Let this job go to your head

9th April 2004 at 01:00
Use your head! the recruitment campaign says. I'm told it is aimed at people just like me, who find themselves approaching 30, in middle management in a call centre, knowing far too much about telephony systems.

Well, I certainly have used my head this year as I've battled my way through the gruelling initiation ceremony that is teacher training. In fact, my poor head is swimming with teaching and learning mantras, four-part lesson plans, differentiation, not to mention government strategies and subject knowledge that must all be minutely audited.

I admit that on many occasions I have wondered how I can possibly learn all the information I need to know, face a class full of crazed hormonal teenagers with a perfect lesson plan and write a dazzling and ground-breaking assignment. There simply do not seem to be enough hours in the day. Social life, ha! The mid-week night at the pub is a thing of the past. Even the telly has become a distant stranger and my sofa is developing a layer of dust.

At night, as I lie awake, I am filled with fears about classrooms chaotically crammed with anarchic children and exploding overhead projectors. Will I contain my Years 8s long enough to explain to them that the lady at the back of the class is writing notes on how appalling my classroom management techniques are? Will I drown under a sea of ever-accumulating marking? How can I face parents' evening when I still do not know all my pupils' names, let alone if they are on target? If I had used my head, surely I would have stayed in my cushy management job, where I could hide behind my computer with a hangover and where I never took my work home with me?

Thinking back, however, I do remember why I left. Although I earned slightly more than a newly-qualified teacher, there was little prospect of my pay increasing, regardless of how much extra responsibility I accumulated. More importantly, I struggled to take my four weeks' annual leave because of day-to-day pressures, and worked under a constant fear of redundancy, with no unions to protect me. There was no maternity pay and sparse pension provision. Oh, and I was not using my head.

Teaching is hard, much harder than I thought it would be. But sometimes teachers forget that other jobs are hard as well. I'm new to the game and I am sure it won't be long before I am a veteran in staffroom grumbling. But at least I'll be grumbling about something I care about.

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