Despite being told as a student that most people my age would have multiple careers in their lifetime, that there was ‘no such thing’ as a career for life any more, I always ignored them. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, I knew I wanted to teach history. It was my only aim, and what I did at university and in my gap years was shaped around becoming the best teacher possible. I love what I do too, it has its challenges but working with young people and inspiring an interest in History, as well as working with Post 16 students in my current role, gives me opportunities and experiences that I’ll always cherish.
I guess that’s what makes the current situation in education so upsetting right now. Michael Gove seems determined for me to quit, and many other great teachers besides. Today he’s announced that he wants teachers to work longer hours and have shorter holidays. To say he hasn’t thought this through is a massive understatement. I currently get up at 0600 each day, arrive in school at approximately 0730 (I don’t commute far) to work for an hour before the school day begins. I leave at approximately 1815, having been ‘kicked out’ by the caretaker who’s locking up (I could easily stay later). Once home, I work for at least 1 more hour, 2-3 if I have no evening plans. I work through around half of my lunches too. This all means that, on average, I do a 12 hour day, sometimes 15. I am in no way on top of things- I have marking coming out of my ears, a long list of “to-do” jobs and am never more than a few days ahead in my lesson planning. I think I still teach good lessons, outstanding some may say, and fulfil all my duties within the school.
So if Gove made such changes, I would be up at 0500 to make it there before school started, and would work until approximately 0930- a 15.5 hour day. Now let me clear- plenty of people do stressful jobs and long hours, I’m not trying to sound ‘woe is me’ or look for sympathy. But 7.5 hours at home a day, to run a house, maybe one day spend time with children, to sleep- let alone have any kind of ‘down time’ I might want- just seems impossible. Add in exam seasons, potential Ofsted visits and other commitments and life and impossible to maintain in the long term. Imagine I still worked at my old school, and added a 45 minutes commute each way to that day- I’d have six hours at home not working, to sleep, eat, look after the house etc. I’d like to know how our Education Secretary thinks this would produce better teaching and learning for our students.
So forgive me Mr. Gove, but I appreciate my holidays. I need them, but not for what you think. It’s not about having time off for big holidays. In the latest holiday, I spent 12 out of the 14 days marking. Last year, I spent every day of my May half-term running our GCSE Twitter revision programme whilst on holiday with my wife and in-laws in the Lake District. Holidays are primarily time used by conscientious teachers to catch up on marking and plan for the term ahead, with a few days off in between. If I added up the hours I work outside of my supposed 32.5 hours a week (what my payslip I work), plus what I do on the weekend and in the holidays, I actually receive less holiday than any other civil servant or average member of the private sector anyway.
This is only one aspect of Mr. Gove’s abject failure as the Education Minister. I’ve mentioned his attempts to ruin the history curriculum, whilst his pushing through of performance-related pay should mean with the hours I work, I’d receive a massive pay rise- if it wasn’t based on how hard the students work, not me!
I love teaching, but I’m still the right side of 30 and begin to wonder whether I want to stay in the profession when it is being maligned in such a massive way. A colleague of mine believes it’s “all part of the Tories plan”, to ultimately privatise education. I’m against that notion, but at this rate, I can’t help but think I can’t be treated any worse than we currently are.
I apologise for this rant- it’s not exactly of the usual vein of “Histor-C”. But people have a blog to share their views and opinions, and this one has exploded out of me!