As with any colleagues, once in a while you meet a young person, their eyes sparkling as they tell you ‘I want to be a teacher; can you help me?’
This still happens, it is great to see people you have helped develop themselves as fine professionals. Unfortunately it now seems frequently common that such fairy tales are not ending in the idealism they were initiated by…
Louisa is one such person, 30, has taught abroad but returned with her partner to continue her career on English soil (and to start a family). Her experience is wide and varied across cultures, when you mention her name, people smile, as do the parents of pupils in her class…(even Ofsted liked her!) she used to be a fabulous artist in her spare time, but now laughs at the thought of a hobby.
Last week she handed in her notice, ‘ I can’t see myself doing this the rest of my life, it is all consuming, I don’t have a life...;’She said that quitting felt liberating, ‘like the world being lifted off my shoulders…’ Louisa doesn’t intend to even work supply. Another teacher, lost… this seems to be an all too familiar story. These are the people destined, surely to be the future of the profession. You would rightly expect the odd one or two to fall by the wayside, but the fact that teachers are leaving in such numbers, really does need to be looked at. Something is wrong; could it be false martyrdom? Could it be the over expectations of our young? Or could it just be that the demands of the job are becoming simply ridiculous, especially if you intend to live life (in addition to having a job) have a family and work hard.
Two weeks ago we interviewed 5 people for a mini supply pool shared by 4 schools. We were blown away by the quality of applicants. Two were mums who felt they couldn’t be there for their own children, so had left full time education to be present more, for their families. All were passionate, interesting and eager to be valued. They have worked in school since and are doing a fabulous job. This feels like a loss for the overall school system…
50% of new recruits last less than five years, teachers and leaders are retiring at 55 in bigger numbers than ever. Louisa is not the only one who has had enough…. Ironically, although work-life balance appears to be a current theme in educational circles , there seems to be very little common sense advice. The generic directions offered quite often by people who live and breathe the job.
The conversations need to be real, with real people who have to pay mortgages. Teachers should want to be there for their own children, as much as the children they teach. Simple answers are rare in education.