Stop Moaning!

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Is there too much negativity in teaching?

The answer is a resounding yes. Some teachers never stop moaning and its time they stopped wallowing in the negative zone. Didn’t you read the small print when you signed up? The holidays are there to compensate.

Ts and Cs Apply

If you don’t like doing the best job in the world then go and do something else. Why not try working in a supermarket or how about a factory making widgets?

“You’ll be able to clock off at 5 p.m. and forget about work. No prep, no marking, no parents’ evening and no panic attacks about class 4M. And, if you weigh up the pros and cons of the widget factory, we think on balance you’d hate it. It might be great for a day or a week – no pressure, freedom in the evenings; ability to take your holidays out of school term time – but for ten years? Or twenty, or thirty?!”

Wise words from Gary Toward, Chris Henley and Andy Cope, authors of The Art Of Being A Brilliant Teacher. For anyone who has worked outside of teaching, then you’ll know that there are hundreds of jobs that stink where there is plenty to moan about.

Ask someone who has worked in an office just how soul-destroying and mind-numbing it really is. No, teaching is the business and to whine about this and grumble about that demands, some real perspective regarding what other people have to put up with.

If you are an ‘actively disengaged’ mood-hoover, then you are one of the switched off and zoned out living dead with classroom entropy. As Toward, Henley and Cope say;

“In the teaching profession, they are the ones who shouldn’t be there. They exert a negative influence on staff and pupils, and they talk ill of the school and the teaching profession in the pub at night. Yikes! Thankfully, good schools root them out.”

Destination Addiction

I worked with someone once who was an addict. He’d share with everyone how many days there were until the end of the next half-term and say, “Only 17 more get ups to go”.

His tally-chart approach to teaching was to just survive and get through and this has to be one of the unhealthiest ways of thinking for any teacher. It is an existence, not living life.

Toward, Henley and Cope call this ‘destination addiction’, and it’s something ubiquitous in education, but very commonplace in other jobs where zombiefied armies live for the weekend and holidays.

“We call it stinking thinking … Too many teachers are innocently sleep-walking through life, hypnotised by the carrot of the future and infected with dullness.”

The authors go on to say that we can get stuck in this mentality and “blame the usual suspects: restructuring, budget cuts, syllabus changes, Ofsted, lazy colleagues, pension changes, management, marking, the government, planning, society, parents, ‘initiatives’, the kids.”

Why Oh Why?

A brilliant teacher is actively engaged and won’t say that they teach to ‘pay the bills’. If you are a teacher that says that then you have lost focus and lost sight of what teaching is. Toward, Henley and Cope tell it how it is;

The truth is, we’ve met too many teachers who haven’t got a strong enough sense of ‘why’. Some have merely forgotten, or have had it Ofstedded out of them, baseball-bat style. A few never had a decent ‘why’ in the first place, drifting into teaching because of the long holidays. Our advice is to get yourself a clear and compelling reason to get out of bed, and the ‘how’ and ‘what’ will look after themselves.”

Perhaps you need a reminder of the 156 Reasons to Teach to rediscover ‘the why’. These are just some of the reasons why we teach and in The Art of Being A Brilliant Teacher. The authors provide a number of tips for avoiding the zombie apocalypse by adopting better mental habits and practising upbeat and positive language until “it becomes your default setting.”

Battle weary and lack lustre attitudes are infectious so avoid these jaded teachers. Find yourself a 2%er and become a 2%er.

Image result for the 2% mindset


It’s good to moan but not excessively. It’s tiring, boring and unproductive. Losing your mojo is bound to happen, but sometimes you might just have to accept that a particular profession isn’t for you. Many teachers soon become ex-teachers because they realise they aren’t the right fit and go on to find their passion elsewhere.

To realise that teaching isn’t your true calling and then jump ship takes nerve, but it’s honest. You can’t be ‘in your element‘ when you are in a job that you have no love for and you’re clock-watching and waiting for the weekend. As Sir Ken Robinson says, “When we are in our Element, we feel we are doing what we are meant to be doing and being who we’re meant to be.”

Unfortunately, many teachers continue in a job that they are just not compatible with, but plod along with a destination addiction. If you have lost your mojo for teaching then it might just come back, but it could be the case that it was never there in the first place?


17 thoughts on “Stop Moaning!

  1. What a stupid post!! I would like nothing more to stop moaning but when day after day pressure is piled in in terms of predicting the unpredictable at GCSE and A level and being forced to sit kids for exams that they are not capable of for the sake of Progress 8 points and being forced to make KS3 students sit MAT wide tests that are not appropriate for them for no educational benefit I can do nothing but moan! We would all like to go into work with a spring in our step but that doesn’t always happen! The ‘get over it others have it bad too’ really doesn’t help and in fact undermines teacher solidarity in these issues.

  2. John Dabell, 100% right! Even the first comment just serves to reinforce the points you’ve made. Far too many moaning Minnies in teaching complaining “how hard it is” without ever having a job outside of teaching to compare it to. It certainly isn’t a job for everybody but plenty stick with it despite almost entirely switching off their class for the sake of not knowing what else to do.

    1. This is complete rubbish ! I have done the job for 24 years and love it but there are still plenty of things to complain about . Just because you see the stupidity of some decisions and say something about it doesn’t mean you are a lesser person !

  3. I absolutely adore teaching but I am finding the ever increasing workload, is affecting my morale. Definitely nothing to do with my colleagues! We are all in it for the students and for each other. In my place of employment, SLT change the goalposts on a daily basis, which makes it impossible to remain organised, focussed and positive. I received 16 emails on one day, all asking for changes to be made to the previous email. This has nothing to do with ‘moaning teachers’ as you like to put it but more to do with inefficient management who need ridiculous amounts of data.
    Why should caring, conscientious teachers, find other jobs? This is what we trained passionately for and worked very hard for. Why do we want to be forced to work in factories?

  4. What an appalling article…..I had been recommended this book – a must-read, apparently. Consequently, this tired and morale-low teacher will NOT by buying it, or even borrowing it from her library. Teaching is tough. Teaching is especially tough right now. Be more respectful; give support to those who need it. Alter your tone. It’s condescending, offensive and, at times, ever so flippant. Shocking.

    1. I totally agree Adrienne, having worked in both the Armed Forces then private industry followed by public sector before teaching, I can state that there were aspects of all of my previous jobs i disliked, but none i liked as much as teaching. I am a moaning teacher, I struggle at times to balance my life around my extra responsibilities, but i do. Why shouldn’t i be able to work in an environment that allows me to express an opinion about all the things that affect my teaching an work life balance and hopefully improve the issues. The very essence of this article it seems is to silence anyone who has an opinion other than “I’ll do whatever you ask without question because i’m so happy to have a job”.
      My kids always get the fully topped up to the brim MOJO, but crikey it takes so much to do it these days compared to the past.

  5. What this article fails to recognise is that there is a difference between ‘moaning’ (which is not defined) and the justifiable criticism of the damaging pressure that teachers are under that is leading to brilliant, committed teachers leaving the profession, suffering from Burnout. The article is built on the false premise that only teachers who are not suited to the profession are leaving and are the ‘moaners’ in the staff room. There is also no explanation of the difference between ‘moaning’ and the negativity of a teacher who is suffering from depression due to a lack of control, a lack of reward and a lack of recognition in a high stakes accountability system. There is abundant evidence of mental ill-health amongst teachers and this article does a great disservice to the many teachers suffering from Burnout, anxiety and depression who would like nothing better than being able to enjoy their time in the classroom with their learners free of the conditions outside the classroom that are leading to the damaging effects on their health. Leaders who regard teachers as ‘moaners’ do not run schools that look after the staff and recognise that prioritising wellbeing in the workplace leads to fewer teachers wanting to leave, lower rates of staff absence, happier staff, happier children and, without unduly focusing on them, better results. Go to for examples of schools that have done just that.

  6. What a great article.

    I am sick of moaning teachers. Try working in the private sector. It is hard work too with no reward of long holidays and guaranteed pensions not linked to fluctuating stock markets and returns that far out way any private pension.

    You have lots of training and PPA time, management time etc. My wife is a teacher and has just come back from a teacher training course for 7 days in Italy with 5 of her colleagues. Lovely hotel, British Airways flights and meals out every night in different restaurants that I could not afford to eat in. She came back from Italy and then spent 5 days on another training course.

    Everyone has issues in their work but teachers seem to moan the most. Put up or get out ! Simple

    Some of the measures imposed on you were totally necessary from what I have seen in the past performance of my local schools.

    1. Your wife is obviously at a very different school to most. Most schools teachers haven’t had training for years and have to beg (or even pay for their own) equipment

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