For many of us, teaching in a pandemic this year has been one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. Not only have teachers and school leaders been used as a political punching bag – having our plans ripped up mere minutes after completing 80 hours of work on them – but we’ve also had to be as "business as usual" as we can for our students. I’m impressed that any of us have made it to the holidays in one piece.
But despite the hair-tearing moments of this academic year, I still love this job – now more than ever. It might have new elements to it, like being the bubble police, or a more recent stint as a contact tracer, but the bread and butter of what we do still makes it the best job going.
The joy of being a teacher
Here is my countdown of the top seven reasons why I still love teaching, even in a pandemic.
7. The challenge
Our job, as we all know, is an exhausting one. We always have one too many browsers running in our minds. We make spinning plates look easy. And I enjoy that. I’ve seen what other jobs can be like: the slower pace; the lack of challenge. That’s not for me. There’s a certain draw to the workload of teaching, and the feeling when you beat it is second to none.
6. The relationships you make
The greatest privilege we have, as teachers, is that we get to play important roles in the lives of others. To our students, we are more than just deliverers of curriculum: we’re their confidant, their cheerleader, the person they come to when everything’s gone wrong, the person who writes their references. Those relationships extend far beyond the school gates. Former students contact us out of the blue – with news, with invitations, with opportunities. We can all remember someone from our school days that made a difference; we get to be that person to others, too.
5. The hilarious moments
There is no denying it; kids are hilarious. Whether they mean to be or not, you’ll not find any other working environment where you laugh as often as you will in a school. There’s not much you can predict in education these days, but children making you laugh is a dead cert.
4. Our colleagues
We get each other through the unique challenges that we face in school. True and lasting bonds are made. It takes a certain kind of person to work in a school, and when you put us all in the melting pot that is a school, you see the very best of humanity: kindness, warmth, collaboration, dedication.
3. Love of your subject
I’ll never forget opening my first pay cheque as an NQT. Whilst I was horrified at PAYE and demanding to know who was taking all of my money, I was equally delighted when I realised I was literally getting paid to talk about things I love all day. What better job is there than one that allows you to spend your days showing others the wonder of your subject, igniting flames of interest and intrigue along the way? Very few, I can tell you.
2. Changing lives
At the first school I ever worked in, the school vision was “changing lives through learning”. That stuck with me, mainly because it captures the essence of schools so precisely that I’ve adopted it as one of my own maxims. What we do matters. We give the gift of knowledge. We offer unconditional love, care and support. We deliver the education that opens the door to the rest of a student’s life.
We guide. We train. We console. We challenge. But most of all, we celebrate. We celebrate the lives that our students go on to have, knowing that we played a small but significant part in their achievements.
1. Our students
They’re funny, they’re generous, they’re caring, they’re savage. Students can be all of these things and more, even within 30 seconds sometimes. But they’re our future. They really are the best part of the job.
Despite all of the upheaval that we’ve experienced recently, spending just five minutes with your students can remind you that none of the media noise and government palaver matters. The children are what matters – they’re why we do this bonkers job in the first place. And they make every minute worth it.
Amy Forrester is an English teacher and director of pastoral care (key stage 4) at Cockermouth School in Cumbria. The views expressed are her own, and not necessarily those of her employer