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Why I'm fed up with school

All of my life has somehow been linked with school. Learning, studying, assisting. I even thought that I wanted to teach for a while because I was good with the kids and I loved working with them but things have changed. 4 years of rejection from numerous sorts of teacher training courses and a change in personal circumstances as well as other reasons have helped me realise that I do not want to teach. It has been a difficult decision but one that I am pleased with.

As I've come along my journey, I've had numerous people telling me to not give up but I'm not giving up - it's a realisation. I've also had numerous people telling me 'it's not that hard', 'it's easy money' and 'you do get loads of holiday' as well as many other things but I am fed up.

At the moment I work 22hrs in school but am paid for 4. When I worked full time as a teaching assistant I was paid for 25hrs and worked 40. In 54 weeks I have done 3 Ofsted inspections, 1 SIAMs inspection, 2 primary schools, 1 middle school, 1 secondary/SEN and 1 PRU. I am mentally and physically exhausted. I, like my colleagues, work to the holidays we are given: we give our all to make sure the children in our care get the best support and the best environment to learn.
I'm fed up with being told that those of us in education aren't doing a good enough job; that we aren't working hard enough; that our children aren't learning enough; that we have it easy; that we need to make sacrifices. Every day I walk into the classroom as a volunteer, as I have over the past 10 years, I make a sacrifice. I make a sacrifice of my time, energy and money. Yes, it's amazing to know that I've helped change the lives of so many children but what do I have to show for it? I look at what the government is trying to do to education and I don't want to be here.

I'm fed up of being told that teachers get:
13 weeks holiday a year
6.5hrs work a day (9am - 3.30pm) equating to 32.5hrs a week
1hr lunch
A very good wage
To have fun with kids all day

The reality is very different. I'd like to go through each of these quickly to share the reality that many of my friends, who are teachers, face.

13 weeks holiday a year
It would be lovely if this was actually true. Yes, there are physically 13 weeks set aside for 'holiday' in the year but during this time many of my friends catch up on everything else they haven't done during term time. The biggest of these is sleep and the next is marking. Before returning to school after any holiday, they have all planned all of their lessons for the first week back. They know the overall planning scheme for the rest of the term or half term. They have sourced and created their resources for teaching a creative an interesting lesson to engage pupils. They have used their spare time, their 'holiday' time, to prepare things for your children to learn. Last year, my colleagues took 2 weeks off from school related work during the summer holidays - the first two were spent updating things in school and sorting classrooms out so that they would be ready and suitable for the pupils in September and the final two weeks before term started were spent planning and preparing lessons for the pupils.

6.5hrs work a day (9am - 3.30pm) equating to 32.5hrs a week
One of my friends had this on their bucket list before returning to teach in independent schools. In their mainstream state school, like many other state schools, they were being employed for 32.5hrs a week. The reality was that they did a lot more than 32.5hrs a week every week, each one of these above the 32.5 being unpaid. They did eventually manage to fulfil their bucket list during a week late in the summer term but only by preparing massively (by doing twice as much work the week before) and catching up with everything they'd been unable to do the week after. This was in addition to working through their lunch break, as normal, and having to forego PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) time in school so that they only spent the paid 32.5hrs on site. By the end, they were pleased they had managed to succeed but also greatly regretted it because of the strain it put on everything else. They also couldn't understand why teachers were only paid for the time that the children were actually on site when head teachers wanted staff in school from 8.30am at the latest. Many of my current colleagues are on site from 8am or earlier and do not leave until 6 or 7 at night.
Several of my friends currently do 80hr weeks in order to fulfil their actual teaching contract and do everything else they are expected to do as a teacher. This equates to a 12hr working day EVERY day of the week. The teacher I currently work with goes into school every weekend to work and sort things out, none of which is paid.

1hr lunch
I'm not naive enough to say that all teachers work through their lunch because I have witnessed a number who don't but the majority of teachers do not get a 1hr lunch. They might take 20minutes to actually eat their sandwich and get a drink before going back to the classroom to work but some even eat while working. I have also worked with teachers who have bypassed lunch in order to get ahead of their work and have eaten it in the car on their drive home. This is not healthy for anyone.

Very good wage
I am not nosey enough to ask my friends what it is that they earn but I do know that while they may be paid proportionally more per hour than some other jobs, they already do more than twice the hours unpaid. I also know that each one of my friends has spent their own money on equipment and resources for school and has taken in their own things from home. Teaching is one of the few professions where you steal stationery from home to take to work.

Having fun with the kids all day
Anyone who has ever worked with children knows how exhausting they can be. In school, there is not time for mental down time. You are on the go all the time and it is physically exhausting. Several of my colleagues have stated that they have been so tired some days that they do not know how they managed to get home. Sure, the kids tell you amazing and strange things which makes your day very interesting but we get 40 weeks of that a year. Please don't complain when you have to look after your own children for the summer holidays. It's only 6 weeks and you don't have 30 of them wanting your undivided attention.

On top of all this, teaching itself is not easy. Imagine you have to give an hour long presentation at work. You spend hours, maybe a week researching and preparing it all for an audience who roughly know what it's going to be about and are all on the same metaphorical page. Now do 5 of those for different subjects in one day for some people who understand and some who don't. Teachers do this every day and every week.
I'm frequently told by people, including my own relatives, that it's easy, that you can re-use the plans you did last year but the children change and their needs change so you still have to adapt. As well as this, the curriculum keeps changing so you are always having to improve own knowledge in order to give the best to the children. They plan, mark and assess their work and the children's work to see if they can improve and the children can improve. Teachers are also expected to act like social workers as well as deal with bad behaviour and, in some cases, violence while ensuring that all children are learning. On top of this are inspections to see if you are 'up to scratch', to see if your children are making 'expected progress', to see if your school is getting the results they need. If you don't get the expected results, your inspections are increased which increases the stress level. It is not really surprising that the burn out rate for newly qualified teachers is currently at 6 years.

I should state that there are lots of people who work in a school and they are not all teachers. As well as teachers, there are numerous support staff roles including teaching assistants, secretaries, bursars, kitchen staff, cleaning staff, lunchtime supervisors and before/after school support staff. Each of these has their own role, wage and hours. At some point, yes, school staff may get the 13 weeks worth of holiday but even they work more than they are paid for. Each one of these members of staff helps support your children to achieve their potential. Each one is helping shape the next generation. Each one deserves to be acknowledged and respected for their work. Please support them rather than undermine them.

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