Written by: Caroline Wheeldon-Wright
“The number of teachers who quit their jobs in English state schools rose by almost a fifth in one year, official figures suggest. Some 47,700 teachers left their jobs in the year 2010-11, up from 40,070 in 2009-10, according to Schools Minister David Laws”.
Teaching is a vocation. I was a teacher myself for fourteen years and to some this may sound clichéd, but it was a calling. I wanted to contribute to society and help future generations achieve their dreams and ambitions. This was the attitude of most teachers I encountered, certainly nothing like the ‘lazy’ stereotype espoused in some newspapers.
Teaching is a privilege, being trusted with the care, progress and development of your pupils is an honour. Teaching is also great fun: young people are funny, engaging and filled with energy. I remember often thinking how lucky I was to be working with them. Schools are a vibrant and exciting place to be and no two days are ever the same! So why are so many teachers leaving the profession?
Workload Work-Life Balance and Burnout
‘But school finishes at 3!’ I can’t remember how many times I heard that. Three pm is actually when round two begins after lessons have finished. There is not only the planning, resourcing and teaching of lessons to contend with, but also a huge amount of additional bureaucratic/whole-school tasks.
A full day of teaching on your feet, engaging 30+ students one hour after another is hard work (physically and mentally) so it does take energy and tenacity to then gear up for more.
A working week of up to 60 hours (weekends included) is not unusual and juggling all the plates can feel impossible. The endless rounds of observations, monitoring, work/planning scrutiny, meetings, data exercises in addition to planning, delivering and marking lessons can overwhelm.
Workload and associated pressures impact upon work-life balance and emotional well-being. Family/home life can suffer and so some professionals are choosing to opt out before burnout.
The standards of schools need to be quality assured, certainly. However, the nature of the current inspection model generates a huge amount of additional work, stress and anxiety. Not all teachers agree that the current methods of inspection are fair or reasonable.
Schools are constantly waiting for ‘the call’ and the culture/environment this creates within schools can be negative.
Politicians drive changes in educational policy such as the curriculum. Policies change from one year to the next which can make it difficult for schools to plan and adapt. Often teachers don’t feel part of a collaborative process and decisions are made without consultation. If you are interested in this topic do take a look at Michael Rosen’s website.
Therefore, relationships between teachers and politicians are not always positive; mention the name Michael Gove in a staffroom and expect some interesting conversations. As for the portrayal of teachers in some newspapers, I won’t even go there!
Suffice to say this negativity erodes the confidence and happiness of professionals. Therefore, people are choosing to take their talents elsewhere.
Most young people are an absolute joy to work with: engaged, enthusiastic and keen to learn. However, some students (for many reasons) do not behave in such a way. They may well challenge authority and disrupt learning, which can be extremely hard work for the teacher who is under great pressure to ensure each student makes (data driven) progress. A challenging class can be demoralising.
In today’s climate of ‘accountability’ staff can feel that they are failing because of poor behaviour and the battle may seem like too big a one to win.