November, 26, 2012

Being a teacher: the easiest job that you’ll never do


Name: Rhys Giles
Member of: Youth Panellist
Joined: November 2012
Rhys's Full Profile

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.

Being a teacher - the easiest job you'll never do

Photo by Brent Hoard

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.


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  1. Kerry

    Those who can’t teach!

    • Cc

      Seems like your teachers never taught you manners. Or punctuation for that matter. What a useless comment.

  2. James

    I am afraid I disagree I am a community Physio therapist my day is pretty much the same as your fathers but I only have 5 weeks off a year which 1 week last year was spent at a Physio conference that I spent £1000 on! Very tempted to consider teaching because let’s face it for hard working people it must feel like retirement!

  3. Vicki

    If only I had taken as much notice of my parents’, both teachers, schedules before following them down the same path. Working 60+ hours a week, supposedly part time, for very little recognition from the non teaching society, other than constant criticism and increased targets.
    More people need to read this to see it from a non teaching stand point. So that it’s not just another article written by moaning teachers.

  4. Elizabeth

    Excellent – I’m so glad you wrote this. Teaching is like an iceberg: only 1/8 of what we do is visible to the untrained eye. There have been four generations of teachers in my family, but I’ll not last much longer. A combination of unjustified vilification, unrealistic parents and irrational government policies are driving this profession (let’s not forget teachers see educated professionals) into an abyss.

  5. Vanessa

    What a refreshingly well-written article. I have been a teacher; my father was a teacher before me, and my daughter is now a teacher. I can honestly say that the job is getting more and more difficult with time, and more and more time-consuming. Constantly shifting “goal-posts” don’t help matters, but the farce of “raising standards so every school is above average in performance” … HOW??? Clearly which ever “person in charge of education” that dreamed that one up has zero concept of “Averages”.

    This article needs to go viral.

  6. H.Abbott

    All of this is so true. I teach,work a ten or eleven hour day plus extra at home. Yes we have long holidays but lots.of it is spent in school. It is also high season and most expensive. No going out of season on cheap breaks. I do it as I love my job but don’t let anyone tell you its an easy option because it isn’t.

  7. Pete

    I’m the son of a teacher and most of my friends went into teaching. I agree with the article though it is a tad extreme. I know my mates do 60hr weeks and realistically only take 4 of the 12 weeks as holiday but relative to private sector education centres teachers get paid very well. You take home £10k more than they do and the hours aren’t much different. The national average salary is less than you start on and your pension is a final salary not average salary based one which pays out twice what a private one costing the same to the individual does. Complain about conditions and lack of recognition but not the money. From a Teaching Assistant who chose not to teach

  8. Lesley Boon

    I remember talking to yr 11 boys about careers. There was debate about teaching. They asked how much a teacher earned, this was in a private elite boys school. They were shocked and said well why would you do it for so little pay? I said because most teachers love their job and love working with kids. That gave the budding , lawyers, pilots, doctors, business managers, etc something to think about. I never had ANY problems with those boys ever again. Respect!

  9. laura

    Thank you for a brilliant article. I am a burnt out teacher who constantly considers giving it up. You summed it up perfectly, overworked, undervalued and to be honest under paid!! Why do we keep doing it? To inspire and to teach our young people to believe in themselves :-)

  10. Ex-teacher

    Good article…I taught for 17 years – and at the age of 40 realised I might not make another 17 years under the increasing pressure to which I was subjected. I am not claiming to be special in this regard; I’m merely pointing out how hard the job was. I was good, I loved teaching for a long time and the (sometimes difficult) kids I worked with. I led a Maths department that doubled its success rate at GCSE over a four year period.
    It dawned on me one day that it didn’t actually matter how well we did or how much progress the students made – employers are never satisfied, politicians are never satified, the ‘general public’ will still have a negative view of teachers, the media will still portray us as greedy, overpaid, lazy public-sector workers. Our terms and conditions of employment and pensions will be eroded, our pay will be frozen (16 pay ‘rises’ and only 3 times was it more than 1% above inflation).
    Yes most of us, in whatever field, will work hard at times and feel undervalued, but I challenge anyone to come up with a profession (remember that? We studied, usually for 4 years to achieve a degree AND qualified teacher status) that is more vilified than teaching.
    So, you can keep it…I’ll work for myself where no-one can interfere, I might make less money, but it doesn’t really matter – health, happiness and sanity are all priceless..and I have all three now that I can say I’m an ex-teacher.

  11. Miss F

    As a teacher, the best response I have to those who decry the work of teachers and their fabulous conditions, is to say, “It’s great to know you’re so keen to be a teacher. When will you be finishing your teaching degree?” If they haven’t started yet, I’ll always recommend a good quality local postgrad course. Funny how quickly the uninformed will choke on their drinks and pull their heads in.

  12. Cindy Lorenzi

    I’m so glad you wrote this!
    I’ve been trying to say this to so many people over the last few years, that I’ve lost count. In Italy right now we have the exact same problem, and teacher’s work is being awfully criticized by people who really have no idea what being a teacher entails.
    I particularly agree with the last part of your article: only people who know what they’re talking about should be allowed to criticize or tell how to run schools. I don’t know how it is in England, but here in Italy we haven’t had a single Minister for Education who has ever been in school, except as a teenager (and as you said, that doesn’t really count, not only because of their perception, but also because things have changed in the meantime). So everyone in the government (especially in the last five years) has been promoting reforms, changing everything, without knowing anything at all.
    As a result, now school’s without funds, and guess who’s taking the blame? The public opinion is convinced that teachers are just paid for “not working”, or at least working only a few hours. They have no idea at all of all the work which teachers have to do.
    It is not comforting at all to know that you have the same situation there in England, but it is good to know there are intelligent people like you who have understood the problem and who are willing to share it with others. I’ll make sure to get all my friends and acquaintances to read this.

  13. Kris Stevens

    Rhys, your explanation on the standard teachers have to deal with should be a well needed eye opener to some of the parents and other sit-around-all-day people who critisise the teaching standard. I’m preparing myself to go into Uni for a teacher training and I’m so glad I’m aiming to teach primary school kids. Because I’ve seen when kids reach a certain age that they finally take control of what their parents and don’t give a rats ass about the school or the work. All through secondary school I watched as teachers who scared mei nyear 7 were reduced to shaking messes by the time I was older, due to the way they are treat in classes. It’s not on and I’m glad somebody shares my opinion that teachers deserve that respect

  14. Sally

    Rhys! I had no idea you were training to be a teacher too? Your spot on here. My degree is sooooo hard and I have also seen the extensive pressure teachers are constantly put under.
    The government wonders why children are failing, patients are neglected. PAPERWORK is the answer. On placement, I felt that everything was evolved around paperwork and that was a priority. NO spending time with the children SHOULD be a priority and teaching the children SHOULD be a priority.
    Other than that, you have said everything I feel!

    I hope Uni is treating you well and you are also well x

  15. Carrie Trimby

    My dad is a complete slave to his teaching profession. He works day and night and holidays are filled with? You guessed it, work! Some teachers are a bit rubbish but we shouldn’t tar them all with the same brush.
    Ofsted are completely useless on that note. The phone in advance to let the school know they have a ‘surprise inspection’ coming within the next few days. They always love peer marking and peer assessment but does that actually help?! I want to be taught by the teacher and have my work marked by them too!

  16. Chloe Seeds

    I’m my school there Is a mix of teachers, most of my teacher I love, they are all hard working and being in sixth form spending more time with certain teachers I truly see how much work they do and the deserve every penny they make because they have earned it but on the other hand the is two certain teachers who get ridiculous about of income into there house hold, they are married so there’s is two full pay checks for a start which is fare enough the work to earn it but on top of that they are both head of there department, on of girls P.E and one of boys P.E so there is more money both of them get and then on top of that he is head of P.E overall so he gets more on top of that! So how is this fare when my technology technician who the t.d teacher depends on, who structures coursework plans for us, who helps us with everything we need, who is in school Monday- Friday 8-5 every week who doesn’t get halloween, Easter half term or summer holidays only get paid 6.50 and hour that is the real joke so yes some teachers are over paid and some aren’t paid nearly enough!

  17. Stephanie Kavanagh

    Finally! My mother is a teacher and honestly, she never stops working. She teaches both year one and two at the same time, and her planning and marking is constant. I truly find peoples attitudes toward teaching disgraceful. The horror stories she comes home with about some of the parents and the way they speak to her and their own children is atrocious.

  18. Kitty Barr

    I am disgusted that this question has even arisen. My Mum is a teacher and has been since before I was born. She works incredibly hard and I am very grateful because she is able to provide for my sister and I. Thanks to this appalling Tory government with their stupid cuts, I have joined my Mum on two protests in my local area against the cuts to her pension and increasing the pension age. My Mum slaves, she really does, to make the children of her school happy and safe (she works at a special needs school). I think it’s appalling that anyone could brand teachers as lazy. Sure, we’ve all had bad teachers in the past (most of those being PE teachers and one particularly unprofessional History teacher in Pickering, North Yorkshire), but to generalise to the extent of calling teachers lazy and overpaid is ridiculous. Perhaps if you have the time to consider such a pretentious topic, take it up with your local MP. If they’re rational, they’ll back up the points I’ve just made. Sort yourself out.

  19. Jade Harris

    I agree that some teachers are overpaid, both my aunt and uncle are teachers and they can afford to go on luxury holidays every year with their three children, They also have alot of spare time. However i have also known teachers who struggle just as much as the rest of the working class and are constantly busy. i think it depends entirerly on the school and the teachers as people as to whether or not they get a decent wage, so yes some teachers are being over paid considering the amount of work they do compared to other jobs where they work alot longer hours throughout the year 24/7 and get pain considerably less.

  20. laura powell

    my mums a teacher too and this year she’s had to lose 40 days of holiday and a pay cut!! no only that they are being completely inflexible about the hours she has to be in college working during the “long holiday” she supposedly has!!

  21. Hang Phan

    I think like any other profession, there are people who are good at their jobs and who aren’t. The thing is that some students just happen to not meet the ones they considered ‘good’ and automatically assume those teachers are not doing their job right and everything. Also, besides teaching students at school, teachers also have to do planning for their lectures and marking works which can be tiring but not many people can notice that fact. Either way, I myself believe that teachers usually are not overpaid for what they do, let alone the idea of them being lazy.

  22. Gavin McGill

    I was going to write a long point about the intense issues of teachers and their problems. But as a teacher I don’t have time to. All I would say is that when you are relaxing at home, or enjoying a nice Christmas meal, or a holiday away, remember that teachers do not. If they are not teaching students they are thinking about and planning for the teaching of students.
    It is a dream of mine that one day teachers will stop teaching for a month or two. All the little cherubs will go back to their parents and the teachers will sit back and watch. Then we will see how teachers fit into an economic model. The truth is that teachers work themselves to the ground for their students not political or monetary reasons. They help them to develop from people who know very little, to people who know a lot. The work is hard but the rewards are amazing. I say politicians should leave them to it and trust them and provide them with the support to get the job done, rather than hamstringing them at every opportunity. Their have been teachers on the planet longer than politicians; it was probably a teacher who gave politicians their ideas in the first place. For more such views please go to the Times Educational Supplement (TES) website and read some forum postings. Real teachers, talking about real teaching problems.

  23. samantha

    the biggest mistake the government ever made was taking the power away from teachers and giving it to the children and the parents. I am a parent myself and i see with these PTA,s that most of them are only interested in what will benefit their own child and not the children as an entire group. I know this is not the case for all PTA,s. Teachers deserve more respect and a lot more say on how the kids are educated as they know their job as they are bloody teachers after all. Unless someone is a teacher and knows what is best for the kids then the idiots in there offices should have no right to say what is best for our kids and how they should be educated. There is to much pressure on teachers to meet targets and goals and it is not leaving them much time teach our children.

  24. Lucy James

    This is very well written, well done! nothing angers me more than the ignorance some people show to teaching – the majority of them having absolutely no experience themselves to support what they say, just making opinions! I’ve only been training to become a primary school teacher for around 3 months now and am half way through my first placement and have had my eyes opened even more to the extent of work and effort that is involved! it’s pretty much impossible to be a half decent teacher if you don’t have a passion for the job: so much of your time is spent within it! the working day for a teacher does not end at 3.30 when the bell goes, i have even had work to do out of my own time in a 3 week student placement, let alone a real job! it’s disgusting the opinions people throw on teacher, e.g. “they get so many holidays, they have no right to strike” etc etc, coming from people who are completely unaware of the degree of effort and commitment that is needed to even cope as a teacher – let alone make a good job of it! and i could not even imagine how difficult it must be as a secondary school teacher, i could never even attempt that! people need to start appreciating what teaching actually is, and learn to keep their mouth shut on things they know nothing about.

  25. Anna Uprichard

    Perfectly said! Many of my family are teachers and I am currently training to be one. The idea that it’s an easy 9-3 job is preposterous. Teaching is more than a job more the majority it is a passion, those who work tirelessly to provide a fun well rounded education for their pupils deserved to be praised not slated.

  26. Jack Nevill

    All teachers are different, some of them work very hard and have a real passion for their work and others are horrible and seem like they would rather be anywhere else. so i feel it is impossible to put all teachers under ne label, however some should be praised for their work and others should be given an incentive to work harder, or to gain a connection with there job/ students. however the teacher profession is one of a kind and i dont think anyone should go about judging the work of teachers unless they are a teacher or have at least had experience working as one

  27. Lauren Forgie

    I do not think that all teachers should be classed as the same. Some are very lazy and others do all they canto provide a good education for thier puplis/studens!

  28. Will Pascoe

    Well, my mum was a teacher and she was always getting home from work late and even when she was back she was either planning lessons or doing marking, so,personally, I don’t think it’s a lazy or easy job.

  29. Matthew Procter

    Many teachers do put in extraordinary effort to there jobs, doing far more than they are paid for. However that is the definition of extra-ordinary. The problem is that too many teachers don’t. In a system whereby pay rates are set at a national level and where teachers can move up the pay scale, simply by remaining in a job, on top of an above inflationary rise in pay every year(until the current government came into office) – there is no incentive to work hard. Hence why a large number of teachers don’t. it is also near impossible to fire a Bad teacher simply for being crap at their job.

    In a system where prices are fixed, people respond to non price factors, this has lead to ‘good’ schools in predominately middle class areas being able to attract good teachers and inner city schools where it is difficult for the teacher simply to keep the class in some sense of order, being left with all the shitty teachers (I’m generalising now). leading to an ever degrading spiral of decline.
    The previous Labour government tried to tackle this by creating academies and pumping them full of money so they could attract decent teachers again. This worked, however, now there isn’t allot of money floating around, the current government is being forced to deal with the problem head on – stripping the teaching unions of their central wage bargaining power. it is doing this by decentralising the System – introducing free schools and academies – it is hoped in doing so (since free schools and acedemies do not need national pay and conditions for teachers) this will strip unions of their centralised bargaining power. this happens to be much cheaper than pumping poorly performing schools with lot’s more money. This will benefit hard-working teacher’s such as your parents who will be in much demand, and can ask for a relative pay increase to the more lazy teachers, who do fuck all. This freedom will also create some sort of competition which will ultimately raise standards for all of us- without the need of some educationalist or popularist Politician telling every school everywhere in the country what they should teach and how they should teach it. :)

    • Rhys Giles

      Thank you for proving my point Matthew – people who have no knowledge of teaching shouldn’t have a say in how the profession works.
      The reason unions exist is to protect workers from people like you. Teachers are put under immense pressure every day to ‘teach well’.
      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Matthew Procter

        could you explain why (I’m evidently wrong)? just to clarify – I think Allot of teachers do do a Fantastic Job, and it is wrong that Teaching as a profession should be stigmatised as it currently is.

    • Beth Curtis

      “hard-working teachers.”

      Way to imply that half of the teaching profession is lazy and falls into your cookie-cutter blanket imprint of neoliberal market economics without understanding the actual structure and requirement of the profession. Sectors are very nuanced things, you need to take into consideration microeconomics.

      You kinda also ignored the point of the article by assuming that because it was anecdotal it was therefore neglible. You also ignored the fact that the unions really hold absolutely no relevance to the issue: that is, teachers are being perceived incorrectly, not gaining as much respect as other educated professionals in the public sector.

      Look, I have teachers as parents too. They work hard, not because they particularly strive to, but because it’s a *basic work requirement*. (It’s not a case of being motivated or being more efficient. It’s not a case of the unions encouraging teachers to be lazy – seriously, have you paid attention to the teaching unions? There’s little policy talk about removing the bureacracy, and more about getting pay rises level with inflation. Saying the unions cause this trouble is irrelvent right-wing bullshit – it’s the constant politicking of both Labour and now the Tories to use education as a political point scoring tool which has lead to vapid changes with no consideration of the teachers themselves).

      My parents are required to detail plans of every week for ever lesson. They are required for every lesson to set out the lesson objectives, how it covers areas of learning x y and z. They are required to say for each individual lesson in a module what all children should learn, what most should learn, and what the most capable should learn. They are expected to spell out the obvious on paper. This is pretty standard; it’s why Ofsted inspections don’t take weeks anymore, because they skate through the paperwork (not implying that being an Ofsted inspector is an easy job: it’s not).

      This is standard in state schools. This is expected of teachers (and it’s also expected unpaid), because if they don’t, they are not meeting their basic job requirements. Teaching is very stressful and the reason so many retire from it early is because of the stress the profession actually induces.

      • Matthew Procter

        Thank you. I light of that comment I would like to apologise for my original comment. it was so evidently crude and misinformed. sorry.

    • Gremmie

      Please can you all (mostly teachers) sort out the correct use of ‘their’ and ‘there’. Appalling to have read errors on this in the first two responses and the further down. I am currently training to teach after a career elsewhere of 15 years as I am pursuing a lifelong ambition for the love of teaching. My Mum was a teacher, a good one but already in my studies can I see how much it has changed, developed.

  30. Kingsley Uzoma

    I have to say that it is a very nice job to be a teacher no matter how stressful and hectic it seems to be… because they(Teachers) are the mentors we have, without them there will be nothing like educational direction. I think they deserve a great respect for being what they are.

  31. Grace Mason-Jarrett

    My Mum’s a teacher and she puts so much work into what she does. Not only is there the amount of prep for classes that she does but also it’s the fact that she really does care about these kids that she teaches! The majority of her time is spent being not just a teacher but a mentor for kids that need more support than they’re getting at home and she comes home exhausted! As a pupil at a school you don’t see how much energy the teacher is putting in.

  32. Andrew Logan

    I recognise it to be an insightful recollection into one persons observations of a teachers role. The example of the writers parents, is one that must be commended, however my experience’s are certainly different. A lot depends on the school you are in. If you are in an environment where you change year group each year then the planning can be never ending. I also feel great planning and organising can help massively. I was in a school the other day where the teacher utilised support to mark work during ‘silent big writing’. Having no effect on the children’s learning, while completing work that otherwise may have been taken home. I do recognise how this may have been possible due to the age of the children (year 5). Utilise resource, great planning and not moving about, lessens the additional work load….. I think????

    • Sarah

      Not always possible. Both my parents are teachers and there is always more marking that one teacher can do in a class. Unfortunately there are a few teachers who let the side down, but the majority of teachers are amazing. The amount of work they put in is exceptional.

      • Hirra Sohail

        yes some teachers are over paid for their amount of work that they do but some teachers work hard and get paid far too less!!

  33. Gary

    Thank goodness. Someone posting an intelligent comment. Well done Rhys

  34. Faye

    Thank you so much for opening people’s eyes to how much work teachers really have to do. It is so refreshing to see!