Why Be A Teacher?

Reading time: 3

Jack Gulston

Jack writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective and is in his third year of teaching. He worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school for 3 years before going on to complete his education degree. He is currently teaching...
Read more about Jack Gulston

Have you ever wondered why you became a teacher?

I recently joined Slimming World with one of my friends. As I was talking to various members of my new slimming family, the usual conversation ice-breaker led to ‘what job we did’. I told them I was a primary school teacher, but I was met with puzzled faces because I proclaimed my profession with a sigh. The group began to ask the typical questions we are all familiar with:

  • What about those holidays?
  • Don’t you finish work every day at 3:30?
  • Isn’t primary teaching just babysitting?

I rolled my eyes and tried to extinguish these myths by explaining the facts: teachers work extremely hard; we burn the candle at both ends, and no, we are not babysitters …

Teaching Needs You?

When I arrived home I started to think to myself, why do we constantly put ourselves down? Why don’t we ‘sell teaching’ so that we can fill the ever-increasing need for teachers? Why is there a massive problem? What I was declaring to this group  about my job, was that ‘my eyes didn’t light up’ like they used to. I was solemn and on autopilot.

Later, I put this down to having a stressful few weeks and my emotions were raw.

I had always thought about being a teacher, ever since I was about 13/14. When I went on work experience I spent a week in a special needs school. It was an amazing experience and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Of course I didn’t do any planning, but I could see the difference these outstanding teachers and teaching assistants were having on these children and then that was when I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

I want to help children fulfil their potential, to spot rough diamonds and polish them. I want to inspire children so they can achieve great things, but now none of this comes out my mouth anymore when telling people what I do.

I tell them about the marking policy, how many books I mark every night; how many times I have been sworn at and that the children who need the most support don’t get it because of government cuts! I’m so tired of seeing members of staff in tears because they can’t hack it anymore. None of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher came through in ‘slimmers conversation’ and I ask myself, why not?

This isn’t what any of us signed up for. I can’t think of any other profession with such a constant supply of homework to do and I don’t mean the pupils either.

Teaching Needs Me?

I see myself as a generally upbeat person. I’m quite bubbly, up for a laugh and strive to make my lessons thoughtful and engaging so that they impact on the memory of the children who I am teaching. But, I am really starting to get down about teaching. I’m not myself. I’m starting to resent other people who work 9-5 for the same amount of money, if not more. I resent the fact that I only spend one quality day with my girlfriend at the weekend because there is ‘always work to do’ on a Sunday.

I resent people slamming teachers for saying ‘teachers don’t work hard’. What do we have to do to be appreciated by people?

A good friend sent me a text after work today and these were her exact words:

The press are slagging teachers off for wanting Friday off because of workload. Well, I don’t know one teacher who has suggested that. It’s come from the current government agenda, who now have society slagging us off about all the holidays we have and the rest. They’ve got what they want now, [a system with] teachers having no more holidays!”

She may have a point. So, I’m asking myself, why be a teacher? I don’t know, I’m at a loss at the moment …

3 thoughts on “Why Be A Teacher?

  1. When friends ask I say that teaching is both the most rewarding and the most frustrating profession.

    We need to highlight the fact that we are just as professional in our approach as lawers, medics etc. It’s time we controlled the narrative. We need to trumpet how wonderful our colleagues are and how much success we have.

  2. I think this is a hard time of year Jack. Perhaps it helps to say that teaching is a calling, not a job. Sometimes I joke that I have to teach because I don’t have any other marketable skills … that I can think of. But the truth is, teaching is the only job that I am willing to do. I’d rather spend the day with primary children than adults. And don’t you feel great at the end of the day, when you’re done … you sit down, (perhaps) have a cup of tea and KNOW that you’ve done worthwhile work today.

  3. A teacher friend of mine (ficiously) suggests that we (teachers/schools/educational jurisdictions) market as services like other industries whereby we offer parents a choice of care packages before their children for which they pay premiums. I think the idea has potential! Basic delivery of the curriculum would be standard. Everything else would come at a cost (or an additional cost in the case of those at fee paying schools). I can imagine the enrolment meeting going like this: “Mr and Mrs Smith do you just want standard core curriculum instruction or would you like academic support/extension for your child? How about our term-time Absentee Extra Package whereby we supply work for your little indulged darling when you decide to travel to some tropical paradise during a school term to save money by avoiding the inflated school holiday tariffs (that teachers have to pay given their holidays occur at these times) or suit your work demands and you don’t want little Susie or Johnny to be disadvantaged by your recreational schedule? Would you like us to teach your child manners, respect and/or self-control? It’s all available (at a small additional fee) should you want any or all of these and our countless other Care Package services. Don’t be pressured. The choice is entirely yours. You are welcome to expect nothing more of your child’s teacher than the delivery of the core curriculum using standard methods of instruction. I could go on but you get this idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.