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A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love


Page 1 of 3

A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively
being forced out of a career that I
wanted to love'
When Sam Burton began teaching three years ago, he was determined to thrive. But after
spells at an academy and a special educational needs school, he's had enough. Here, he
tells the story of how even an energetic young teacher can struggle with the demands of
modern teaching
Sam Burton
Saturday, 30 August 2014
It's hard to be a good teacher. It means planning weeks' worth of lessons in detail. It
means covering the needs of every student, whether they're dyslexic, or don't speak English
as their first language, or are high achievers and so on.
Being a good teacher means uncovering themes which will engage kids, trawling websites
and libraries for films and texts as stimuli. It entails writing four different intentionallyflawed versions of a suspenseful story for them to modify in their first lesson, and five
different tiers of riddles about 3D shapes for them to tackle in the second, all before 8am.
It means using outdated software to create worksheets with seven different cartoon
characters to motivate students with severe learning difficulties, and spending break times
enlarging these for students with visual impairments.
It means composing science songs to the tune of The Gap Band's "Oops Upside Your Head"
at nine in the evening. It requires giving each student feedback every day, verbally and in
writing, in each subject. It necessitates arranging and booking trips, often at lunchtime. It
needs people to deliver lessons with enthusiasm and energy and flexibility all day, and to
call upon reserves of patience if students are challenging.
In some of the classrooms I have taught in, this might range from students being rude, to
hitting, scratching and biting on a daily basis.
Fortunately, I am excellent at doing all of the above and even enjoy it, though it leaves me
physically drained and marinating in cortisol come 4pm.
Regrettably, it's not so simple. At the end of the school day, I should be checking how
students did that day, giving them feedback and preparing the next day's lessons. This is
why I entered teaching – to get young people to enjoy learning. This alone would ensure I
stay in the building until past 6pm, which would be taxing but OK. Yet there is a range of
other duties that I can be reprimanded for not fulfilling, which I then end up doing instead
of preparing lessons. 9/9/2014

and exhausted and stressed during lessons. New duties are not assessed for the effect they will have on existing workload. working out manually whether a percentage equates to a 'P6c' or a 'P6b'. Teachers are so petrified of the consequences of having a bad observation that it is common practice to repeat a successful lesson from the previous week.45am. as their hands are tied by the same external demands for accountability and good data. I have fainted at my desk having worked 42 hours in two and a half days. and monitor a subject area to ensure others' planning and teaching is high quality. is that I was prevented from doing the basics of my job by the aforementioned administrative burden. There is an implicit (and offensive. Read more: 11-year-olds show improvement in basic literacy ‘No proof’ free schools improve performance Controversy over plummeting grades will 'continue for years' A-level results 2014: Independent schools see drop in A grades I work 50 to 60 hours a week. There is a suspicious sense that young teachers are taken advantage of: we are grateful to have a job. while some represent repetitive. Others made it clear that they didn't want teachers taking work home or coming in at the weekend.30am. This is compounded by utter frustration that the reason I'm scrabbling around frantically when it's still dark outside. The workload is un-audited. 9/9/2014 . and less likely to know or assert our rights. yet am judged three times per year in classroom observations which make or break me regardless of the everyday success of my work. Some didn't hesitate to email late at night or at weekends to say that pencils should not be less than 8cm frankly) assumption that I am not already working to capacity – that when a new format for reports is introduced which will require an extra 15 hours of work over a two-week period. (Data which might have been massaged by successive teachers pressured into 'generous' assessment. The current teaching culture – at least where I've worked – is that it's normal to work evenings and weekends. despite starting at 7. carry out teaching assistant appraisals. Not the easing-yourself-into-workover-your-emails sort of 7. the culture of fear is endemic: as a newly qualified teacher. slept on a colleague's sofa and worn his underwear for two days.) I assess work that has already been assessed by completing lavish 'Next Step' stickers to satisfy Ofsted (this is in a special educational needs school where students cannot read). Some of these tasks are necessary. teaching standards are non-negotiable regardless of workload. I'm going to have a terrible day and possibly get in trouble for having a terrible day" sort.. it was suggested to me that if I joined a union someone could find a reason to put me on capability procedure. that I have 15 more hours spare. I have discussed the impact this has on teaching with my managers and been told simply that it is not allowed to have an impact. the point is I can't do all of them. but could do nothing to reduce a workload which made doing that a prerequisite of the job. The fear seems to permeate from above: I've had three head teachers and the thing they've had in common is an inability to change things. inefficient paper chasing for the eyes of inspectors.A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love' Page 2 of 3 I am expected to input assessment data into spreadsheets and copy it into other programs click by click.30am start – it's the "If I haven't got resources ready for six different lessons by 8. file students' work. Anyway. I cannot reconcile myself with letting my students down like this in order to temporarily preserve my career for another three months. produce reports on attendance. "You can't assume I know what your workload is like" by a senior teacher. As for protection. During Ofsted inspections. I complete incident reports. produce three types of reports when one would It was explained to me that.independent. We have fewer family commitments http://www.

My grievance has little to do with pay and pensions – for most young teachers. over empathy. http://www.independent. due to unsustainable workload. I have been graded an 'outstanding' teacher by colleagues. The only way to do a good job is to work breathless 12-plus-hour days every day. Also seemingly borrowed from the corporate sector. remaining in the profession until pensionable age is a ludicrous prospect. which I cannot keep up. I am angry that I am effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love. as if a job being punishing is what makes it worth doing. But I haven't finished reading more than five books in that time. Really. I like working hard. there has been an increased sense of prestige accompanying teaching as a graduate career. and even being properly qualified.. I've done better than some and have managed three years. 9/9/2014 . flexible is a perverse sense that 'resilience' and a work ethic are the most desirable qualities in new teachers. (I have been told by older teachers who have taught my class that they "couldn't" teach them for more than one day because it was too exhausting. The habit has been trampled out of me by paperwork and exhaustion. energetic person with a first-class degree from a top university. to work less and do a bad job for the children. I am not content.A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love' Page 3 of 3 and are generally more physically robust. Teach Under the current Government and through my training route. previously only associated with corporate grad schemes. Is that someone you would want teaching your children? I am a young.. however. But at least I wrote all that without mentioning Michael Gove. however.