Sunday, 20 November 2016

A letter to my students

I thought I should tell you that I'm leaving half way through the school year.

I know it's probably come as a little unexpected; I performed well up there on the classroom stage didn't I?
But believe me, inside I was breaking.
Inside, many of us teachers are breaking.

It broke me when I sat at my desk, eyes poised at the screen of my computer, filling in data, whilst I gave all of you a task to get on with in silence, because I had yet another data deadline to meet. Believe it or not, I much prefer the fun, interactive lessons, but there's just no time for them; everyone wants figures, predictions, scores, numbers; I just really want to teach.
The problem with giving you a task to do in silence is that you don't know how to work silently and independently anymore, because your previous teachers have also had hundreds of deadlines to meet and criteria to fulfil, so you've been spoon fed and taught how to pass the test.
That's what we all do.

So when I'm being interrupted every 30 seconds to answer very simple, monotonous questions, I'm becoming irritated because I need to meet this deadline and I wish you had a bit of initiative and imagination. Then the guilt breaks me, because I'm not supposed to feel irritated, I'm supposed to be the composed, rational adult in the room with no limits, no feelings and no worries.

It broke me when my school nightmare came true.
The recurrent dream before returning to school after a school holiday, where I'm standing in front of all of you, waiting to begin my lesson, longing to still be on holiday and the whole class completely ignores me, as if I'm not even in the room.

It broke me when I sat consoling my poorly child in the evenings, feeling guilty that I wasn't marking your work or writing your reports and then feeling guilty for feeling guilty, because ultimately my own child should come first.

It broke me when your mother emailed me to accuse me of bullying you when I instigated a punishment after catching you nastily bullying another student in my classroom. Had that happened outside of school, as a fully fledged adult, the punishment could have been quite severe; I was then asked to send more positive comments home about you in future and that really broke me.

It broke me when you told me that my lesson was "shit" after I'd spent a day of my own time in school during the school holidays (something I do regularly, when I could be at home spending quality time with my family) preparing lessons for you.

It broke me when I dragged myself into school through illness and ended up with an even worse illness as a result, because there was no time for me to stop and get better. I only have to return to the workload afterwards, which triples when I'm absent.

It broke me when I had no other choice but to take time 'off' sick and yet I sat in my dressing gown, next to a bucket full of sick, emailing in cover lessons for your cover teacher. Yes. Ever wondered where those lessons came from....?

It broke me when I had to give up on being a creative, exciting teacher with a zest for engaging lessons for being an exhausted, undermined, robotic one who ticks the boxes.

It broke me when my observation feedback requested me to do more marking, because even when I spend my evenings marking your work, I still don't do enough.

It broke me when I handed my child over at nursery, sweaty and crying, with a temperature and I spent the day teaching you when many of you didn't want to be taught, feeling like a terrible mother, counting down the lessons before I could console her and hold her again.
Because, I don't get paid for taking time off for my sick child, and I can't afford not to get paid.

It broke me when I gave up. When I realised that I couldn't make much of a difference, when the government stopped listening to us teachers, when they made you sit through a new curriculum that even we didn't fully understand. When I realised that sitting quietly in rows, sometimes over 30 of you, waiting to be engaged by one single person in the room, when you're used to so much more stimulation and freedom in the outside world, just isn't working. When I realised that your old fashioned, out of date, inadequate education system is failing you and when I realised that the only way to battle through it is to give up; it broke me, because ultimately, you deserve better.

I wish the best of luck to all of you.

Your teacher.

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