This is an edited version of an article from the 23 October edition of TES. To read the full article and to subscribe to TES click here.
The idea persists that the best teachers eat, sleep and breathe the profession, working 10-hour days for the sheer love of it and cheerfully giving up evenings and weekends because teaching is their life.
I’d like to make the argument that you can be a good teacher even if school is only part of your life, rather than its all-consuming beating heart – and here's why:
- Teaching is a job that requires you to give of yourself no matter how many hours you do it for. You can’t simultaneously talk Sasha down from her spelling-related meltdown, fix Liam’s broken glasses and lead your class in a rousing version of Un kilomètre à pied without it taking its toll.
- I have found that I can give the best parts of myself to teaching only if I’m not doing it all the time. For me, spending a couple of days a week in quieter, calmer pursuits means the children I teach deal with kind, in-possession-of-a-sense-of-humour, creative Mrs Bradford rather than the snappy, robotic version.
- There are benefits to having some staff who spend part of their week honing other skills. For me, freelance writing has been a fantastic tool to motivate some of my English group as I can prove that not only do the texts they are reading and writing have real-life significance, but my passion for the subject does, too.
- Similarly, children need role models. Teachers can be fantastic ones, but it’s not actually that helpful for them to believe we sleep in our stock cupboards. The children I teach know I pursue different goals on the days I’m not in the classroom and I think it’s a good thing.
- Those teachers who are also stay-at-home parents rarely balk at bodily fluids, meaning there’s always someone resigned to, if not exactly happy about, clearing up the vomit on school trips.
- At primary school, one part-time teacher almost always means two part-time teachers. Currently my job-share partner and I bring very different things to the table. She’s a rugby player with a passion for PE, whereas I can hardly catch a ball. She’s organised, whereas I’m spontaneous. Our new class have found themselves with two perspectives and personalities this autumn.
Ultimately it’s about the focus and passion you show when you’re there, not how many hours you work. Just as I love my husband even when he’s not at my side, the truth is that I love my teaching job – even when I’m not doing it.
Kate Townshend is a part-time primary teacher in Cheltenham