This is the first time I have written a blog post about my profession but I felt it was appropriate to discuss the issue, especially during current strikes and lots of News posts about education in Britain. The challenges of teaching are real and have grown considerably in the last ten years.
1) Not Enough Hours In The Day
I know a lot of people dismiss teachers as lazy due to the regular holidays and large summer vacation. What people don’t see is the number of hours that professionals put in every week. Teachers teach from 8:45 to 15:15 or thereabouts BUT that is by no means the end of it.
Many articles suggest that teachers spend more time doing admin than actually teaching. An Edweek article speaks of teachers working a median of 54 hours a week. Under half of this time is actually taken up delivering whole class teaching.
A lot of my friends earn a lot more in office based jobs but never take work home or do any admin at the weekend. Teachers have to!
2) Homework Matters!
I hear people talk about homework as if it is irrelevant. It may feel like a drag getting your child to do a school task at home but it is really important. Half of a pupil’s learning takes place out of school.
Life skills and days out contribute to education too. Good conversations with families and friends make a difference to this learning. Homework helps to discipline young people to take control of their workload and enables them to solidify spelling knowledge and mathematical methods.
So, YES teachers spend a lot of time chasing missed homework. It does matter.
3) Parents Make A Massive Difference
It is strikingly obvious that parents can make a huge difference when it comes to education. Supportive parents can be incredibly valuable. They also make a teacher’s life easier.
When parents put effort in to spend time with their children reading, pupils are certainly more keen to interact with books. Those who don’t bother are easy to spot. Kids who never have a book or remember to bring it or who don’t want to engage with books often come from homes where books are not valued.
Similarly, in houses where kids get to do productive things and get involved with informal education, they tend to engage better with the education system. You don’t have to do expensive days out at The Yorvik Museum or visiting the French trenches. Just having sensible conversations about nature, making a bird feeder, talking about what is going on in the world, encouraging questioning… These things help.
4) People Pleasing
The inspection system is flawed. As we know, recently there has been a lot of talk about the lack of value of Ofsted inspections. Giving a school a one word summary is very simplistic and can be very harsh.
Currently Ofsted grades include:
We spend a lot of time going through mock inspections and doing extra admin which an inspector might like to see. Teachers are under incredible pressure to perform and it can be A LOT. One visit every three to five years can knock a school down or provide it with a stamp of glory.
Essentially teaching is people pleasing. For me though, the people who truly matter are the pupils. Not inspectors!
5) Who are we doing the admin for?
Another thing that takes up a lot of time in education is the dreaded thing we call marking. Teachers spend lots of time writing in books, ticking, underlining and correcting work. It is a prominent part of the job but can become very tiring.
Fortunately, it is possible to hot mark during a lesson as you provide feedback to individual pupils. This has been a new addition which was gratefully received. But there is a lot of other admin surrounding marking and assessment.
Secondary school teachers know better than anyone how taxing marking tests and exams can be. Any test we set has to be processed in some way. At primary school, every answer in a test is scored and typed into a computer to be churned out on various Excel spreadsheets. For whom I will never know.
Special Educational Needs are becoming a growing concern. In my twenty years as an educator, the proportion of young people per class with special needs has grown whilst the number of teaching assistants has dwindled. I love that we include everyone in education but the amount of admin surrounding a child with an educational statement is huge and the amount of training in this area is limited.
In A Nutshell
I have always strongly believed that education should be free and widely available. Growing up in a small village in the Fens and then going to secondary school in a market town, I adored my education. Those with privilege seem to get better opportunities at school but I totally disagree. They may get to mix with more rich kids but passionate teachers are widespread.
My friends and colleagues are wonderful teachers and love imparting knowledge, supporting pupils to develop as good citizens and inspiring young learners to strive for their dreams. If parents are supportive then children can learn so much. There are a few obstacles though, such as behaviour and social history.
Hopefully my five challenges facing teachers get you to think about some issues that affect educators. When teachers strike it is because of issues such as these and the incredible work-life imbalance that leads to burnout and early retirement or brilliant teachers switching careers.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog article. For another informative post, have a look at my Why Greener Spaces Matter article which links to The Climate Change Collective. Please also follow my blog for more articles about lifestyle and reviews of books, movies and TV programmes.