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I've talked to a lot of disillusioned teachers. They want to quit but they can't, for various reasons. In this article, I'm going to run through some of those and give some handy hints to those who really can't face the classroom any more, but are stopped by these key things:
One: The Ridiculous Period of Notice
Most schools require at least half a term. This is absolutely useless to employers outside education because they want staff to join in a week, not months. The only organizations that recruit this way are other schools.
Solution: Quit anyway. That reduces the notice period and you can start work during the next holiday. If you don’t land a job in time, start doing supply. Very good teachers rarely find any shortage of work, and you could start your new job within days. Even a long-term supply contract can be terminated far more easily than getting out of a regular contract.
Two: The Feeling That You Have Let the Children Down
This is a real killer because no one wants to abandon an exam group and we are even less happy about saying goodbye to our tutor groups.
Solution: Spend a few days in your school's isolation unit. Do break duties in in the worst parts of the school. Ask to be given Travel and Tourism cover lessons, period 5 on a Friday. That should disabuse you of any romantic notions which may have remained.
Three: The feeling that "I can’t do anything except teach."
It’s amazing how many teachers believe that their skills are only really applicable in the classroom.
Solution: If you honestly think that you would be useless outside the classroom, ask a friend with a real job if you could shadow them for a day. You’ll suddenly be amazed how easily you could do their job. Because to survive in teaching you have to be multi-skilled, adept at multi-tasking, have the hide of a rhinoceros, the determination of an ant dragging an elephant uphill. It makes most other jobs look easy.
Four: Teaching is marginally better paid than any other job I could go into.
Which is true. It's hard to find a comparable job that doesn’t start off paying a few thousand less.
Solution: The first question to ask yourself is—does the additional money make up for the additional hours? If not, economise. If you really need the money, that’s still not the end of the world. Switching from teaching to another job will give you far more time. Imagine actually finishing work at 4.00 and not having to do any more until the next day. That’s what’s happens with most jobs. What could you do with that extra time? Knit egg covers on Etsy? Run an evening class? Work as a tutor?
Five: What about the holidays? Is twenty-one days a year enough?
Solution: Just ask yourself how much of your holiday you actually get to use. How many weekends do you lose? How much of your summer break do you give over to preparing lessons? And when you do get away on holiday, are you really relaxing? Have you ever visited a castle in the middle of nowhere and asked if they have an education pack because you might be able to use this in a lesson? And, of course, it’s worth checking the price of holidays during term time. In September, the cost can drop by two thirds. So you may have less holiday, but you will certainly get better holidays.
Six: The pension is really good.
When I look around at people in the private sector they all seem to be getting squeezed really hard.
Solution: Seriously?? Do you think you’ll live long enough to draw it? And have you noticed the way that the government keeps making that pension worse and worse? When you are finally allowed to stagger to the post office and claim your pauper’s allowance, what do you think you will find in your twitching hands? Two bottle caps and a gobstopper? Forget the pension.
Seven: Despite everything, I get a real sense of satisfaction out of teaching.
Yes, it’s hard, but there is no other job like it. Where else would I get the satisfaction which comes from delivering a really effective lesson, or seeing the glow on a student’s face when they pass an exam?
Solution: Get involved with a charity. Or a political party. Work with the disabled. Are you seriously telling me that there are not more deserving people than your horrible year nine students? There is no end of ways you can get the same sense of giving something back that comes with our job without the hassle and heartache.