Myths about Teaching

While writing my previous post, I  became incensed by the comments I read in response to Sir Wilshaws comments about teachers pay. And it got me thinking about what people think about teaching today. Everyone has an experience of school, but being a student gives you a very different perspective to that of a teacher. My OH regularly defended my profession to people who ‘joked’ about it being easy and all about watching videos, by saying he’s never seen anyone work so hard. He had no idea what teaching involved until we got together and he saw it for himself.

  1. Teaching is a 9 – 3 job. False. If a teacher is only working from 9 – 3, then within the first day, they’ll be behind. A teacher has to plan all their lessons every day. Depending on the number of classes they have (a teacher of English will have fewer classes than an RE teacher, but have to plan more lessons), the amount of time they spend doing certain tasks will vary. When teaching, not only to you have to stand in front of the class for 5 – 6 hours a day, you also have to plan each of these lessons. You then need to mark the work from each of these lessons. You’ll have to do 2 duties a week and organise the pastoral care of your tutor group. Throw in meetings before and after school, as well as training, parents evenings, open evenings and other possible events depending on your subject. I’d like to meet these teachers who only work 9 – 3 and ask them how they do it!
  2. Teachers get tons of holidays. True. But how many people do work during their holidays? Not many I’ll bet. Again, not every teacher will work during the holidays. Some might, some won’t. But in order to stay on top of everything, there are an awful lot of teachers who work during at least some of their holidays. The only time I didn’t work during my holidays was when I went abroad. As my OH wasn’t a teacher, we didn’t go abroad every holiday. So I would work during Christmas, Easter, at least one half term and half of the summer holidays. When I was Head of Department, I would go into school during the first week of the summer holidays to sort things out from the end of the school year & prepare for the new one, and then again at the end of the summer holidays for results day and getting things ready, like displays, organising books, getting to know the students who had specific learning needs etc.
  3. Teachers get a good deal with pay & pensions. Mmmmm…kind of. Teaching can pay very well, depending on your cost of living. In the last few years of my teaching career, the money I earned for being Head of Department (all £200 of it) went on my diesel. No joke. The pay I received for being head of department in no way reflected what was entailed in that job. And this is thing, teachers might get a decent amount of holidays but they do an awful lot outside of their contracted hours. Day trips, residential trips, buying things out of their own pocket, getting in early etc. If I calculate the number of hours I worked on average during term time, and not even factoring in working on the weekend, it boils down to earning just above minimum wage. Now I know not every teacher worked like I did, but something tells me that working as hard as I did for effectively minimum wage, means I wasn’t getting a good deal. I wish Wilshaw had brought up this idea of pay rises for hard workers when I was still there! Do teachers need decent pensions? Probably not, because the statistics of teachers dying early in retirement is shocking. Raise the retirement age even further, and they’ll be dropping in front of their white boards.
  4. Teaching is a job for life. False. When I started teaching back in 2002, I thought teaching was a secure profession to go into. Who had ever heard of teachers being made redundant? They’re essential right? True, to a point. Due to the ‘economic downturn’ or whatever you’d like to call it, times are very tough for schools. Even making schools academies isn’t the silver lining in the Tory Government cloud. It was only a few years ago when the school I worked in called for voluntary redundancies. This year, only a tiny handful of teachers will be replaced after a massive handful left. Teaching is not secure at all.

My Granny considered teaching to be a noble profession. But if you look at the comments on newspaper & TV websites when anything to do with teaching comes up, you’d think that teachers were the scum of the earth! And that they alone were the cause of everything that is wrong in the world.

I don’t understand at what point teachers became the root of all evil but I wish it would stop. Nothing in life is fair & I don’t think that lots of people who work hard in their various professions or fields get a good deal either. I don’t think its fair that sections of the Armed Forces or other public services are so underpaid or have rubbish pensions. The same way that I don’t think its fair for the Government to claw back money from those who are most vulnerable in our society because the wealthiest created a massive financial black hole. Sadly we live in a world that isn’t fair & there will always be people who think teachers have got it easy. They are wrong, obviously, because none of us who work hard & don’t see an equal financial return for that hard work, whatever it is, have got it easy. But hey ho, that’s just how it is.

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