Monday, 24 March 2014

The teachers' strike ... what do they actually do anyway??

Across the UK teachers will be striking this Wednesday.... not all, but some. The NUT are striking for one day in protest over working conditions, pay and pensions.

I read an interesting comment on a Facebook wall today, stating that teachers were lazy and asking "What do they actually do?" Well what do teachers do? After all they have weeks and weeks of holidays each year don't they? And they only work from 8.45 until 3.15 ... All they are interested in is getting as much money for as little work as possible... Isn't that the case?

Well, no, actually.

My sister in law is a teacher in a secondary school and I have never seen anyone work with such care and dedication. She is in school by 8 a.m at the very latest and doesn't leave until about 6pm. Having sorted out tea for her children she continues to work until late. At the weekend she often works past midnight on a Sunday evening.

Her days are filled with teaching, assessments, form filling .... Her head is filled with facts on who is achieving, who is under achieving, who is struggling ...  what are their grades, their predicted grades? Teaching is a never ending roller coaster of work. It is a personal mission to teach and support children while at the same time being swamped with paperwork, being judged and assessed constantly.

I am not a teacher, but colleagues with whom I work are and they work, work, work. They are constantly required to do more and more while coping with difficult behaviour including, sometimes, physical attacks.

It makes me so cross when I read comments asking what do they do. The norm at my school is that teachers grab a 15 minute lunch break where they can go to the loo and shove a sandwich down their throat. Some never get as far as the staff room, eating as they work in their class room.

Teachers have chosen this job, this vocation and they accept that they have to work long, hard hours. If you think that's not true then you need to think and check your facts. They did not come into the profession, however, to be worked like pack mules with ever increasing workloads and ever increasing pressure of scrutiny. They are constantly judged and constantly criticised. Of course all of us want the best for our children, but before you go charging into the school complaining about one thing or another please wait a moment. Think about the role of teacher and the workload involved.

Teaching can be the most rewarding job in the world, but it is also tiring, stressful and frustrating. The people I know who are teachers, with the very rare exception, teach because they love teaching. They do not love the admin and the constant form filling. They don't decide not to change reading books or give out medicines because they can't be bothered, they just can't fit it all into their day. You have to prioritize and from time to time things happen so you just cannot do all the things you wish you could. None of them, in my experience, are sitting about in hot tubs quaffing champagne at lunchtime.

In an ideal world teachers would not strike. Most teachers would not choose to strike unless they had very real concerns about the future of the profession. So surely we need to think about why they are striking and consider that maybe they are right? Yes, its annoying for many reasons, but it is their right to strike and it is for one day, without pay.

 Maybe they are highlighting the state of the education system and maybe we as parents should sit up and listen? Things are not rosy in schools. Teachers are expected to adapt to new directives without question and accept that they should work hugely long hours with little support.  Teachers are becoming ill through stress related illness.In 2012 Rebecca Radcliffe wrote in the Guardian that:
The number of teachers taking stress leave has increased by 10% over the past four years, with 15 local authorities seeing a 50% rise in stress-related absences, according to statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Teachers are not asking for an easy life, but they are asking for fair working conditions. They are asking that they not be ruled over with a rod of iron, an old school cane - that they be listened to and not patronized.


Alex Seaford said...

Great post, thank you for understanding the pressures we are all under. X

joy said...

As far as I'm concerned teachers are saints. I was fortunate when my children were young in that I didn't have to go out to work, so I was able to help at both their infant and junior schools, and saw first-hand a small amount of the daily workings inside school. Whilst most teachers would like to do nothing more than to teach, these days it seems that so much of their time is taken up with paper-work, targets, and handling disruptive children who do not want to learn. I think it should be compulsory for all parents to help out in school now and again so they can see how hard their children's teachers actually work, and how much they care. And as for the long holidays, well who knows how many of them spend most of their holidays just planning for the next term, whilst also having to continue to learn themselves or take on extra work just to make ends meet.

SarahMummy said...

Fantastic post! I'm not a teacher either, but have teachers in my family and I'm a school governor. I've seen enough of teaching to know it's not an easy life.

Hello said...

Very nicely put

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thank you all for your comments. This is a subject that is very dear to my heart. It is easy to condemn people for striking, but it is every person's right and the teachers do not strike lightly. I wish more people could see the stress they are under and the unrelenting demands and criticism Gove exerts upon them.

Melinda the former teacher said...

I just left teaching. Pay and benefits were fine as I didn't go into teaching to get rich. I loved working with the kids. Seeing a young person finally grasp a concept that they had been struggling with feels like winning the lottery. But my health was beginning to suffer due to the long hours and ever increasing load of stress. I was rarely into the school building later than 7:30am. Most days afterschool, we gave extra revision and tuition sessions to help the KS4 students prepare for exams with even more of these given (unpaid) on weekends and over half-term/ end of term breaks as exams loomed closer. Then there was the marking, form filling, IEP meetings, discipline/intervention meetings, development of differentiated lessons and learning activities,...the list goes on and on. I was often lucky to average 5 hours sleep at night. And then face down so irritated parent who felt that not enough was being done to support their child say to my department head or headmistress that all teachers are lazy and should what it's like to work a real job. Thank you dear parent for the suggestion. I am now working a "real job" and have NEVER felt so rested and relaxed. Now dear parent, perhaps before you run off any more qualified teachers you should try an "unreal job" such as teaching. Good luck. You are going to need it.

Karen Keenan said...

I left teaching after 7 years because of the increasing pressure and lack of life outside of the profession. Part of my wages often went back into resourcing and decorating my classroom, I also paid for every reward sticker for the children in my class which I had to order otherwise they wouldn't have had any. Weekend's didn't exist, holidays were eaten into with report writing, planning, subject management and moving classrooms at the end of the year. As much as i loved teaching the children I couldn't maintain the commitment of time and energy. Many of my very talented colleagues have also left for the same reasons. It is a very sad state of affairs, and I used to get incensed when people would tell me my job was cushy because of the hours and the long holidays - they needed to walk in my shoes for just a week to understand it was the polar opposite.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hello Melinda and Karen. Thanks for commenting. I wish more people realised how hard you work and stopped criticising teachers when they have not, as you say, walked in your shoes.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this post. I am a teacher and feel that I work hard and as you say things are zooming around my head all the time! The second and third weeks of August are the only two I actually have 'off'! I appreciate you writing this and explaining to lay people what we do. :-)

girl and bird said...

Great article. It's so wrong that the people who are forming the future generations are treated with such distain and disrespect by the media & government.
My mum is a teacher - and has had the same experience as those listed above. She's currently working at a school for expelled boys, which has just come out of special measures. Three months after being moved up to 'requires improvement', they have been required to cut the staff by around half. my mum is in the firing line - which means removing a highly qualified teacher, as well as basically a full department of cookery - a skill which is vital to the students. I just can't get my head around it.

I read another interesting article this week about teaching hours - check it out:

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thanks for commenting Anonymous.I feel for you.I wish sometimes people could be a fly on the wall and see what actually happens in schools.

Hello Girl and Bird. Your mum needs a medal!The insanity of cutting staff by half in a school like hers is beyond my comprehension. I wish her ( and you) all the best.


Kkaren said...

funny enough I readthis just thinking of the list of school jobs, like seventyfull reports, that need doing over the Easter break. I juggle forkids and the full time job on my own and, although I am exhausted in the last week of term the joy of seeing a pupil really " get it" is a joy.

Anonymous said...

I am retiring from a job I live for at the end of this year. ofsted after 40 years of teaching have described me as a substandard teacher. I have also raised my own children in this time. they saw a 40 minute lesson and made that judgement. I work on average 60 hours a week plus all holidays are full with reports etc. I love the time spent with the children hate the continued paper work. we spend more time on this than with the children. In the past when ofsted came in for a week and were helpful teachers me included came out as "outstanding" now they come in with their agenda and make things fit, after all if we were all outstanding they would be out of a job and the Government wouldn't be able to take any credit for " Making schools better than the previous one" we are constantly receiving new targets and requirements then not having time to implement them before it is changed again, having our budgets cut but work load increased. We now have to work till we are 67 and at 62 I am told "perhaps you are too old to teach" no just too expensive. what are they going to do with all the OLD teachers past 60 I wonder melt them down that is if they don't die before that. I feel really upset for the young people going into teaching because they will never have the joy of teaching only the stress of yet more TARGETS to meet.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hi Karen and Anonymous.
It is awful that every single teacher I talk with or who leaves a comment says the same thing. You are all struggling to keep up with the never ending paperwork and relentless criticism. Its not what you came into teaching for. As you say, Karen, the joy of seeing a child "get it" is why you teach.I get that satisfaction being a TA and not going into teaching was one of the best decisions I ever made. My heart goes out to you both.

TFR said...

Very well said regarding a subject that is close to my heart. I left teaching and like anonymous eluded to, I am one of the young ones. Maybe one day if things improve, I will return to the classroom and continue teaching - a very noble profession that is not respected by many of the media, some parents and many young students anymore. Good for you in supporting teachings. Best Regards.