This is my sixth year as a teacher. There are days I love my job so much I couldn’t imagine any other and there are days I wonder how any teacher makes it to retirement. There is an incredible amount of never-ending unrealistic expectations thrown on teachers, and our teaching strategies and curriculum content is often decided by people who have not set foot in a classroom for some time.
Don’t get me wrong; for the most part, I love my job.
1) Extra-curricular Activities
Formals. Dances. Sports’ days. Swimming carnivals. Excursions. Camps. Overseas “holidays”. For these activities to run – and this is just a small example, I’m not even getting into hobby groups or after-school tutoring – a teacher, or multiple teachers, have to give up their time for these things to run.
Depending on the activity, how long it goes for, and its location means time away from loved ones, extra work as you catch up on all the stuff you missed and the supply teacher didn’t cover, and potentially extra financial costs.
Without teachers, and their willingness to do participate in these activities, your child(ren) would not be able to go to band camp or attend a formal or travel to Japan (or another overseas country) for a valuable immersion experience.
2) Marking and Drafting
A large part of the job is (obviously) marking and drafting – which, if you’re a humanities and English based teacher like I am, can become incredibly extensive. Depending on the school, if you are a full-time teacher, you will have a minimum of 5-6 classes (assuming you’re a secondary teacher like I am).
In each class, you’re looking at a minimum of twenty-five students, but it often hits closer to thirty.
You’re looking at a minimum of one assessment piece per term, but more often than not it’s at least two.
And those assessment pieces are all due around the same time.
If you have to mark two sets of drafts and two sets of finals for each class (common in my teaching areas) you’re looking at around six hundred pieces of marking you will be completing each term.
As a full-time teacher, you often don’t get more than three spares a week … so that marking usually falls right into your “free” time.
While you also have to phone home because Johnny didn’t complete his draft and Sally “forgot” to bring hers, all the while planning your lessons.
All the while knowing that the majority of students will ignore the detailed feedback you gave … and you will have to be the one to explain to the parents why their child didn’t do better.
Teachers often don’t get lunch or at least a proper lunch. A full-time teacher usually has three playground duties a week.
And then there’s the detention process, which usually comes out of your lunch time.
Half the time we don’t get a chance to pee before our bladders want to burst, let alone eat. Or, if we’re eating, it’s on the run.
Schools are alarmingly “cliquey” places. You have to deal with the bullying you’d expect to see from students – and it can be devastating and horrific to witness and hear about – but you also need to understand that you, as a teacher, will probably be bullied at some point.
You may be “bullied” by students who think it’s acceptable to threaten you.
You may be bullied by parents because little Johnny and Sally are the most special, perfect, intelligent little beings ever and they never lie and that result you gave is unfair.
But worst of all, you may be bullied by your peers or your bosses.
Something which can become incredibly debilitating, and you can read about some of my experiences in regards to this here.
5) 9-3 and Great Holidays
As you’ve probably guessed when I mentioned the expected extra-curricular activities, teaching is not a 9-3 job. Most schools start well before 9 for a start, and you need to be there before then (obviously). I usually arrive at school on or before 7.30am.
Then, there’s meetings. Whole staff meetings, that, in most schools, at least happen fortnightly.
Then there’s departmental meetings, which often also happen fortnightly (although it can be weekly – most teachers teach more than one subject; therefore, more than one departmental meeting).
Staff briefings, which happen every week.
Depending on your position or role within the school, you could also have curriculum, year level and other meetings on top of the ones just mentioned.
Most teachers don’t leave until around four on most days. Many leave much later.
Then, obviously, there’s hobby clubs and after-school tutoring.
There’s training for sports before and after school.
Meetings to organise formals, dances and other activities.
That’s just look at before and after school times (to abolish the 9-3 myth).
It doesn’t begin to take into consideration the weekends and holidays lost on student trips and holidays. Most student immersion overseas trips are scheduled during school holidays. They usually last for a week, but sometimes run for almost the entire break.
Teachers often have to find their trip (their way, not everyone’s) themselves, so it’s usually not a free vacation (before you start thinking “But yeah, you might have to give up your free time, but at least you get a free vacation.” No … you don’t).
On top of which, taking care of a bunch of children for several days (or longer) is not really relaxing. You have to be up before them and someone has to be awake to monitor the students during the night because you have a duty of care towards them.
This is the same for sports trips – many schools need to travel for their school team to attend the game(s).
Don’t get me wrong: teaching is a great job and can be incredibly rewarding. Most teachers give up their time because they want to.
Because they love to.
Because they genuinely love your children.
But there is also a very big reason why, in Australia, 75% of teachers change their profession by their fifth year.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg as to reasons why.