Friday, 20 July 2012

I'm out - On leaving Teaching

Just the constant being judged really, that's what drove me from the "profession" in the end. That and being treated like an automaton. Expected to be endlessly enthusiastic about the next big thing in teaching. Supposedly ever delighted to embrace the new orthodoxy in a grateful and even more receptive way even though the last initiative had only just finished and had met with limited success.

Three parts lessons -  genius that, lessons should have a beginning a middle and an end. As an idea it came, it stayed for a bit and then it went away. An initiative supported by lots of prescriptive literature and Lord knows how much government money. It was a minor tragedy in three acts. To be replaced by lessons of manifold parts all inter-spaced by mini-plenaries whatever they are.

Learning styles - Apparently we all have ways we learn best. Some children should be running around shouting, others should be listening to a recording of you explaining, some should be looking at a worksheet and yet others should be learning through interpretive dance. Despite there being no decent research evidence that performing with a greater range of styles then Lord Olivier will actually improve outcomes we had to have these styles in our classrooms.

National strategies -  books of how and what, when and for how long. National Programmes of Study with examples of what should be achieved in a lesson. A sort of Little Red Book for teaching but without the clarity or brevity. There all in landfill now slowly composting.

Now we have Pupil Progress. You can do what you like if your whole lesson is delivered via bongos or a nose flute that's dandy, but no child may fail to progress and it MUST BE PROVED. Acceptable excuses for failing to demonstrate sufficient progress, begin and end with a child being dead in your lesson. All other excuses simply will not do. Which can be a tad awkward when dealing with the  occasionally capricious and sometimes indifferent British adolescent.

Coming soon to a school near you  is "the flipped classroom" the kids do the learning at home and we just do crowd control or dish out challenges like in the Apprentice. Well let me tell you this one nearly kept me in but not quite.

Twelve years after I thought it might be fun to try a career in teaching. The joy of the early years, when New Labour's Cool Britannia and "Education, Education and Education." Seemed to offer a shining new tomorrow of blinding light. When I worked myself half to death, worked every hour I could until my friends and family forgot what I looked like, so I could genuinely change some peoples' lives, I'm now worn out and getting out. All my former enthusiasm is gone, give people freedom and they reward you with effort and they take responsibility because someone has to. Treat them like children, worse like knaves and they rebel by doing little at least that what's happened to me.

Its time to get out of the education game with its long holidays and relatively short working weeks, a sort of guilded rut for me, and try another way of making a living. Get out before I become any more cynical and embittered. Before I start blaming the kids for mine and my profession's shortcomings. Its been an education, I have learnt a lot but I will keep the rest to myself, you wouldn't believe some of it.


  1. I think there probably is something in the learning styles point... But that's not the same as teaching styles, and there's no way the system has the resources to give due attention to each learning style.

    Anyway, an illuminating read, and all the best with your new endeavours.

  2. I think the state should provide an education but I don't think it should be tailor made it would cost to much. If kids don't want it thats fine by me there are plenty of places to get an education these days and to be honest with you school is probably top five but no better. Don't rule out Libraries the internet and the pub for starters.

  3. My preference - as you may have noticed in the climbing and juggling areas - is collaborative learning. Admittedly I'm not really the target market, but it does seem like the system gives short shrift to anything other than conventional certificate-based education.

  4. Took me twice as long to be driven out of teaching. Health gone, confidence gone, career gone. The job I was being asked to do was not the job I signed up for or was trained for. I couldn't operate in the climate of fear and the culture of blame that seems to have become so pervasive. I always swore I'd leave before the job got to me but I waited too long. Perhaps I'll try again in a couple of years and hope that my experience still counts for something. I wouldn't want to put anyone off a career in teaching but I find it hard to recommend it either.

  5. Hope you feel better soon Phil. I hope education gets better too.