Teacher Roar

There’s a teacher I know – it’s ok, she doesn’t read this blog – who won’t be on strike today. Well, she teaches in the South West and the day of action for them is the 17th October. Today is for teachers in the east of England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber. On the 17th it will be the turn of  London, the North East, South East and South West.

While she won’t be on strike today, it’s worth me pointing you at the Teacher ROAR blog site, which has a decent, if somewhat understated, explanation of why both major teaching unions are working together to organise this unprecedented industrial action.

I guess it won’t be hard to work out which exemplar of the teaching profession I am best acquainted with. No names, no pack drill. Given that you’ve worked it out, you’ll understand how I am utterly confident in my facts when I say that an average working week extends to eighty hours. Let’s say that again. Eighty Hours. More than twice my hours, and we’re pretty comparable on pay scales. So even considering those oh-so-enviable summer holidays (at least a week of which she spends working), she’s on half my pay.

So, it’s not a well paid job then. That’s a choice. But when she started she had an aspiration to retire on a pension. She had a confidence that she would get the pension she worked for. And now that’s no longer a certainty. Despite the pension funds being massively in the black, teachers terms and conditions are being changed to make them pay more into the fund and pay for longer, to get less out. Coupled with an effective pay cut through a year after year pay freeze – we’re all in this together, eh? – it’s no wonder there’s a shortage of teachers to the point where minimum qualifications have had to be relaxed.

Parking the pensions plunder for a moment, it’s worth asking why the eighty hours? School isn’t open for teaching eighty hours a week, after all. I’m guessing, in an ideal world, a good teacher would develop a package of teaching material upon which they could base a years teaching, adapting for the occasional unique event; for example the Jubilee, a new discovery/invention or a significant moment in a school’s life. Each student would find the year unique, even if much of the material was recycled. But no, teaching practice has been changed, and changed again, and even again.

Every time a new government, or a new minister, or a new think-tank suggests a new way of teaching – to improve standards until everyone is above average of course – the entire teaching profession has to reinvent the wheel then work out again how to trundle it along the road. And then when teaching standards do improve and pass rates go up and SAT results are year on year better… it’s time for the media to tell everyone that the tests have got easier! No wonder the eighty hours – most of it is spent running to stand still! The Red Queen would understand, I think.

Then there are the meetings. Staff meetings, PTA meetings, Governor’s meetings, Parent’s Evenings, one-to-one’s… And the weekend stuff – school fetes (and the long nights and weekends preparing for them), school plays (ah, look, doesn’t he/she look lovely), school trips and cleaning the classrooms (and if you’re unlucky, the toilets). Pinning stuff up, taking stuff down, the list is endless. Teaching is a small part of teaching, from where I’m standing. Of course, I’m not standing in a school. I did learn something, after all…

Already I’m seeing some arsey comments on the inter web about the strike and how teachers should feel lucky to have all those lovely holidays and a nice nine to three working day. Enough to make you roar. Teacher Roar. https://twitter.com/TeacherROAR

All of this is in a personal capacity and I am not in the profession and I may simply be misinformed, eh? E&OE, YMMV, May contain nuts. And she will kill me for ranting out loud. 🙂

I’ll leave you with a maths question. You may use a calculator but there are bonus marks for showing your workings out. A teacher gets to school for eight o’clock to prepare the classroom for the day ahead, teaches her class and works through her lunchtime doing one-to-one tuition and covering playground supervision, continues teaching then sends the children home at three thirty or so before clearing the classroom. She fills the boot of her car with three boxes of school books for marking then goes into the staff meeting(s). Getting home at seven o’clock on a good day, she eats the sandwich she should have eaten hours ago, and spends five minutes each marking forty books before preparing the next day’s teaching plan. What time does she get to bed?


2 responses to “Teacher Roar”

  1. well ranted! This country underpays and undervalues our teachers to a shocking degree. I have friends and relatives who teach. We just don’t see them in term time at all and in the holiday they tend to show up, ill, exhausted, bags under eyes. It is an awful thing to watch.


  2. I had the good fortune to teach for 38 years. It was both frustrating and rewarding but the (personal)rewards did outweigh the frustrations. What you can’t expect is much recognition for the work you do.

    From my experience many of the pupils are grateful and a proportion of the parents – but, as you point out, few realise the amount of work done outside the timetabled lessons. The “establishment” (Government, press, Ofsted etc) seem to have no concept of what teachers actually do or why they do it. I second all you say and would add another point. To anyone who has ever performed in a play (particularly an improvised one), run a workshop or given a presentation/demonstration – imagine doing about 6 different performances a day (to critical and knowledgeable audiences) five days a week in addition to all the work you mention. Imagine also acting a role similar to a Middle East peace negotiator whilst doing those “performances” (See http://www.channel4.com/programmes/educating-yorkshire/4od if you don’t know what I’m getting at). That’s what it’s like during lesson time. Then add all the things you mention which fill up the rest of your working life (Oh – and you didn’t mention the residential trips when you’re on duty 24 hours a day for up to a week!)

    I never said any of the above when I did teach; I found the only way to deal with the general public’s view (i.e. my non-teaching friends) was to say “Yes, of course it’s easy but if I was cleverer I’d have a job like yours”. The only way to deal with “the establishment” involved small dolls and sharp pins. 🙂

    My sympathy to your friend and her family (I hate to think everything I put mine through!) as it seems things just get worse and worse for those who remain dedicated to helping the younger generation.


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