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'It’s OK to not always love teaching'

Teaching can be the best job in the world – but not all the time. So how do you keep going when times get tough?

Mental health

Teaching can be the best job in the world – but not all the time. So how do you keep going when times get tough?

I genuinely think teaching can be one of the most wonderful jobs in the world.

There are those moments when you know you’ve made a real difference to the children you work with, be it large or small. It can be a 'lightbulb' moment in class when that girl finally gets how to calculate with negative numbers or when that parent thanks you at the end of the year for all you’ve done for their child.

There are the lessons that hit the spot in just the right way – the ones where you and the children end it wanting to bottle the experience. It might have been the simplest lesson, but you got the pitch, challenge and scaffolding just right and the children had a real sense of achievement. Such a great feeling.

There are also those times that shine a light on positive things you’ve done for your colleagues. It could be something official in your capacity as a leader, such as supporting a teacher through something they were finding tough and getting an unexpected 'thank you' in return. Or it might just be something you did to help someone one day because they needed it, like taking the time out to check in on them or showing them something they might find useful.

Moments like these remind you that you are on the right track.

Facing reality

Of course, there are the not-so-great times too. Those moments when a child is not being treated the way they should be at home and you can’t get it off your mind when you go home yourself. Or when, despite all the support you’ve put in place, the situation isn’t really improving for a member of staff.

Perhaps it’s a situation where you’re having to take the brunt of the anger from an irate parent who really isn’t being fair, either on or offline. Maybe it’s a week when you seem to be dealing more with social care issues than anything related to teaching and learning.

This is often the reality of teaching: I do love my job, but I don’t like all of it. You often hear people say “it’s the best job in the world!” and I wouldn’t disagree because there are so many aspects of it that make it a total joy and privilege. But when there is a moment that you’re not loving – and in fact might be loathing – know that it’s OK that you feel that way. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done with teaching and hopefully, it will be dealt with and pass.

I once saw an interview with author Elizabeth Gilbert and she put it into perspective for me. She said that when it comes to work and finding your purpose, you shouldn't ask yourself “do you love your job?”. Instead ask yourself if you love it enough to put up with the bad times because every job, even dream jobs, has them. No job is without the rubbish bits. I listened to this and thought “Yeah, that’s it”.

I love teaching. I don’t love all of it, but I love it enough to put up with the bits I don’t enjoy so much – and that’s OK.

Claire Lotriet is an assistant headteacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She is a Tes leadership columnist and tweets @OhLottie

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