Tuesday, 23 November 2010

7 Things i wish i had asked myself first....

Back from work and feeling reflective. I've realised that there are around 7 things i wish i has asked myself before i started my descent into the madness that is teaching teenagers.

1) Am i able to tolerate ignorance?

Now you would obviously think I'm talking about the kids, the moments when they actually don't know what the pope represents or are adamant that you are wrong about scientific facts such as the percentage of DNA humans share with a plant. As annoying as this is it isn't their fault, they genuinely just haven't been told the information before. However senior management within a school are amazing at ignoring facts. For example if you have a class of thirty fourteen year olds who are all predicted Es and Fs by the best data from past exams possible, last thing on a Friday and then send 6 of those students out in that one lesson...well let's just say that I got called into my line managers office and told i need to be more pro active to ease the burden on the detention supervisors while the kids who were telling me to "f*ck off" get just a half hour after school (for which i have to be present) and that's it. In the mean time I'm monitored under the suspicion that i cannot possibly be teaching them right. As it goes, i can just walk away and re think, but alot of people i know would have a stand up row while still reeling from the bad lesson.

2) Do I Like Kids?

Now this seems like an obvious one....but stay with me. I have always got on well with kids, cousins, sisters, their friends and so on. But this is OUTSIDE of school. INSIDE school it's very different. For example i know a girl who is 12 and horse rides at a stables i go to. She is independent, gets there and back on her own steam, grooms, mucks out, cleans her saddle and bridle and rides, all without being told to. In school she still has to ask me if she should start a new page or draw the diagram squished in the bottom corner of the page! It's amazing how some kids defy authority, but coming fresh from junior school they need to be told what to write, when and occasionally how! I sound grumpy but if every lesson you are greeted by "sir..there isn't enough room on the page, should i start a new one" it soon gets to the point where you vow you will never have children, because if this is them at 12 years, 2 years old must suck! So yes i enjoy being around young people, but young people who act like they had a lobotomy...no thanks!

3) Can i keep myself busy for 6 weeks at a time?

You're kidding right? 6 weeks holiday?!?!! WOOOHOOOO!!! But then it happens. You end the school year, without a time table of your new classes, fully aware that all your friends and family are at work and hate you a little bit, but you can't prepare for the new school year either so that's going to be chaotic at best and you are stuck on your own. Now 2 weeks i could handle. after week 4 i was having conversations with my cat and had become bored of computer games, TV and book reading. Bad times! The worst bit is not realising you're talking to the cat until you pause for response, look down and see the puzzled furry face wondering why you aren't at work.

4) Am i willing to keep working once all the kids have left?

Again this seems like a complete no brainer. But seriously, it's hard! There is a reason why school finishes at 3 and not 5. It is exhausting. The kids leave, you are left alone in a big room...alone...suddenly aware you could be at home doing the work rather than a cold badly decorated uncomfy classroom.. SO you go home. Thing is you are now at home with 3000 things more enjoyable to do than marking books. Which, by the way, when they are all bad replicas of exactly what you yourself taught, is depressing and boring to the point of wanting an enema Richard Gere style just to liven things up a little! SO despite being used to working 9-5, 8:30 till 4:30 rarely happens!

5) Do i like people?

People yes. Parents no. This is something i didn't realise until a year in to the teaching, so after i had qualified. People are great, some times amazing, on occasion (any one who watches Jeremy Kyle will understand) not worth a second look. But generally every person on the planet can be reasoned with to some extent. However if you take a completely reasonable person, give them a child of their own, then send that child to school to sit exams which determine their lives......you guessed it...reason goes out the window! The fact is every single parent who gives a dam wants their child to have the best education possible and be in the top set. There are 180 children per year group. 2 top sets. So 120 parents (240 people ish) are disappointed. Now trying to reason with said 240 (ish) people is like trying to politely ask a rabid ravenous grizzly bear to not bite you after you poked it with a big stick. This is fine, i genuinely understand! but when it is parent number 45 saying the same thing, being very angry and slightly offensive you start to realise you are underpaid. Then you realise you have been at work since 08:30 and it is now 20:30 and you realise you really may have made a mistake!

6) Can I follow school rules?

Again how hard can it be! Alas it is hard! You get used to being able to have a crisp, or a cake or a drink when ever you need. If you have back to back lessons and spend two hours in the classroom, a room which as a science "lab" the students are not allowed to eat or drink in, you get very fed up. I tried having a drink, justifying to the students why i needed one. The next lesson two students had food out and 3 had fizzy drinks. "put them away please"..."well YOU can drink so why cant we?" It's at this point you have an aneurysm and welcome the darkness and the peace and quiet.

7) How smart are the other teachers?

Now this is scary..if you have children look away now...seriously....

I thought i might not be sharp enough on my high school science. But it turns out most teachers know squat about real science. They all have an area they are good at (Bio, Chem, Physics) and that's it. The rest they read up as they go. Some teachers teaching A level have degrees over 10 years old, never worked in industry so have no actual experience with the concepts they teach, and don't subscribe to any form of material to keep their knowledge up to date. It is shocking. I fins it frustrating that as a new teacher i don't get any A level or final GCSE year students. Even though I am probably the most qualified member of staff there if you discount time on the job. Worrying. So as it turns out this last one is a culmination of all the rest!!!

So....teaching....is it for me? unfortunately only a sadistic sociopath would be okay with all 7 questions here. And you can't apply, because you are probably locked up!


  1. Oh I know the feeling... 7 things I cant stand!

  2. It's not just me then! I hope it doesn't seem I'm saying i am wrong for the job, i think i'm as right as anyone can be, but it's a job i think no body is perfect for in todays environment!