What keeps me awake at night - I'm not quite sure when the rot set in

25th January 2013 at 00:00

It is natural at this time of year to adopt a mood of self-reflection and to ponder changes to one's life and habits. Generally this navel-gazing culminates in a short-lived bout of abstinence, a costly flirtation with gym membership or - heaven forbid - laying off the post-work G and Ts.

Occasionally one's attention is drawn towards career-related matters: should I finally go for that promotion? Is it about time I figure out how to use that interactive whiteboard? Or, more likely, I promise to find more time to mark my books. This year, however, I've been wrestling with a more fundamental dilemma: do I really want to carry on doing this?

Five or six years ago, this question would have been unthinkable. After spending the best part of a decade trapped in the kind of soulless desk-bound existence depicted by Ricky Gervais in The Office, my entry into the brave new world of education was an awakening. Unlike my old life, every day was different, challenging and stimulating.

My "clients" weren't bothered about corporate doublespeak and arse-kissing; they were interesting, refreshingly honest, sometimes infuriating, but never dull. Best of all, I felt valued and truly believed I was doing something worthwhile. But somewhere along the line something changed.

I can't put my finger on exactly when the rot set in. The move of my much-loved but ever so crumbly school towards academy status was undoubtedly a starting point. The days got longer, my working conditions changed rapidly and my right to question these seismic shifts seemed to diminish as my workplace began to resemble the kind of corporate environment I had so desperately strived to escape. Throughout this testing time I could at least console myself with the sincere belief that many of these changes would at least be beneficial to the pupils I teach.

In the past couple of years, though, things have felt different. I did not come into this job for the financial rewards (in fact, I took a pay cut) but enduring a four-year pay freeze, while also seeing the terms of my pension torn up, was a little galling.

Worse still, I found that the same friends who had once spoken in glowing terms about my "brave" career choice now had a different view of my profession. Suddenly I was a pariah: my new line of work wasn't quite so admirable any more; I was a scrounger, a loafer and an "enemy of progress".

The clincher, though, is that these changes don't seem to have any obvious benefit for the pupils - or certainly not for the inner-city children I work with. So if the career I've chosen is no longer valued, my living standards seem to be slipping and I no longer truly believe I can make a difference, is it really worth it?The writer is an English teacher from the North West of England. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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