‘When you’re a teacher, every child matters but your own’
It is fast becoming an unavoidable truth that, when you’re a teacher, every child matters but your own.
This is the view of Jo Brighouse, a primary school teacher and TES columnist. Writing in the 12 December issue of the magazine, she explains that teachers are crushed under the weight of dialogic marking, detailed planning formats, reams of assessment and all the other paperwork that is now considered an essential part of the job. They are left with little time to be a parent or a partner, as one of the teachers Brighouse interviewed explains.
“I hope that I have managed not to affect my children negatively. I hope they see me as a role model. However, were I not spending time planning or marking at the weekend, I could spend more time with them,” says Sophie Jones*, a secondary school English teacher. “I think it is the relationship with my husband that is most affected: we barely talk in the evenings, as I work most nights. He works in a professional environment and is incredulous at what is expected of teachers. He says that both having a family and being a teacher is unsustainable.”
Some teachers opt for part-time work to try to solve the issue, but Brighouse says the benefits can be small.
“While we’re no doubt thought of as slackers by some of our full-time colleagues, part-time teachers find it all but impossible not to let their work days bleed into their 'free' days,” she writes.
And another teacher points out that you are at the mercy of your headteacher over whether part-time work is even an option.
“Teaching can be a good career for someone with children if you are dealing with a reasonable headteacher who has an understanding of what family life today is like,” says Sally King*, a primary school teacher with two young children. “Otherwise, work-life balance is incredibly difficult to sustain. What happens in that case is that the working individual and family suffer until it becomes untenable.”
Headteachers, of course, have their own struggle with work-life balance and some have even less time left for their families than classroom teachers.
“Finding time to spend with the children after school during term time was always a struggle,” says Dr Fiona Hammans, an experienced headteacher who is director of new projects and chief inspector for the Aspirations Academies Trust. “When I became a headteacher, my family are now happy to say – although they wouldn’t have dared at the time – that I just ‘disappeared’ for the first year.”
It's a problem that needs to be addressed quickly for teachers at all levels of the profession, Brighouse says.
“As teachers, we put so much stock in a child’s home life and how they are brought up,” she concludes, “yet teaching could be preventing us from giving our own children the family life we wish all our students could have.”
Schools minister and Lib Dem education spokesman David Laws will be taking teachers' questions about workload in a live TES webchat at 8pm on Tuesday 16 December. Find out more here.
* Names have been changed. Read the full article in the 12 December edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents