I’d never thought that I’d be writing this post. But, alas – lo and behold, here I am.
My journey into teaching, has been a long one. One, that has been undoubtedly insightful, challenging and rewarding. Ever since I was introduced to Miss Honey in Matilda when I was around 8 years old, I knew that that’s what I wanted to be. To bring transformative joy, happiness and contentment into childrens’ life and take them out of their darkness has always been appealing. I did that typical ‘teacher’ thing of putting all of my teddies on the floor as my students, getting a double sided pen that I unforgivably mummified in layers of tape and, putting on my best posh voice, called out each imaginary name in my class. Little did I know that a few years down the line, I’d be doing exactly that.. but in a whole new context and with actual (awesome) little humans.
After my degree in Education, in IOE, I embarked on the rigourous TeachFirst course to get my QTS (qualified teacher status) to change the lives of students. When I first started, I was excited beyond belief -just imagine, my dream was finally coming true. The school I was placed at looked exactly like my primary school with its Victorian exterior, cobbled walls and marble staircases. The nostalgic feeling of my childhood encompassed my mind, and the reality of what I was doing didn’t hit me until I was there, on that September morning, panda-eyed from the lack of sleep the night before due to excitement and worries of waking up late, and there, in front of my eyes were my very own class. All 30 of them, eager to impress me and apprehensive of what was to come.
What was to follow, was something that I didn’t expect. Retrospectively, it was mainly my fault. I viewed teaching through rose tinted glass. Of course, when you’re young, no-one tells you about the hours of unpaid labour, the stress of accountability that’s under your name, the 6am-8pm days, the fact that you got observed and rated on how good your practice was everyday to the point where I would shudder in anxiety just to see my door open, the lack of energy and the massive self-esteem knock that a school can have on you. No-one told me, how lonely teaching could be. No-one told me, that I could still be bullied, that in a floor of teachers one could still feel so alone and isolated. I was placed in an academy, that made me have panic attacks 3 days before I was even at work, one that would make me feel so insignificant and small. The only source of comfort, and the only reason why I came back everyday was the children. That’s all. They were the shining light in my harrowing melancholy days.
Looking back now, I should have asked for help, I should have reached out. But at the time, I was too scared to even do that. Asking for help, was interpreted that you aren’t capable, that if I asked for help, I’d be shunned by my own bullets. It was only till I reached the end of my first year, going into my second year, that I realised that I had to do something about it. We had finally plucked up the courage to hand in our resignation, and leave. And I say we, because it turned out that I wasn’t alone in this feeling…that following Christmas, around 10 teachers left with me. It was heartbreaking to leave a class half way during a year, but it had to be done- for my own sanity. I couldn’t recognise myself, the energetic enthusiastic person that started this journey was like a lifeless corpse by the end, unable to have any autonomy and allowing myself to be controlled with strings.
I was put into a new school, a state funded school, that operated completely differently to how the previous one was orchestrated. Actually, it was the headteacher who saw me at whilst at a placement in her school and saw my potential that asked me to join her federation. I finally go to school, excited and at ease. To have people believe in me, to celebrate mistakes and allow you to grow and learn as individuals was just beautiful. Our lessons are fun, I can be myself and I’m not forced into being someone I’m not. I want to go above and beyond for the federation because of the unyeidled belief that they have in me. The first thing someone said as I walked into the new school was, “welcome to the family” and I had immediately knew that I had made the right decision.
See, I’m not leaving teaching because I don’t like it. I love it, with every part of my soul- I adore it. The minute by minute intellectual, pastoral and emotional impact that you can have on children, day in and day out is beautiful. No matter what happens, I always want to be teaching and imparting the best of me that I can. However, being a teacher, unless you are in the right environment which nurtures you, can be very detrimental. I’ve seen far too many people leave the profession because they are placed in schools like the first one that I was, fortunately placed at. And I say fortunate, because despite it being some of my darkest days, I wouldn’t change it for the world. They say, that its at those times, when you see the stars. I know how rewarding it can be, and the continuous feeling of happiness that you can feel if you are in the environment that nurtures your seed and allows you to grow, one that doesn’t pull you out at the roots and views you as a weed. I want the workload, accountability and stress of teachers to be accounted for, and for a real difference to happen. So, I’m aiming for policy and government so that, one day, I can have an impact. I love teaching, I just dislike being a teacher in this current system.