11 November 2008


These days, being a secondary school teacher on the wrong side of the tracks is no picnic. Unwelcome pressure seems to press down on you in various ways. Firstly, there are the children. Although the majority of them remain lovely, there's a sizable minority who just don't give a damn. It's in their genes as one downtrodden generation of under-achievers produces another, more mouthy and more pig-headed than the last. They arrive at school without pens to write with, spouting foul language, without bags to carry their work in and worst of all without inquisitiveness or hunger for knowledge and self-improvement. Sadly, such losers will invariably have a massive influence upon the general ethos of a school.

Next there's the internal politics. You get innovative headteachers who care more about the latest bandwagons and their personal reputations and next career steps than they do about the children in their charge. Their underlings vie for position like hungry ducks in a pond - spouting the latest jargon, upholding the old managerial philosophy - "Do as I say, not as I do!"

Then there are the various tentacles of government. Local authorities find themselves squeezed to do better - get up the league tables. Their officers visit schools with laptops and serious expressions - confirming targets, demanding action plans and post mortems. In addition there's the dreaded OFSTED with its army of former teachers eager to submit their claims for expenses and feather their retirement nests as they move from school to school making snap judgements in the name of "standards". The National Strategy people churn out documents and ring binders, changing their strategy as they go along, somehow expecting magical things like the cascading of their multitudinous bullet points and Powerpoint slides.

The latest weapon is "The National Challenge" in which schools in areas of deprivation find themselves pilloried for failing to meet the baseline expectation of 30% of youngsters achieving five grade C's including English and Maths. There are no leafy suburban schools in the "National Challenge" hit list - just schools like mine, struggling on the edges of huge council estates to bring out the best from their pupils - poring over spreadsheets, chances graphs and league tables.

So much of it stinks. I have been teaching for over thirty years - the last fourteen as head of department. I cannot tell you the number of extra hours I have put in to the job - in my holidays, late at night, at weekends, during non-existent lunch hours. Today, very typically, I left work at 6.45pm, having started at 8.15am - that's ten and a half hours! And the same tomorrow no doubt. It's pride and my reasonable income that have kept me going this far. Inside, I have often been tortured by the job, waking up in the middle of the night to replay incidents. Most recently I have felt physically affected by it all - as if my essential life force is being sapped away.

There's that saying isn't there - if you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen... Well that's what I have decided to do - make it through to next summer and then out. I have told the Ice Maiden headteacher herself. I don't know what next September will hold but I'll get by. I fancy being the paint man at B&Q or driving a white van around the country but I guess I will end up still stuck in the nightmare world of education - a bit of supply teaching here, some college work there - just to garner more funds to keep life comfortable and continue to support our two kids. But those other pressures will be gone. Surely, I have done my time. I've got to go.


  1. Personally, I can only imagine your school will be much "poorer" as a result of your decision....

    I still have very fond memories of teachers that I consider were formative to me.... I know (of course) there were teachers that didn't play as big a part in my life and vice versa, but I am SURE you will have made a big difference to a great many lives, and predominantly in the positive.

    I applaud your efforts.... not something I could do.... I also applaud your brave decision and hope that when we get there you manage to find a suitable "filling in" job.

    Three cheers for the Yorkshire Pudding!!


  2. And there I was thinking we were alone in our ridiculous No Child Left Behind (which you may also have heard of as No Teacher Left Standing). I am hopeful that our newly elected leaders will do something about it: fund it properly, get rid of it, listen to teachers more instead of textbook and test publishers...
    I echo the sentiments of the previous commenter. I believe your school will be missing you come the new fall terms, but you need to keep your sanity or else, as you've articulated, it's time to get out. Be well.

  3. There will eventually come a time in public services such as schools and hospitals when there are only managers and monitors, and no actual teachers or nurses. I think it is sad but very understandable that you are being driven out of teaching by the politics, the bureaucracy and the indifference of many arents. I see the same thing happening to many good doctors and nurses in the health system, fed up with pointless targets, form filling and idealogical pet projects.

  4. do you read snuffy's blog???????

  5. Arcticfox is right - your school will be the poorer, YP but I am so pleased you have made the decision - for your sake. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.(Can Keith and I please have an invitation to your post-retirement celebration? ;))

  6. Woah, you've actually been and gone and done it YP!
    Throws mortarboard up in the air in dramatic celebratory gesture. Now, what follows is the rest of your life! A modest little volume of poetry published? A working holiday in New Zealand traveling around doing a little picking here and there as the whim takes you: cherries, peaches, kiwifruit, grapes and then doing a spot of vineyard pruning in sunny Marlborough... ?

  7. It's sad, YP, but true: from a personal p-o-v I think you've made a great decision. I feel better than I've felt for years this term, and I'm sleeping - get this - through the night (apart from the odd occasions Charlie wakes, that is.) Do you think teaching is something you can only do for so long, before the energy and interest goes forever?

  8. Like Arctic Fox, I applaud you.

    I've often thought about going into teaching after I retire from this political job. Who better to teach a Government & Civics class than someone who has actually experienced it?

    Problem is, I don't know if i have the patience of YP.

  9. How about a Postie's job?

    Only joking. On a serious note good luck in whatever you do and, as others have said, your school will be a poorer pklace once you've gone.

  10. I left full-time teaching about twenty years ago. When, as I did today, I pass a group of teenagers in school uniform, I utter a little cheer that I'm not in charge of them. The teaching part I loved - - I'm still doing it, with adults - - but the bureaucracy!! It was bad enough THEN - - how teachers stand it now, I don't know. I think you've done the right thing.

  11. CITIZENS OF BLOGWORLD! Thanks to all of you for your support and understanding. Your words have fortified my resolve. Much appreciated everyone!

  12. My sister-in-law has recently resigned from her teaching job after just four years - and that in a private international school overseas. The stress was too much, causing ill-health and the pay was not worth the effort.

    Teachers are far too undervalued. Despite the personal inconvenience, I felt quite supportive of their last strike: I don't think anyone who has to educate and entertain 30 five-year-olds all day, five days a week can possibly be being paid enough! How that extrapolates to coping with teenagers I can barely imagine.

    Good luck with whatever you do next.

  13. I know so many teachers that are thinking just like you.... I have 4 sons, my last is in year 11, they have always gone with pens, bags, books but most importantly of all... a thirst for knowledge and learning....... they will never be great scholars but they have learnt much respect for those that have taught them, learning BEGINS at home.....


  14. I think that whatever profession you go into you get fed up with after a time. And over the last few years this government has intefered with every profession that it could possibly do so, producing more targets and initiatives etc for the poor workers to have to cope with. I understand that teaching maybe a different case to other professions.

    I hope that you have made the right decision.

  15. I must be a little confused. When your sparkly new school was in the local paper it was described as a most glorious place, packed to the rafters with enthusiastic little learners.

    How could anyone not be filled with joy to work in such a wondrous establishment?


    More seriously - Good for you!

    I don't know how anyone copes with being a head of department these days. I can't keep up and I'm just the common or garden variety of teacher.

    Good luck & all that,

  16. if you are going to drive a van then you'll be needing a drivers mate so perhaps I could do with a change - and what could better after all that stress than the prospect of me and thee 8 hours a day together in the cab all week..I knew that' make you feel better

    must have been a difficult decision though so good luck with what ever you do next - should I put any money on ofsted inspector....

  17. YP...well done! My thoughts on what has happened to schools and hospitals are full of expletives. I only hope that things will change. I'm currently bemoaning the fact that we can't get any money because of the credit crunch but on the whole...I'd rather life went back to what it was about thirty years ago. My parents keep telling me to become a teacher but I'm trying to teach on a private basis as much as I can.

    Have you thought about training in the corporate world? It may bring in a bit of dosh.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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