To think school teaching is a bad idea for work/ life balance?

(49 Posts)
shiveringhiccup Tue 28-Jun-16 12:46:13

I'll keep it brief, all opinions and advice welcome!

DH considering a career change into secondary teaching (either a science subject or maths). He would most likely go the uni route for the PGCE.

I am concerned firstly about the number of hours he would have to work (both during the PGCE and beyond), and secondly about the level of stress. Ime school teaching involves 50-60+ hours a week and lots of teachers sign off on stress. However I don't know much about secondary teaching in science or maths so it could be different.

We have a young DC so it would be sad if he had to work zillions of hours.

Any experience/ opinions out there on this?

splendide Tue 28-Jun-16 12:48:33

I have a maths teacher friend and he definitely doesn't work those kinds of hours or anything like them. Don't know if he's super efficient or maybe he's a bit slack. He doesn't love his job though, finds it pretty frustrating.

burdog Tue 28-Jun-16 13:00:05

It seems too demanding on work/life balance considering what teachers are paid, in my opinion.

FellOutOfBed2wice Tue 28-Jun-16 13:05:20

Me and DH are both Secondary teachers (me part time since kids) in core and humanities subjects. I've been doing this nearly ten years, so feel pretty confident I know the score now and I would say it's very seasonal. There are times in the year that are pure hell- March to June is very busy.... This year husband has had it especially tough with one of his team on long term sick and he's been pulling 70 hour working weeks and working at home over the weekend and sometimes holding sessions with kids on Saturdays and Sundays. But then he's about to have six glorious weeks off with me and the kids, Sept- March is never as hard as the period leading up to exams.

The important thing is to keep a sense of perspective and be good at managing your workload. If you can do that you'll stay sane. I've seen a lot of teachers sink because they can't differentiate between what they need to do and what they want to do. You'll never achieve everything on your to do list! You need to prioritise.

The PGCE year is very tough though so be prepared for that. I remember teaching all day and then being sat up til 2am doing assignments. It's pretty relentless.

SquidgeyMidgey Tue 28-Jun-16 13:06:04

I taught pre-DC and the first couple of years (PGCE, NQT etc) are hard with long hours. From what I've seen of working in both primary and secondary I would say generally primary teachers do longer hours but on a year when the curriculum has changed all bets are off.

BrendaFurlong Tue 28-Jun-16 13:06:04

Don't do it.
Ex-school teacher.
DH is in FE (and therefore doesn't even get the holidays.)
It kills family life.

myownprivateidaho Tue 28-Jun-16 13:07:58

It depends on the school and how quickly you can get through stuff but the two teachers in my family have an outstanding work-life balance. My sister is home by half 4 (up at 6 though) and rarely works in the evenings. She spends Sunday afternoon/evening marking though. The holidays are fantastic. Reduced schedule in exam term as all the gcsers and a-levellers are gone. I think it is stressful if you're put under a lot of pressure to perform better (regular classroom reviews in the state sector) and if you find classroom behaviour upsetting. But for the right personality type I think it's an amazing job, in terms of how rewarding it is and in terms of lifestyle. My sister in particular loves it.

nonline Tue 28-Jun-16 13:55:17

OH going part time next year (after 10+ years, taught primary and sixth form) to try and get a better balance: He works at home every day, later now that he takes 'time off' for bathing/playing with baby.
It depends to some extent on what you teach and your personality (e.g. how much you can wing it vs. Desire for perfect resources). Science and maths are better than English as regards marking quantity, but will still take time. Stupid things like recording regular homework/test results always take more time than you think and are what the schools are most concerned about :-s

Does your DH have any experience? He needs to get into a school to volunteer and observe- and ask any teacher he watches lessons of what they will additionally be doing once lessons finish and at the weekend.

shiveringhiccup Tue 28-Jun-16 14:12:04

Thanks all, this is so helpful.

Any thoughts on FE as opposed to 11-16? BrendaFurlong is it any easier for your DH being in FE?

FellOut that's helpful to know. It does seem to be a lot about individual stamina and ability to manage workload. One option he's considering would be to do the PGCE and then look into other teaching roles ie not in mainstream school. But that really depends on how it would be during the PGCE or if it would be a hellish year for him!

Idaho good to know some teachers out there enjoy it! Unfortunately ime a lot don't which is why I have concerns - but I know that's not necessarily representative and there must be some people who like it otherwise we wouldn't have any teachers at all grin

Nonline No he doesn't have any proper classroom experience. At the moment he is in a very stressful job so it's difficult for him to be able to spend time in a classroom. Atm he's trying to work out how to manage it so he can get some reality into the decision.

chickenowner Tue 28-Jun-16 14:17:20

I taught full time (primary) for 10 years, and for the past 8 as a supply teacher.

Supply teaching is always an option for a qualified teacher, and it doesn't involve the long hours or as much stress. After the school day I have marking to do, getting out/putting away resources for lessons, and a bit of planning but none of the form filling, assessment, record keeping, staff meetings, parents evenings, school plays etc etc which create the 60 + hour weeks, at least in primary. I can't speak for secondary teaching.

I wouldn't recommend full time class teaching at all, but there are other options.

And I absolutely love teaching!

Millionprammiles Tue 28-Jun-16 14:20:37

The hours you've described are no different to many jobs but with the benefit of the school holidays and possibilities for home working (eg marking/lesson planning can be done at home sometimes presumably).

It really depends what you're comparing it to. Compared to flexi/home/part-time working jobs, with unlimited unpaid leave to cover the school holidays - teaching doesn't sound an attractive option.

Compared to a job with no home/flexi/part time working and two hours commuting a day, 5 weeks annual leave and an unsympathetic response to unpaid leave requests - teaching sounds like a dream come true.

I could never teach though and hats off to those that do.

shiveringhiccup Tue 28-Jun-16 14:20:41

Chickenowner if you don't mind me asking how many hours a week do you do as a supply teacher, marking etc included? I have to say of all the teachers I know, the happiest do seem to be supply! I have always wondered if it's unsettling though and whether you get a steady enough stream of work - DH is the main earner.

BrendaFurlong Tue 28-Jun-16 14:22:31

FE is badly paid and badly funded. DH's working hours are technically 9-5 but he usually does 7-5 and still works evenings and weekends. It's not that he's lacking in organisational skills, or the ability to prioritise - that's the workload. He will get 3 weeks off in the summer but can't take them all together and has to be in college for the last 2 weeks of August because that's their prime time for recruiting and registering new students. He would leave like a shot if we could afford it.

I teach in an entirely different sector now. I have regained my health and sanity.

shiveringhiccup Tue 28-Jun-16 14:25:26

Millionprammiles I get what you're saying, I know a lot of jobs do of course require extra hours. I guess the issue for me is whether it's a bit here and there or if it's lots and constantly. So for the sake of an example, 45 hours every week is very doable, 40 hours most of the time but every now and then 60 hrs is doable, but 60 hrs every week isn't so doable iyswim. Maybe I'm wrong thinking it's possible to not slave away every hour of the day and still scrape by!

heron98 Tue 28-Jun-16 14:41:49

I'm a teacher. Teach secondary Physics. I am 3 years qualified.

I work 7-5 in the week. I do not work evenings or weekends. That is my choice. I get sly comments from colleagues that do, but I also value my life. My pupils are happy and doing well, my head is happy with me. It's possible.

chickenowner Tue 28-Jun-16 15:07:08

My weeks vary, depending on how many days I want to work. I could work full time if I wanted to (for most of the year, although there is less demand for supply in September and July), but I choose not to. For example, I've just finished a term of 4 days a week at one school. I usually choose to work 2 and a half or 3 days a week. I am in a lucky position with no mortgage, a DP who works full time, and I also earn rental income.

A usual day - I arrive at school an hour before the school day starts, so between 7.45 and 8 o'clock. I work through lunch to get any marking from the morning done or at least started, then probably work another half an hour to an hour after all the children have left, so leave by 4.30 most days. Of course there are some days, such as when I've had a day in year 5 or 6 with no no-written-work lesson such as PE or music, when the marking can take up to 2 hours after school! So it can vary quite a lot.

I love supply for many reasons, not just the shorter working hours. I enjoy teaching at different schools and varying my week in different year groups. And of course, being 'unavailable' for any special occasions, term-time holidays, etc.
However it is not for everyone, you have to be ready for anything, such as finding no planning or lessons ready (have lots of emergency lesson ideas just in case!), being booked for a lovely day in year 1 and finding actually it's a tough year 6 class, and even finding out that I'm not needed and having to return home!
And of course, no guaranteed days work, no pay during the summer (I save during the year to cover this), no sick pay, no teachers pension. (I pay into my own private pension and into the government NEST pension scheme). You really have to weigh up the pros and cons, but for me, it has definitely been the right decision.

I hope this all helps!

splendide Tue 28-Jun-16 15:19:51

I agree lots of jobs require 60 hours a week but teaching is quite poorly paid to require that in my view. I used to work 60 hours plus in a law firm but the money is amazing. I now work 8-4.30 in house for less than I would get in a law firm but lots more than most teachers. So I do think teachers are reasonable to be cranky about the long hours.

freerangeeggs Tue 28-Jun-16 15:30:29

Myself and DH are both teachers. I think there is some truth in the statement that teachers lack a work-life balance, but it's not the case by necessity.

When I worked in the UK I found it really tough, but it does vary by school. At one school there were very low expectations in terms of marking etc. - it wasn't a great school (I did not enjoy working there), but it did mean there was less pressure and therefore you could be more flexible. At another school we were all in 8 - 6 at least, marking all hours with huge expectations - but it was a great place and I enjoyed working there a lot.

There are crunch times during the year (e.g. the run-up to exam season as has been stated above), but other times when it becomes much more relaxed, although there's always plenty to do. Again, it just means you can be more flexible at those times.

I'm currently working at a private school in the Middle East and it's the best place I've ever worked. It's hard graft and a lot is expected of us, but smaller class sizes and lighter timetables mean that our goals at least seem achievable and I'm not constantly drowning in marking and admin.

Maths teachers have a somewhat lighter marking load but in my experience they spend a lot more time planning than some other subjects. They also have to cope with the pressure of being a core subject.

To be honest, a lot of teachers seem to take masochistic pleasure in martyring themselves. Work-life balance is achievable, I think, if you prioritise, stay organised and learn where to draw the line; it helps if you find the right school, too. Having said that, I do not relish the prospect of ever teaching in the UK again!

HostaFireandIce Tue 28-Jun-16 15:33:37

It depends a bit what he does now too. In my experience, my friends who went into law/consultancy work longer hours than I have ever done as a teacher (but yes, they earn a lot more!), but my friends who work in admin type jobs don't work as long hours (but don't earn as much!). I agree that it gets easier after the first few years as you have built up a stock of lesson plans etc and don't have to think anymore about how to explain things as it gets more instinctive. I agree with heron98 that it's perfectly possible to do it well on reasonable hours. Depends how efficient your DH is maybe? I still think it's a great job, but your DH should be picky about the school - some demand far more in terms of utterly pointless admin.

HostaFireandIce Tue 28-Jun-16 15:36:30

Also, millionprammiles makes the valid point that teaching does have the advantage that you can do a fair proportion of the work (planning/marking) when and where you like i.e. at home after the kids are in bed!

Acopyofacopy Tue 28-Jun-16 15:46:51

I have to agree that there is a lot of martyrdom in teaching. You need to be organised and able to prioritise quite ruthlessly in order to achieve an acceptable work life balance. It also helps to pick your school wisely.

Millionprammiles Tue 28-Jun-16 16:04:19

splendide - but presumably you don't have all the school holidays off?

splendide Tue 28-Jun-16 16:18:53

Oh yes the holidays are a huge advantage - I only get 25 days. In fact I have considered teaching law for the holidays (that's why i also nose around these threads).

miraclebabyplease Tue 28-Jun-16 16:34:03

I am a teacher. My work life balance is non exisitent. Work takes over and I do 3 days a week. I still have to do work most days. I love my job but I would not recommend it.

Junosmum Tue 28-Jun-16 17:07:52

DH was a primary school teacher and chose to change career prior to us starting a family.

We now have a DS who is 6 months old. DH is home for bed time and free most weekends, he doesn't get long holidays any more but can take time off when he wants (within reason).

He did some exam marking - he was up late at night, worked through 2 weekends and I had to do the lions share of housework and parenting. Just like when he was a teacher. It really hit home how glad I was he didn't do it anymore.

I honestly don't think teaching and being an equal partner/ parent mix. BUT obviously lots of people do it so some must disagree with me!

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