Journey from terror to utter exhaustion

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Where are you on the seven ages of teaching? I believe that teaching is analogous to the seven ages of man. These ages are student, first teaching practice, newly qualified teacher, upper pay spine teacher, older, experienced teacher and finally the grand exit.

What characteristics does each of these ages exhibit? Are you filled with trepidation, wondering if you have made the right choice of career?

You are the student. The second age, that of first teaching practice, soon dawns as you are let loose on pupils and you worry about pupil behaviour.

You are a baby in the profession, like the infant "mewling and puking".

Mewling at all the work you have to do and puking on first meeting the class from hell. You are astonished that not all pupils see education as being as valuable as you do and that a fine, detailed lesson plan elicits a lukewarm response. However, you have lots of energy and enthusiasm; indeed, your energy levels are at their highest.

The third age, NQT, is like a learner driver. You are partially competent.

Days are filled with trying to please pupils. The year is a blur of lesson plans, mistakes, getting lost, worrying, ticking endless boxes and having lessons observed.

You believe, naively, that you can make a difference to all pupils with your energy and enthusiasm but, as exhaustion sets in over the year, you doubt your choice of profession. You have reached the qualified teacher stage. Energy levels are relatively high, your pedagogic skills and pupil relationships are improving.

Those detailed lesson plans give way to no plans. This job isn't so bad after all, apart from in-service training days, cover, break duty, marking, meetings, teacher relationships and listening to older, disillusioned teachers telling you of your bad career choice. Nevertheless, you still enjoy what you are doing. You vow not to get exhausted and disillusioned.

The years advance and the upper pay spine is attained. Nobody deserves it more than you. Having to put up with exceedingly poor behaviour and expected to be responsible for all the ills of society and, in addition, you are working all the hours God sends. You also have no life to call your own with endless new initiatives. Why don't they just let you get on with teaching? Should you look for a new job?

Pupils come back to tell you about their degrees. You constantly tell them never to become teachers. By now, you fall asleep in the chair every night.

The head shakes your hand and so do colleagues. You exit thinking of all the pupils you have inspired. You are exhausted and ready for retirement.

Jim Goodall is a retired teacher from Torfaen

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