Advanced search

To wonder why so many teachers want to quit

(1001 Posts)

Inspired by other threads but I didn't want to derail.

What is going on in education that is making teaching so stressful?

I work in the City and you don't see too many people quitting with stress even though the work can be stressful. Certainly, not the numbers you see in teaching.

Sorry pressed create too soon.

Teachers are well educated, hard working people so what is making the profession so intolerable for them?

It is a real worry if we are losing experienced people due to problems with the system. What needs fixing?

Snossidge Fri 23-Oct-15 16:13:10

Long hours, constant scrutiny and observations, high levels of accountability/responsibility with lower levels of control (eg, a target of 85% of children achieving x, but the teacher has little or no control over attendance, SEN, turbulent home lives etc), new initiatives imposed regularly and low professional autonomy, constant criticism of the profession and it's not particularly well paid. At a guess, anyway.

mysteryknickers Fri 23-Oct-15 16:13:30

High expectations and low support.
Huge workload which constantly has work added to it.
Endless paperwork.
No work/life balance which means you don't see your own kids that much and often spend holiday time working (plus using own money to buy resources)
Poor management in some schools.
Difficult Parents (some, not all)
Pressure from government bodies who think you don't do your job properly.
Media coverage which is unsupportive.
Joe Public thinks you work 9 to 3 and have more holidays than work days.

Actually I love my job and I'm in Scotland where I think the system is under less pressure than the English education system. But I think this is a general summary of points to answer your question.

tobysmum77 Fri 23-Oct-15 16:20:05

I think it is a variety of lots of things.

1. The management in teaching tends to be quite autocratic if you dare to question the latest crap idea you can be labeled negative and a trouble maker even if you are right.
2. Teachers are apparently to blame for everything from teenage pregnancy, childhood obesity, drug abuse. Anything can be the fault of the teacher.
3. These days teaching is all about massaging figures. Children all have to show sufficient progress, even if they are always absent or the child has just come from another school and the figure was wrong. If they don't then guess whose fault it is???
4. If you happen to have a difficult class it's not because they are a bag mix or anything like that its because your lessons attend interesting enough.
5. After a while it all gets boring, your enthusiasm wains and it isn't 'challenging' in a positive way any more. You start to hate it, it starts to make you unhappy and stressed.

OrangeSquashTallGlass Fri 23-Oct-15 16:23:51

The 85% performance thing is such a low blow. 15% of my children are 'allowed' to be below average in order for me to be considered an ok teacher on paper (to be good/outstanding the % are different). 15% = 5 children out of 32. I have no say over who is in my class, but if I have a class of high SEN I will easily go over 15% and therefore automatically be classed as shit.

We're dealing with lives here. Delicate, little, unique lives. But all the government sees are numbers.

Being held accountable for things you are absolutely powerless over is just... there are no words.

Moodyblue1 Fri 23-Oct-15 16:26:38

I know in the school I worked in a lot of teachers were unhappy

They came in early and stayed late yet still took work home to complete in the evenings and weekends.

Constantly getting pushed harder and harder to get everyone to a certain level even if it wasn't realistic

Not having the freedom to actually teach, having to follow rigid lesson plans which may not work for all children but so much has to be crammed in there's little opportunity to adapt to the needs of some children.

Dealing with disruptive classes often having to share TA's with other classes so children needing support wasn't getting it therefore teacher has to stop lessons often or heavily support one child at others expense.

Head teachers who can be under so much pressure to achieve results and this just gets pushed onto teachers.

Parents having a go, sometimes verbally abusing staff.

Unfortunately I know many fabulous teachers who have left as they were so worn down by the system

I can see how being told to produce a certain result irrespective of the actual starting levels of the class must be impossible at times.

If you think the Media are unsupportive, try being a bankerwink.

abbieanders Fri 23-Oct-15 16:29:25

The YOU FAIL TO SHOW PROPER DEFERENCE TO MY CHILD I WILL RUIN YOU!!! parents are a problem, I imagine.

OurBlanche Fri 23-Oct-15 16:30:20

All of the above but the killer is the low level of control. I could be held responsible for all world ills but never had the wherewithal to change anything.

I handed my notice in when the expectations of me reached ridiculous levels - e.g. take a 16 year old who had already failed GCSE maths 4 times and get them a C grade in 22 weeks, 2 hours per week - multiplied by 180 students, none of whom needed GCSE maths in their chosen course or career - Functional Skills is still preferred by employers as it is, well, functional.

There was no one to argue with (thanks Mr Gove/Ms Morgan) and no one who could do anything about it. I wrote letters and emails, joined petitions and national focus groups. The changes became more and more ridiculous and restrictive. My personal and dept targets ever more ridiculous.

I woke up one Sunday morning, sobbing. I resigned!

What needs fixing? Absolutely everything. And the changes currently being undertaken won't do it. Privatising schools is happening, de-regulation of teachers already has happened, in 5 years time you won't recognise the schooling your kids get!

Leavingsosoon Fri 23-Oct-15 16:31:17

Honestly, I think it's a combination of numerous things, BUT - <dons hard hat> I also think teaching often attracts perfectionist, earnest types anyway. As a result, stress levels are always going to be high.

OurBlanche Fri 23-Oct-15 16:34:28

Being a banker is bad, but doesn't get you 2 adults per family unit feeling absolutely entitled to threaten your job, daily! Your crimes aren't as everyday as making Little Johnny cry because he hadn't finished his coursework and will now fail his GCSE / A Level and no, of course their already having refused to let him come to catch up classes because he had football practice had nothing to do with it I WAS JUST IN-FUCKING-COMPETANT AS A TEACHER and had ruined his life, for which I would pay!

Year in, year out, multiple kids, multiple parents...

BoboChic Fri 23-Oct-15 16:37:14

I agree with everything everyone has written so far but I think that leavingsosoon is onto something when she identifies the personality type that is attracted to teaching as an issue. I'm not sure about the perfectionist aspect, personally. I think that in the UK teaching does not attract people who are obsessed with measuring and targets, and that there is currently a real mismatch between the culture of the profession and the culture being imposed by the powers that be.

Dollymixtureyumyum Fri 23-Oct-15 16:41:40

It's the unrealistic targets for one thing.
My husband is a teacher at a college and he should have got a grade one on his last ofstead inspection lesson
He got a two because one of his students did not turn up, the poor student had been knocked down and killed the day before but apparently this did not matter.
The written report was "if my husband lesson was interesting enough all of his students would have turned up"!!!!!!

That does sound horrible. I can see it is different from the all bankers are greedy bastards theme, because it is personal; it's directed at you as an individual.

Snossidge Fri 23-Oct-15 16:42:01

Bobo - IME it is certainly true that nursery/reception/year 1 teachers for example, almost universally believe that 3-6 year olds should have time and space to play and develop, particularly in terms of their social, language and physical skills, and are quite committed to the idea of a unique and individual child. However the education system is totally at odds with that. I think that causes a lot of stress for teachers - forced to get children to meet targets that actually they don't really believe are in their best interests.


Leavingsosoon Fri 23-Oct-15 16:43:10

Possibly you're right there, Bobo.

I know numerous teachers and I also know there are numerous exceptions to the type I'm about to describe, so please don't be offended - (I'm a teacher too!) but so many people I know weren't necessarily hugely talented in their area or had a natural skill or ability for something.

However, they had achieved at their chosen field - languages or art or music - through sheer hard work. In many cases, they'd earnestly listened to their own teachers, completed homework as if their life depended on it, practised, refined, redrafted.

In a field like teaching, that sort of personality can be dangerous and it's led to the 'I spent seven hours marking my books last night!' type of exhaustion and breakdowns.

I'm not saying there aren't numerous problems and issues in teaching - there are - but this always seemed to me to be the big elephant in the room - that teachers saw more as good, quantity over quality, how can you possibly go home before midnight and be a Good Teacher and you Don't Care About The Kids (always the kids or children) if you aren't Going The Extra Mile.

Silly. What matters is the job gets done, not how long it takes to do it - but I always used to feel funny leaving before 4:30 when I was teaching, even if I had nothing to do!

ValancyJane Fri 23-Oct-15 16:47:07

I've been teaching for six years now, and when I first started I really enjoyed my job. Without sounding bigheaded, I know that I'm good at my job, parents and students have almost always been happy with me (you get the odd one!), teaching assistants have told me they wanted their kids to be in my class etc. However a lot of things have been brought in (cheers OFSTED and Mr Gove) that have led to me really not enjoying it anymore, and long term I will be leaving teaching in the next five years or so. In a nutshell:

The obsession with ALL children making progress in nice neat sub-levelled increments, and being expected to track and scrutinise the data at every opportunity. And being asked why not if they haven't made progress.

The accountability on staff for ALL children making progress (even if they're school refusers / having a tough time / can't be arsed to work). The performance of our classes (even if you share the subject with another teacher) is now reflected in our performance management and can be used to determine our pay. I am expecting a challenging conversation about mine; despite the fact I shared the group with two people who were off long term sick and I did the best I could!

Being made to write pointless documents that don't help the students at all, but so you can keep them in a folder just in case OFSTED might want to see them (they never do). I'm talking about seating plans that include strategies for dealing with each child and data on each of them, filling in a form after each class does an assessment just to show you've reflected on how the group has done), and doing a reflection on the data of all your classes once a term.

Constant scrutiny from SLT, and never from a supportive perspective. Ongoing 'learning walks' where they can drop in unannounced. I don't mind people coming to see what's going on and to check I'm doing my job right (I am) but these learning walks can be used for capability procedures and are never informal.

The phenomenal marking load, I have ten different classes this year and am expected to mark their books once every five lessons, and assessments on top of that. Each piece of marking is expected to correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, give the students specific tasks to complete, and the students are then meant to complete these tasks, and I have to mark it again to evidence a dialogue between myself and the student. It all has to be written, verbal feedback counts for nothing! I'm not saying I shouldn't have to mark books, but it's all become way too time-consuming and onerous.

The threat of knowing you're only as good as your last lesson observation, and the knowledge that SLT can push you out quite easily (and legally) if your face doesn't fit. I saw it happen to a lot of good teachers last year who either questioned SLT or were high up the pay scale. Mysteriously they started to fail lesson observations and steps were made to put them on competency proceedings (they jumped before they were pushed, as if you go before competency starts it won't be on your reference...)

Constant overhaul of the education system, where changes just seem to be made for the sake of it! For example abolishing levels, but not giving us anything else to use. Rewriting the national curriculum every few years. Changing the GCSE's to give them a numerical value (why?!). I don't fully understand all of the changes and why/how they are being implemented, so I feel sorry for parents.

Being snowed under with additional tasks that are not in my job description, and directed to do things during break / lunch / after school (this may just be my school, but I suspect it isn't). And knowing that you can't refuse, unless you want to be labelled a 'troublemaker'.

The things I like, though, just to not be all doom and gloom: The kids (vast majority are so lovely), the parents (most are so supportive of the job we do and I usually leave parents evening smiling) and my colleagues. The actual teaching aspect, I love being in front of a class. And helping students to succeed (one of my Year 11's came back after her exams to thank me for not giving up on her, another one - one of the naughtiest lads in Year 11 - came to see me on results day to thank me for everything I'd done. Comments like that mean the world). The moment when a student 'gets' a concept and has a lightbulb moment is just amazing.

I used to love this job, but the pressure and stress just isn't worth it. I love the teaching part and working with the kids, the money and the holidays ARE good, I can't deny. But I've felt for a few years that it's just not sustainable any longer. I'm hoping to not go back after my last maternity leave, quite honestly. I'll do something else, possibly doing supply in the short term (as so many people are!).

(Sorry for the ramble!)

MrsPCR Fri 23-Oct-15 16:52:25

MARKING! Not for the benefit of your students but for SLT who criticise everything and come up with endless systems to make it easier for them the check. The fact it takes 5-10 minutes a book x300+ =25 - 50 hours marking a fortnight. Writing mini essays on what they need to do to improve, which is more than they wrote in the first place. All for SLT.....

Behaviour, lack of sanctions, constant scrutiny, lack of parental support, constantly made to feel you are not good enough and not doing enough, endless late nights finishing at 8.30 having started at 7.30, expectation to give up your break/lunch.....

doceodocere Fri 23-Oct-15 16:59:58

I don't enjoy my job any more. I'm about to go on maternity leave and I'm not planning to go back afterwards. It's unachievable and the system we have is not in the best interests of anyone, children or teachers. The parts of the job I love are far outweighed by the crap and nonsense described by pps.

MrsUltracrepidarian Fri 23-Oct-15 17:06:56

one of his students did not turn up, the poor student had been knocked down and killed the day before but apparently this did not matter. shock

Valency put it all very well.
I retrained as a (secondary) teacher 2 years ago after a city career. The course was rubbish, unprofessional and chaotic. The university people said - 'Yes, but Mrs U, you are not 22 so you have higher expectations ' shock as if that was an excuse for charging 9k for a substandard course, because 22 year olds would know no better...angry
However, I qualified, but decided I did not want to d o an NQT year, as the whole situation in schools is bonkers. I enjoy being in the classroom and teaching , so I went into supply teaching. I love it, because I get all the fin of teaching, and none of the rubbish form SLT. If I don't like a school, or the journey is inconvenient,I just don't go back. There is plenty of work. Some schools I go to always have 3 or more supply teachers covering sickness and meeting etc, and as the years goes on, the sickness get more prolonged and more prevalent. Sometimes I teach the same class (different subjects - secondary) more than once a day. One day I taught the same Y7 class for history, maths and food science.
I have no primary experience, never set foot in one apart form as apparent, but was inundated with offer of supply work in primary because the workload is so ridiculous that people walk out without another job - to preserve their own sanity and marriage.

MrsUltracrepidarian Fri 23-Oct-15 17:10:40

btw - I no longer accept primary supply because even on supply the expectations of marking are ridiculous and pointless. If it actually helped a child make progress I would not have a problem, but as the previous posters said it'd all about box-ticking for SLT (who use 'Ofsted' as an excuse even though Ofsted have repeatedly published guidelines debunking that myth.

hefzi Fri 23-Oct-15 17:12:44

Three words: responsibility without power.

Oh, and a few more: never being allowed to exercise your personal and professional judgement.

(Actually, I'm in HE, but we face similar problems: except the parents who find it appropriate to scream in my face are doing so about their adult children...)

catfordbetty Fri 23-Oct-15 17:13:28

Nothing to add to the above - pps have described eloquently why teaching is a deeply unattractive proposition. I got particularly pissed off with the insulting and contemptuous nature of parental complaints - after spending a few months on Mumsnet I am starting to see where the writers got their inspiration!

This thread is not accepting new messages.