Why I Am Not a Teacher

Well, actually I am a teacher. And proud of it.  I just don’t teach full-time anymore. I am what is known as a supply or contract teacher. I fill in for other teachers when they are sick or on leave or at conferences, etc. I also tutor. I go to students’ houses after school and help them out with extra tuition. I find this much more rewarding than teaching in a classroom.


But anyway, here are the nine reasons why I am no longer teaching full time:

1) I can’t teach what I want to. I have to conform to the requirements of a syllabus and a work program not designed by me. Some of these are written by public servants or decided by politicians who have little or no actual teaching experience in class. They think they know what should be taught. And sometimes they are just plain wrong. So, how do I know better? From being a coal-face teacher, that’s how. From getting out there and having to teach it. Theory is great…in theory.

2) I am tired of not being paid for a lot of the work that I do. Teachers work really, really hard. We are criticised for “knocking off at three o’clock” and having all those holidays. But that is far from the truth. I’ve put in many hours for which I haven’t been paid, simply because it’s expected. I’ve worked on weekends and through the holidays to prepare lessons. I’ve directed musicals, coached debating teams, driven buses, tutored after hours. I’d like some money for all that, thanks.

3) I often feel disrespected. There are many students who just don’t want to be in school. I know this is hard to believe. Some of them just don’t want to be there. But like it or not, they have to be. And so do I. So could we just get on with the job, please, and do what we have to do? I have been called a “douche”, been told to “fuck off”, had my name spread over the Inernet as a pedophile and had property of mine damaged by students. I don’t need that. I’m tired of it. Perhaps their parents should do something about raising their own children rather than leaving it to me.

4) The public does not understand the importance of my work. Most of the complaints from parents are that they feel I’m not doing their job. Some parents these days expect teachers to be not only teaching traditional things like English and Maths and History, but also showing their kids how to have social skills, how to have breakfast, how to time manage. No, sorry, it’s not in the curriculum. And there’s also not enough understanding among the public that what teachers do is an investment in the future. Our work is underrated because no immediate result is seen. But having smart kids in twenty years’ time is going to make one hell of a difference to the world.

5) There are not enough teachers. It may sound odd that I am not teaching full-time because there aren’t enough of us. But what I mean is, until the size of classrooms comes down then more effective teaching must remain in the hands of tutors. Students do better in smaller classes. But until the government creates enough incentive for people to see teaching as a viable career, the classes will remain too big.

6) The result is seen as more important than the process.There is a lot of emphasis placed on results. Did my kid get an A? Even among the students the push is there to achieve higher marks than the other guy. But students learn far more in the process of education. They learn by making mistakes. They learn by finding out what not to do. And, most importantly, they learn by learning to think. Arriving at a result is important, but finding out how to get there is just as important. Thinking about how to arrive at a solution makes the job of finding a solution so much easier.

7) Kids aren’t taught the need for an education. Of course everyone has the right to an education. But students, especially teenagers, are so concerned with here and now that they can’t see the ultimate good of having one. It is a pity that children’s brains and bodies are developing just at the time we want to confuse them with a lot of facts.

8) Facilities do not come up to scratch. This is a hard one, as of course governments must find funding for a whole continuum of projects, not just education. Having classrooms with computers, or even air-conditioning, is a major problem. But it is just as dangerous to place an over-emphasis on modern facilities like computers, electronic whiteboards, etc. These can be just distractions in the classroom if they are not used properly.

9) I can achieve more doing what I do now. I have found that I can teach more one-on-one with a student in an hour than as a teacher with a full class in a whole week. This is good for the student. I make them work. I’m not one of those tutors (and they are out there) who do the assignment for the student. I make them do the assignment. But rather than just teach, I guide, mentor and assist them to think for themselves and find out the answer. They then take pride in knowing they discovered something for themselves.

So there we are. Of course, I have generalised in some of my comments. There are motivated students, there are appreciative parents, there are schools that emphsise creativity and critical thinking. But not enough.

And that’s why I am no longer a full-time teacher. I am a teacher, and proud of it. Teaching is one of the most important careers around. But I sometimes wish people appreciated us.