Because I love being in the classroom….

Teachers like me: 45 and STILL in the classroom. I can’t be the only one…

By A Voice member (personal view)

Why can’t I be a good teacher, often outstanding, but stay in the classroom where I want to be, where I work best, where the kids learn best, where I’m the happiest?

Because I can’t…obviously!

This question is one that I have asked myself a million times over the last few years. Why can’t I just be left alone to do what I do best? Why do I constantly get told that I should ‘coach/mentor/complete book trawls/report/lead staff meetings?

Because I’m an experienced teacher at UPS3, that’s why. Gone are the days when you got rewarded and moved up the scale for being a good teacher...now, you get rewarded by being given more responsibility, yay!

More time out of the classroom…more time away from your charges (but still be expected to maintain an upward trend in their learning graphs)…yay!

Yes, you still do move up the pay scale, but getting more pay is only half of the (perceived) reward these days. Your ‘reward’ is to juggle more balls, keep more of the plates spinning whilst simultaneously maintaining your health, your marriage, your own kids’ healthy dinners – the list is endless. Don’t even get me started on completing your own children’s homework to any degree of accuracy and commitment. Homework! I have a major issue with that, but that’s for another day.

Leaving my class

Each time I leave my class to complete ‘extra responsibility jobs’, I know that it’s left in the hands of someone who isn’t me.

Someone who won’t mark their work – and I hate unmarked work in their books…(What’s the point of them spending precious time learning if there’s no feedback to guide them?)

Someone who has to have work planned and explained to them, by me!!

Our school doesn’t use supply teachers, we use LSAs (learning support assistants) – capable ones, but they are not trained teachers and they don’t plan the lessons that they cover. They are nice people, often parents of pupils at the school. Do they get regular training? Yes. Do we feel fine about leaving them with our precious classes? Of course. Can we expect the same level of knowledge and expertise that we provide the children? Of course not. Are we expected to be available if Janet or John misbehave and need our guidance? Of course! Juggle, spin, juggle, spin.

The reason why I need to be out of the class more is to fulfil my new role as the More Able co-ordinator. This is a role that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. (I’d like to say the favourite word of the moment, ‘yet,’ here but don’t think I can…yet.)

I feel slightly dumped on and feel that this is a role that I can’t fill on my own, yet nobody seems to be volunteering to sit through book trawls or prepare staff meeting notes with me…funny that.

I have been ‘given’ this role due because I’m the most experienced teacher in this school (and no, I am not receiving any more pay for this). Not the oldest either! I feel that people see my experience as a thing to be amazed at. Yes, 22 years in the job and still working in the classroom –through choice I hasten to add!

Do I get to see teachers whizz past me on their way up to deputy head and headteacher status? Oh yes.

How does that make me feel? To be honest, I feel sorry that they don’t enjoy hands-on teaching anymore.

Am I jealous? Hell no!

Are my headteachers getting younger? Hmm, well of course they are, but that’s not their fault.

I love being in the classroom!

I am beginning, however, to feel that certain people wonder why I’ve not moved on to (so-called) bigger and better things:

“Why not consider adult education?”  Because I love being in the classroom.

“Why not go for consultancy work?” Because I love being in the classroom.

“Why not go for deputy head?” Because I love being in the classroom.

“Where do you seriously see yourself in five years?” IN THE CLASSROOM!  (Note to headteachers – get rid of this awful question in the interview. It’s horrible.).

When colleagues talk about their ambitions in the staffroom over a cold cuppa, I always feel lacking here because I don’t want to ‘excel’ and move onwards and upwards.

My ambition (if I’m allowed to call it that) is to stay still and enjoy what I do. In five years, I still want to be here (in this school or another), helping kids to achieve their potential. Personally. I think that that is ambition personified.

Am I allowed to voice that opinion out loud? Nope. I am not allowed to move forward by standing still, apparently.

How about using the analogy of standing next to a roundabout and making it whizz faster around, with each child jumping off when they’ve done their bit and new kids jumping on and enjoying the ride? No, you must work hard(er), want more and run with colleagues who are ambitious…have dreams…move upwards, upwards, upwards. Yuck!

A 26 year old colleague wants to ‘run’ for deputy head. Go for it, kiddo! No one will ever ask him why he doesn’t want to be with the children anymore. Why bother training to teach if you want to sit in an office and complete child-related tasks that don’t actually involve talking to children? I don’t understand it. I can’t be the only one.

To sum up…

My school want me out of the class more, to help less experienced colleagues get to the dizzy heights of my experience level…while continuing to plan, deliver and reflect for the greater good of my own class.

My school doesn’t understand that whenever I am ‘given’ a role or extra ‘little’ job, this takes my mind off producing exciting lessons…sourcing interesting and stimulating ideas to do with my class…it hijacks my thinking and diverts my brain from my own class.

I feel like I am cheating my own class because I simply can’t split myself into three and give 100% to each.

Teaching one class of very diverse children is a hard enough job on its own…but something has to give.

I feel that my school wants other teachers to be as experienced as me. Give them another 20 years on the job and they will be!

Great teaching on its own is simply not enough now. You have to ‘share’ your talents. Spread them (thinly) across the school at the detriment of your sanity, home-life balance (joke) and the achievement of your own class.

Am I moaning about the senior leadership team (SLT) dishing out extra responsibilities to us teachers? Not really, but I do think that they need reminders that we care first and foremost about our class’s achievement as this is a direct reflection on us and our ability in the classroom.

Believe it or not, I don’t disagree with teachers spreading their knowledge, far from it. I love having a trainee teacher in so I can impart my wisdom – love it. It keeps me in the class, it makes me really focus on what it means to teach well, and it also enables me to watch Janet and John when someone is teaching them.

What gnaws away at me is just how much is expected from me with very little time in which to do it – ironic really as I need more time to complete tasks, but I don’t want to be out of the classroom. Answers on a post card please!

SLT members need to remember that people like me are still in the class for a reason. We love it and it’s where we want to be.

It does not mean that we are waiting to be ‘called upon’ (those machines that you get in arcades spring to mind …claw grabbing at the very firmly placed cuddly toy) to perform some higher level responsibility project.

Stuff like that makes us groan (inwardly, of course, we don’t want to upset anyone else’s feelings) but we do it, complete the task, because we have to. And we do a bloody good job, but at the expense of something else not being as great.

An old colleague from the past once said to me:

“We keep being given more things to do but nothing is dropping off the end of the table.”

That’s a phrase that I find myself using now. Teachers have breakdowns a lot. Their tables fill up too rapidly and nothing drops off. I have times when I’m ‘low’. I scream, shout, cry, drink a tad (ahem) too much, but then I see a light and I begin to get over it, give myself a good talking to and move on.

I have managed to bag myself a most excellent husband and have (oddly) brought up two really well-rounded children who can all deal with me working non-stop. They regularly hear me answering their questions, usually about me spending time with them, with:

“Just give me 1 hour babe, mum just needs to do some paperwork.”

Sad, really, as I care more sometimes about what my class feel about me than what my own family think. Like I said, an excellent hubby and two great kids! I know that I am married to the job. “Compartmentalize/Switch off” my non-teacher friends say to me when I answer that I can’t go away at the weekend because I have too much work to do.

I reply:

“Get that spare bedroom ready.

“My other husband’s coming to stay!”

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