellent chefs if we’ve eaten at restaurants, or all be able to paint a masterpiece since we’ve been to the National Gallery. What children see in the classroom is the equivalent of going to a play. It is the end result of many years of training and many hours of preparation.
But looking back, we all remember the teachers we loved and the teachers we hated, the good ones and the bad. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
Well, think about how good your judgement was when you were 15. I knew a guy who, at 15, ate a live spider for a dare. That’s the same judgement you used to measure your teacher’s skills. So no, it doesn’t count for anything. You’re talking shit.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of vetting procedure before we allowed a person to have a say in education policy? I say that they should have a degree. And at least a year of being taught about how kids learn. Maybe even some time in the classroom, seeing how everything works at the coalface. If only there were a group of people who’d done all of that. They’d be perfect to tell us how to run schools.Tweet Share447
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