to want to quit teaching: I've lost all faith and motivation

(100 Posts)
PeppermintTeaPlease Fri 28-Oct-16 17:32:53

I was so enthusiastic and excited during my first 5 years as a teacher. I loved working with the kids, and I spent so much time and energy trying to put together lessons and ways of introducing the material to them. I was the female Mr. Keating (Dead Poet's Society)!

But you know what? I don't care anymore. I'm so disillusioned. THEY--the students--don't care. I have two students in total who actually enjoy the things we read and want to improve as writers. The majority of the rest cobble together papers based on what they read on SparkNotes and CliffNotes online; I know most of them don't read the novels at all. Did you know that it is possible to write a basic composition without reading the book about which you are writing? Well, it is. SparkNotes and similar websites give detailed plot and character summaries, and explain all themes of the literature. I'm just the loser who prattles about how much they are missing by not reading the books, the loser with my little-person school teacher's job, and so I deserve to spend hours and hours of time every evening reading and marking pages and pages of uninspired dreck written by people who don't give a damn. In fact, I'll be doing just that until about midnight tonight.

I had a student who wanted an A. He bitterly resented his C grade (I was being generous). He even admitted he hadn't read the book, and "only read the Wikipedia article, that was my mistake 'cos I should have read more articles to say what it was about." The Head said I had to "give him a chance to try again" on the composition. I just opened the document that was the student's resubmission, and guess what? COPIED WORD FOR WORD from three different internet articles. It took me less than two minutes to realize he hadn't written it AND to find the articles he copied online.

And he WILL do great in life. His parents will set him up in their family business, and he'll have a better life than I do. And he knows it. And his parents know it too: they can barely mask their contempt when I try to speak to them.

So, yeah. I'm an idiot, and a fool, and I've wasted my life.

I've had that hideous "moment of reckoning": I've just seen myself for what I am. Now I am embarrassed to go face the students again. God, I'm a loser.

WorraLiberty Fri 28-Oct-16 17:36:16

Of course YANBU if you want to change career.

Any ideas what else you'd like to do?

YouTheCat Fri 28-Oct-16 17:37:28

But what about those two who are bothered?

I totally get where you are coming from though.

Ayeok Fri 28-Oct-16 17:40:55

Coming from the perspective of a parent whose child's life has been absolutely transformed by an inspirational teacher, I'd ask you to reconsider. Unfortunately you're dealing with some entitled arseholes or even just lazy ones, but those two who do want to learn would be gutted to see you go. A good teacher is worth their weight times a million in gold IMO, don't be shoved out of a profession you're clearly passionate about and good at because of a crap year.

Loveagoodruck Fri 28-Oct-16 17:42:46

Consider the things you can control; the mindset of a teenager is not one of them.

But you can control:
Where you work - is the mindset of your school allowing students to behave in the way you've described?

How you work - give your time to the two students who care. Don't waste it on marking the work that was plagarised; that's a serious issue that I would ask either SLT or your HOD to sort. When other students see that those who are trying and care are making progress, they may jump on board.

How much you work - what is your department marking policy like? Is it intense, or are you doing more than what is asked of you? If it is too intense, ask your HOD if it's possible to review it, especially in light of recent research relating to the impact of book marking.

If you consider all this and you still want to leave, then go for it; if you've given all you can then leave with your head held high.

yorkshapudding Fri 28-Oct-16 17:46:34

Giving a shit about the development of your students doesn't make you a loser. Quite the opposite.

By all means, feel angry with the system, with the apathetic and short-sighted parents who don't back you up and their lazy and entitled offspring. Do NOT turn that anger inwards on yourself though.

If Teaching is making you unhappy then leave. I spent far too long trapped in a profession that was made me miserable.
I stayed out of guilt, because I cared. But you only get one life and sometimes you really do have to do what's right for you.

instantly Fri 28-Oct-16 17:48:01

You're way too invested.

So what if they don't read the book? Fail the paper and move on.

I work with teens too. They're funny, interesting and lovely. They're also lazy, spoiled and fucking infuriating. Ok, sometimes I'm <exploding head> but you CAN'T teach if you're going to let this stuff get to you. It's got to be water off a ducks back.

By all means if you want a career change, go for it. But if you're dependent on the effort of 16 year olds for your happiness, then your going to be very frustrated and disappointed. You can teach and NOT feel like this.

PeppermintTeaPlease Fri 28-Oct-16 17:49:54

I don't even think it's just a crap year. I think I am just finally coming to terms with the fact that this is what the job is like, and that most kids don't care and don't want to learn.

I've had ONE really great class in my career. It was ONE class I taught last year, and somehow all the personalities in the room worked well together, and the energy in the group was positive. It was great, but it was only the one class. And I teach five classes a day, and have done for my entire career.

At this point, due to the "resources" available online (including paper mills, which are impossible to search/detect because one can pay for an original paper), my job is mainly pretending that I don't know that at least half of the students in my class have not read any of the material and don't intend to ever read it, and that at least a quarter of the papers I have to read were not even written by the person who turned them in to me. And that makes me a fool! It takes me almost an HOUR to read and mark a longer composition, and I have a stack of them. At this point, I actively hate the students who I know did not write the papers I have to read and mark this evening.

As for the two good ones, I don't see how they could respect me. They will read and learn their entire lives because they are motivated and bright, and they want to learn for the sake of learning. They don't need me. I just hope they don't waste their lives by becoming teachers. I hope they put their intelligence and drive to good use, and enter lucrative careers (and then they'll have lovely evenings and weekends to curl up with a good book if they like, which is more than I have because I have to read mountains of compositions written by people who don't care, or people who were paid to write the compositions for my students).

The best composition in this group was not written by a student. I don't know who wrote it, but I am 100% sure it was not the student. I believe it was his "tutor", to whom the parents pay vast amounts of money. However, since I can't prove this, and since the student is at least consistent enough to have the same person write all of his compositions, I have to deal with it.

pieceofpurplesky Fri 28-Oct-16 17:53:46

What age do you teach? I am going to sound horrible here but why are your pupils getting homework where they can copy out of Wikipedia etc.?
I have been teaching English at GCSE level for 17 years - I have never set a homework that enables a pupil to cut and paste bits of texts. Books/plays are read in class to ensure they are read - homework is to make the pupils think. Have worked in difficult and average comps.
You can only be a Mr Keating if you teach in some elite school with a niche class. Your average comp needs you to be a real teacher who inspires kids to want to do your work and live your subject - not a fictional character.

GrainOfSalt Fri 28-Oct-16 17:54:08

I am a teacher. I get it. sad. And it is not helped by the unbelievably low level of respect teachers are given in this country by a great majority of people from the government down. Very very sad

Limitededition7inch Fri 28-Oct-16 17:54:53

Have you tried switching schools? Not all pupils are like this.

pieceofpurplesky Fri 28-Oct-16 17:55:26

Also composition? Are you not in the UK?

Icapturethecast1e Fri 28-Oct-16 17:56:00

You sound very inspiring as a teacher. Is there no way you can work as a private teacher. Tutor people who want to learn & will actually put effort into their work. Or as a post 16 teacher to those who are getting back into education. These are the type of people who actually want to learn & will thank you for your efforts. Of course it will be a shame to leave those pupils who need a teacher like you BUT your mental health & happiness has to come first.

PeppermintTeaPlease Fri 28-Oct-16 17:56:19

Oh, and Head and HOD fail to grasp the intricacies of modern technology to the point that they don't understand the "resources" available online. It is a real problem, and I don't think it existed to this extent a decade ago.

When I was in school in the late 90s, we HAD to read the books because the cheat sites and paper mills online that kids can so readily access today didn't exist yet. It is rather frightening, really.

I know I need to find a new career. I came to this sickening realisation this morning, all at once. It is like a switch has been flipped: I suddenly hate my job, and I'm embarrassed by what I do, now that I see it fully for what it is.

Sigh. I don't know what to do now.

instantly Fri 28-Oct-16 17:57:32

Sorry but I think your behaviour management is an issue.

Why are you bothering to mark plagiarized essays? Why aren't you communicating to the parents that you suspect the tutor wrote the essay?

I think you need to set some standards and vigorously enforce them.

And I don't buy the "poor disrespected teacher" whining either.

lasttimeround Fri 28-Oct-16 17:58:18

In most jobs there are things you have no power over and things that are worth it. And about the boy with no effort who will work in the family firm. Life isn't fair. That's something you have to learn to somehow deal with.

yesterdaysunshine Fri 28-Oct-16 17:58:49

I think you're a bit too involved as well, sorry.

GrainOfSalt Fri 28-Oct-16 18:00:44

One of the reasons I stopped teaching at University level was because I was asked to pass a student's work despite the fact that not only had they cut and pasted but they hadn't even taken out the links and adverts. I was informed that of I didn't pass it someone else would.

Now I teach GCSE and A' Level - purely exam based. They can cut and paste as much as they like for me but it doesn't help them in the exam grin

MaQueen Fri 28-Oct-16 18:01:34

Have you considered applying to teach in a traditional grammar school?

Two of our friends felt exactly like you after 10 years teaching in comps. They transfered to teach in grammars and love it.

Okay, the kids aren't perfect, but across the board they do seem to really want to learn, and are bright and engaged in lessons.

Far less classroom disruption/answering back, discipline issues too, apparently.

Ketsby Fri 28-Oct-16 18:02:29

"So what if they don't read the book? Fail the paper and move on."

She can't. This is teaching. If she doesn't give them As and sparkles and sprinkles and glowing reviews, the head will be after her. Remember, it's the teacher's fault if students fail, not the students.

My sympathies OP. My family are teachers and though they've weathered a lot of storms they are losing faith in it now as they are repeatedly blamed for students who simply do not wish to work. They cannot sanction, punish, detain or give them any sort of negative or punitive action for their refusal to do any work, submit any essays or tackle any material, and instead the Head calls them in and asks what they are doing to 'inspire' them. Because it's all the teacher's fault that a student sits on their phone all lesson snarling 'fuck off' if challenged.

teatowel Fri 28-Oct-16 18:02:42

Consider changing to upper primary? Lots of enthusiasm there still.

yesterdaysunshine Fri 28-Oct-16 18:03:37

Well, yes and no.

You can't let them fail but on the other hand the fact that you have students reading Cliff notes and plagiarising essays is indicative of some desire to achieve. So it's not quite as bleak as it sounds ...

PeppermintTeaPlease Fri 28-Oct-16 18:03:42

Pieceofpurplesky, I DO teach "in an elite school", and I suppose the classes would be considered "niche."

I teach in the upper school (so same age as your students), and I do not "set homework" that can be copied from Wikipedia. My students are expected to read all novels and poetry, and this means they have to read outside of class; we can't read everything in the curriculum in the classroom only. They don't write book reports or plot summary exercises; they are (meant to be) learning to write well and to do the kind of literary analysis required by the IB, etc.

The student who copied the Wikipedia article did not come close the meeting the criteria for the assignment because the assignment was NOT an exercise in plot summary. The student has so little respect for me and for the class/school that he didn't care; he KNEW what he was doing, and how ridiculous it would look, and also that the Head will not allow him to fail. It would have been less insulting if he had simply drawn a picture or written a poem about his shoes and turned that in.

I actually think I might prefer the "average comp" you are discussing. Do you mean that you read EVERYTHING with them in class? So they never have to read anything at home? How do you cover the complete curriculum this way?

TheSparrowhawk Fri 28-Oct-16 18:03:45

Teaching can be a horribly disheartening profession. I understand some of your frustration. But your reaction isn't entirely normal - you sound quite depressed. You're catastrophising and extending your students' laziness into a comment on your self worth, which is going too far.

You need a break I think, some time to get your head back on straight.

instantly Fri 28-Oct-16 18:05:23

It doesn't sound like the OP teaches in a comp full of head cases and the terminally unemployable. It sounds like an affluent school.

The kids I work with are hugely, super rich, some of them. However it's not something I see as in the slightest bit relevant or ever give any thought to. I think resenting the kids you teach for being rich and walking into a job in daddy's firm is quite odd. They will also have hurdles in life which they have to overcome. Being a spoiled pain in the ass who thinks they can cheat their way through life is one of them.

Meh, I find wine helps.

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