When I asked teachers this question, the answers were not generally about the students, it was about the workload outside of the classroom; marking, form filling and constant changes to curriculums.
I started teaching 11 years ago and I’ve certainly had my share of ups and downs. In the early days it was definitely related to learning how to manage a classroom effectively. I remember in my PGCE year driving out at lunchtime seriously considering whether I would go back! A group of year 10 boys had decided that it was their job to push their new ‘trainee’ teacher to the limits and it almost broke me! I can then remember another incident during my NQT year where my tutor group, aptly named ‘9 HEL’ showed me their true colours when the main form tutor was away - all ‘hell’ broke loose and I had no idea how to get it back. But these are the trials and tribulations of being a new teacher and are the things you learn to deal with and control. It is, I guess, all part of your initiation! For any new teachers reading this, it does get better and the best piece of advise anybody ever gave me was, 'they are not your friends, you don’t need them to like you and they will respect you more once you embrace this'.
But when you ask most teachers ‘what difficulties do you face?’ what actually comes up has nothing to do with the students! And I have asked. Over 100 teachers have filled out a questionnaire I published online - I appreciate this is tiny compared to the number of teachers around the world - but it gives a pretty good insight, since the sample is from all over the UK and even one response from Cairo.
“If you were to write down everything that a teacher attempts to achieve on a weekly basis, with heavy constraints, family life (if they have one) and a smile on their face and all with 30 ticking, live-action, unpredictable humans - each with their own worries and concerns - then you'd be hard pushed to find many people who'd be rushing to join the queue for teacher training."
Support for teachers
Teachers need more support: they deserve to have a life outside of work and still be able to do a great job, they require strategies to help them manage the demands of teaching as well as those outside of the classroom. Rarely is there a focus on staff wellbeing. Maybe one CPD event a year, if you’re lucky. CPD is more likely to be about student welfare and new curriculum changes, or government requirements. So where and when do teachers get the help they need? Sadly, I think most don’t - they go it alone, until they can’t take anymore. It shouldn’t be like this and my mission is to start being the support that teachers so badly need.
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Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.