Teachers need creative stimulation

18th April 2003 at 01:00
I HAVE to agree with Philip Pullman's sentiments (TES, April 4). I was a successful teacher of secondary English and drama for five years, in two good, although very different, schools.

I did not find the workload overwhelming and, as I believe that a successful life is defined by more than a large pay packet, I did not mind being paid slightly less than some of my contemporaries in other professions.

I enjoyed the act of teaching, and I still believe that it is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. After a few years however, I realised that if I remained in teaching, I would have little access to experiences outside of the school walls - experiences that are vital to becoming not only a better teacher, but also a good manager and a good leader.

There was little opportunity to meet and work with teachers from other schools, or people from other professions, little opportunity for professional development and no opportunity to be involved in researching and developing educational practices.

Combine this with an increasing emphasis on testing and tick boxes, and I knew that if I stayed in schools, it was more than likely that I would end up cynical and unhappy like so many of the staff around me. Teachers are intelligent, educated people who need consistent and frequent intellectual stimulus if they are to thrive and develop both professionally and personally. They need a positive and creative atmosphere where they are allowed to demonstrate that they can be trusted to do the job brilliantly.

Since leaving teaching, I have worked for five years in a commercial company. The ethos is one of challenge and rigour. I have targets and objectives to meet. Mistakes are only ever made once. The pay is similar and I work longer hours.

I have been given a lot of responsibility and also the chance to meet and work with a host of different people from all walks of life: education, charities, government, museums, the arts, the media, industry and engineering - to name but a few.

It is motivating, stimulating and enjoyable. I wish all teachers could experience this and then take back what they have learned to their classrooms. Perhaps sabbaticals for teachers might be a good starting point.

Every so often I consider a return to teaching. However, until I can be sure of an atmosphere that is as creative, motivating and intellectually stimulating, and that offers as many professional opportunities as my current job in industry, then there is no incentive for me or, I suspect, the many other ex-teachers all around the UK, to go back to school.

Justine Bothwick

28 Fern Road

Godalming, Surrey

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