I have handed in my resignation. I am leaving teaching. Only teachers will understand the significance of this action because only teachers understand that it’s a lifestyle rather than a profession. For the first time in 18 years I will not have the summer ‘off’; my ‘new year’s resolutions’ won’t start on September the 1st; time will not dictate when I sit, stand, eat or go to the toilet; walking down a corridor will not result in a barrage of requests from students, ‘Miss, can I ask about the homework…’ ‘Miss, is it alright if I hand my homework in tomorrow’, ‘Miss, can I have a lunch pass’. I will no longer hang out in fuggy staff rooms; there will be no more 60 hour weeks, no more three line whips for attendance at school events and no more Saturday and Sunday marking, planning and preparing.
Why am I leaving? For the first time since I entered the profession, we have reached a tipping point. Teaching has moved slowly from the noble profession – think the philosophy of John Keating in Dead Poets’ Society (yes, it’s real, that’s why teachers enter the profession in the first place) to the commodification of education. This year the NUT joined forces with the ATL, international teaching unions, NGOs and parents to lobby the annual general meeting of one of the world’s largest edu-businesses, Pearson – calling on them to cease profiting from children, for an end to high stakes testing and to assert that education is a human right, not a private commodity.
I currently work in the private sector where grades are the be all and end all – parents have the monetary power to assert their rights; more hours, more contact, more one-to-one support, more resources. And while I don’t have a problem with this as such – we have lovely parents, and gorgeous kids – I really struggle with the fact that only a minority get such excellent education. Meanwhile, in the maintained sector, the monitoring of teaching and learning is not about the student’s experience, but about the teacher’s performance – about pay, in fact; OFSTED assess a teacher’s performance based on a student’s outcome while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge that ultimately only the student has the power to fail or succeed; that degree of aspiration, poverty, health, self-esteem and well-being all play a much bigger part in a child’s school performance. I’m all for accountability; but it’s not working.
Will I miss teaching? Yes. It is the most stimulating, exciting, challenging, entertaining and joyful job in the world. But it is also the most politically disputed, discussed, debated and conflicted profession today. It’s like working in a verbal and ideological war zone – there’s a limit to such an existence, and I have definitely reached mine.