I love Twitter. It tells us the news often before the media outlets have had time to react; it connects people worldwide and it is a great platform for sharing opinions. It is also a platform where you often stumble upon people talking absolute rubbish and nonsense. They are acting as if their opinion is gospel and anyone who disagrees with them is shouted at through the USE OF ANGRY CAPS. These people are often referred to as “trolls” as more often than not they are uneducated idiots spoiling for a fight. I know this, I really do, but I still end up getting dragged into the odd Twitter spat. I just can’t help myself.
Last week BBC News shared an article about teacher retention efforts and how it isn’t working. Yes, surprise, surprise, teachers are still leaving the profession in droves. What surprised me (or not) was the reaction of one particular Twitter commenter who suggested that teachers need to stop moaning and get on with it as they have so many “holidays” and “some” marking. Oh, that old chestnut, the one that makes me see red every time I read it. Although, this person is not alone in their misguided thoughts. Their thoughts probably reflect the opinions of many people. Some people seem to think that teachers rock-up as the bell rings, swan around a classroom (think Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society) and then when the bell rings again at 3pm, off they trot home to write some poetry or possibly sip fine wine! NOT TRUE. I wish it had been true though. I love wine.
Anyone Can Teach?
Teaching is one of those professions where everyone has an opinion on it and everyone claims they are an expert on everything teaching. Surprising really because surely that should mean we are overflowing with teachers. Hmm, apparently not because we are facing a teaching recruitment crisis. Those Twitter idiots could easily be our government. Perhaps I was actually having a twitter spat with Nicky Morgan. They are so blinkered in their beliefs that they refuse to listen to the “actual” experts. The people who teach.
A Love/Hate Relationship
I LOVED my teaching job. But at times I really disliked it too. The long hours. Yes, that “some” marking means working until 10pm most nights and one day of your weekend. The endless paperwork, the target driven teaching leaving no room for creativity, the changing curriculum and the uncertainty that went with it, the squeezing and relentless pushing of pupils to achieve a C and above in your subject, even if you knew that realistically that C was beyond their capabilities. The large classes with pupils that all have wide and varying needs and no support to help them address their individual needs. When I started in teaching the focus had been on “Every Child Matters” by the time I left teaching it felt like the focus had shifted to “Every Child Is A to C Grade And We Don’t Want To Hear Otherwise”. Apparently, the idea that children are individuals with different strengths and weakness is entirely lost on the government. They don’t see schools as establishments for inspiring and educating, they see them as factories for churning out robots.
Who Do We Blame?
When I left teaching I was despairing with what Gove had already done and I was worried about where it was headed. I feared that the government was creating a curriculum completely out of touch with the modern world and the modern child. Surely our education should be fit for purpose? I fear that ours is not. Since moving to Jersey I have watched from the sidelines as our States Government has made the changes that were implemented on the mainland a couple of years ago. I predicted the fall-out that would happen, that many teachers would find the increase in paperwork and stress impossible to cope with. It would appear that this is now happening on our little island. According to the Jersey Evening Post we are heading for an “Education Staffing Crisis”.
‘Over the last ten years, teachers’ pay in Jersey has fallen behind the average earnings index/average weekly earnings by 11.3 per cent because pay increases have been below the rate of inflation.
‘It means the real-time value of teachers’ wages has gone down and down.” – JEP
A Freedom of Information request also revealed that the number of sick days for depression, stress and anxiety taken by teachers has more than doubled in two years.
More Cuts And More Pressure
This makes me angry because in the midst of all of this there are more cuts being made to schools’ budgets and more pressure being put on teachers. In 2016 8% of teachers left their jobs for reasons other than unemployment. A department of Education survey found that teachers and middle-leaders were working a 54 hour week. Yet, we still have people banging on about those holidays. Those holidays do not make up for the long hours teachers spend working. Hours that could be spent with their families. Those holidays are not “actual” holidays. A teacher will see them as an opportunity to plan and mark and check that her paperwork is up to date. A teacher never switches off. They are always thinking about what they need to do next. There is always a book that needs marking, work that needs planning, a parent that needs a phone call and finally, but most importantly, there is always a pupil that needs a teacher’s support. Holidays are when teachers spend time trying to catch-up. Trying to ensure that they start the next term with everything in place. Regrettably, however, it’s a losing battle because with goal posts constantly moving and a teacher’s time being squeezed, you can never be fully prepared.
The problem is that whilst the government continues to cut the funding to schools then the pressure on teachers will continue to grow. We need to stop viewing teaching as a role that is easy because it is far from easy; we need to stop viewing teaching as a family friendly job because it is far from family friendly. We need to start treating teachers with respect that they so deserve. We need to offer them the very best support and training we can. We should be investing in our teachers because they are responsible for our children’s future.
We Need Change NOW
Our education system is bleeding. We are losing fantastic and wonderful teachers in droves. If we are to stop the shedding of teachers then we need to be looking into the spiralling workload that teachers now have. Teachers are overworked and undervalued. We need to wake-up and realise this before it is too late. I chose my family over teaching. I chose to leave because I could see that I would no longer be teaching but instead preparing pupils for test after test. How does this prepare our children for the real world? How does it arm them with the necessary skills to survive in an ever evolving world? In short, it doesn’t and, therefore, we are failing our children, the government is failing our children. The government needs to start listening to our teachers before it’s too late.