This is a post I was anxious about sharing.
I wrote this 20 months ago without intending to publish it. It was a new year “diary entry” of sorts, as I wanted to document my feelings and look back on them later in the year to see if anything had changed. Flash-forward to October, through a rather turbulent 9 months, and I was handing in my resignation letter with no alternative job to go to, but secure in the knowledge that I needed to get out.
I’m pleased to say that I’m much happier now in my new job, but I feel like I owe it to other struggling teachers to share my experience.
A few people said to me that, by looking at my social media accounts, they were under the impression the I LOVED teaching, and don’t get me wrong, there were some brilliant moments. I was overwhelmed with the cards and presents students gave me in my final week, all of which I have kept hold of to remind myself that I was not a failure.
This is the problem. We’re taught to share our highlights on social media, so when comparing myself to other teachers, I was under the impression that everyone else was coping and doing a better job than me. I had forgotten that I was giving the same impression.
So this is for the struggling teachers out there. I’m not saying it’s right for everyone to leave – that was just my decision! But I do want to say that it’s okay not to be on top of everything. I just want to remind you – you are not alone.
“Get into teaching” – Sunday 8th January 2017
It’s at that time on a Sunday evening when Sunday blues really are in full flow, and I’m getting tired and stressed just anticipating the week ahead. I’m browsing through Facebook and I see that all-too-common “Get Into Teaching” advert pop up in my newsfeed, but it’s the comments beneath it that really catch my attention, as each one contradicts the title. “Don’t do it.” Ex-teachers warn of how draining the profession is. How it’s not enough money. How it will take over your life. How it will take no time for you to want to “Get Out of Teaching” instead.
As an NQT I am regularly asked “How are you finding it?” or “Are you enjoying it?” and my answer is always a twisted version of the truth: “Yes! It’s tiring, but really enjoying it.”
This seems to be a habit of mine. It’s like when people ask how I am, and I automatically reply “Fine thanks, you?” even if I’m feeling miserable / full of cold / dying inside. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, and I don’t want anyone to think I can’t cope.
Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of this job that I really do love. There are classes I genuinely look forward to teaching each day because they are full of students who want to learn, students who want to do well, and students who teach me as much as I teach them. Kids are hilarious. They’re full of imagination. Their energy and ability to dream big is something I admire and envy.
For some reason, I feel guilty about the real answer. I’m not really sure why. I suppose I feel like I should at least enjoy my job, otherwise I shouldn’t be doing it. And 80% of the time I can’t say I do.
A lot of people might ask now “Well why are you doing it then” and tell me I shouldn’t be a teacher if my heart’s not in it. But my heart is in it – I want to succeed at this job because I want my students to succeed. I want to be a good teacher because I want my students to have a good experience of school.
This is where it gets difficult.
I don’t feel like a good teacher.
In fact, I feel like a very “inadequate” teacher at least once every day. For a perfectionist like myself, that’s really difficult.
Yes, teaching is hard because it is a crazy workload. I knew this before doing my PGCE. I’m no stranger to hard work, but I’m not used to working this hard and not feeling any sense of achievement. I’m putting a lot of effort in to barely stay afloat, and I’m desperately trying to take the advice of the more experienced teachers around me so that I can better myself, but there’s still a lot I can’t seem to grasp, and I worry that this simply isn’t the job for me.
Then I think back to my PGCE year. Of course it was a challenging year. There were lots of incredibly early starts and late nights, but one overriding factor pulled me through it – I was told I was doing well. Not just once or twice, but multiple times by different people – teachers, teaching assistants, university tutor – the lot. Yes, I had specific targets for improvement, but they all seemed achievable, and I felt confident that I was on the right path.
Now I can’t remember the last time someone told me I was doing well. No – scrap that. I have supportive colleagues who do tell me this. The difference is, I can’t remember the last time I believed them. I suddenly feel out of my depth, and I’m desperately treading water and trying to make it through the next week, whilst secretly searching job websites for alternative careers to pursue with a teaching qualification. Of course, I haven’t taken any serious steps to get out of teaching yet, because 1 – That would involve admitting failure, and 2 – I still desperately want it to get better. I want to be good at his job, because I want to enjoy this job.
So what now? Do I continue, optimistic that I can somehow make all these improvements without completely losing my sanity? Or do I give up, half way through my NQT year? Admit “I can’t do this” and find a job I feel I can actually do? All I can be sure of is that it requires some level of bravery to do either of these, and I just can’t be sure which path I should take.