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Am I completely mad??!!

(27 Posts)
Wannabeteacher Tue 04-Nov-14 11:00:06

I'm 46 and would like to retrain as an English teacher. All the research I have done about this leads me to conclude that I must be mad! Horror stories of workload, no life balance and so on abound...

Is it really that bad? And if it isn't so bad, please could you advise regarding subject enhancement - that will be my first step as my degree/masters are not in English. What did you do to ensure you had sufficient knowledge of English before commencing training?

Thanks in advance - feeling a bit deflated!

Brookville Tue 04-Nov-14 20:20:27

I am a secondary school teacher. I trained at 26 and have been in the game for 10yrs. I'm looking to get out.
1. the sheer amount of lesson planning that I end up doing at night after my (pre-school) kids are in bed because I haven't got any time during school days or days with my kids. Yes, I have been teaching a long time but I'm still planning afresh because the curriculum keeps changing.
2. There is huge daily pressure to deliver 'good/outstanding' lessons. This isn't just about lesson planning but also good relationships with students, behaviour management, exceptional organization (all your sheets copied, glue sticks at the ready etc) and more.
3. Inspections and lesson observations seem never ending and I never EVER feel I'm good enough or that my work is appreciated, either by pupils, colleagues or SLT.
4. I feel constantly frazzled and rushed because I teach in about 7 different classrooms with different seating arrangements, some with books, some not, some with scissors, some not, some with rubbish computers, broken projectors etc. So even if I'm mainly organised something else is out there to thwart the success of the lesson!
5. The marking....especially GCSE & A Level, not to mention classes of 30 Y8 books. When do you fit all that in and enjoy your weekend? Increasingly schools are adapting more complex marking policies whereby the teacher has a 'conversation' with the pupil and pupil must respond in writing to show they have interacted with the marking. Very time consuming. Effective? Jury's out...

What I will miss:
1. it's great if you love your subject. Not many other jobs allow you to use what you studied at Uni in your work
2. most kids are nice and can cheer you up.
3. Holidays/pension
4. The day goes quickly

I would say, a lot of how you take to teaching depends on your self confidence, resilience and levels of anxiety. If you are a perfectionist it is very hard because you find you are never 'good' enough and will beat yourself up. If you can be happy with 'good enough' then you might do really well. Equally if you are in a good department with support, that can help. But staff turnover can be high.
Good luck with your decision.

noblegiraffe Tue 04-Nov-14 20:21:13

English is particularly bad for workload as marking is very time-consuming.

Teaching is pretty bad for workload and stress, and many teachers are quitting. That doesn't mean that there aren't happy teachers who enjoy their job out there, but a lot depends on the school you work in, and how much of your life you are prepared to give up in term time.

Before making any further decisions it would be a good idea to get into a secondary school, do some observations, talk to some English teachers about their workload.

Why do you want to train as an English teacher? If it's because you've watched Dead Poet's Society, then it's nothing like that. Watch the recent series of Educating the East End for a more honest view.

DontGotoRoehampton Wed 05-Nov-14 17:15:44

Second the observations, but if you can persuade someone to let you shadown them , you get a much better understanding of the relentlessness of going from room to room, as others have said, with the set-up considerations. Usually when you go into a school to observe you will see a selection of teachers with their best classes.
I am currently working in a school where there is a 5 minute turnaround between lessons - a godsend if you don't always teach in the same room. Usually there is no allowance for that.

Also remember when you go home with a rosy glow at 3.30, thinking what a great gig it is, the likelihood id that you shadowee will be supervising detention, attending a meeting, marking and planning for next day.
Not trying to rain on your parade, but I retrained at a similar age, and although I love being in the classroom, that is the icing on the cake, and a lot of time is spent in what I would consider pointless admin/box-ticking.
(And the reason I am on MN at 5.15 is because I am teaching supply, and so do get to go home at 3.30 grin)

JammyTodger Wed 05-Nov-14 17:20:08

I am 44 and left teaching (English) a year ago. I was totally burnt out. Life now is brilliant, and although I loved teaching and the kids I feel like I have emerged from under a thick dark cloud. I could give you a million reasons not to do it, but probably just as many to go for it.

DontGotoRoehampton Wed 05-Nov-14 17:28:57

(jammy love your name! grin)

Jefferson Wed 05-Nov-14 18:17:31

Don't. Do. It.

Jammy can I ask what you do now?
(English teacher of 11 years. Looking to get out!)

IHeartKingThistle Wed 05-Nov-14 18:21:14

Yep you're mad. I burnt out after 11 years. Then I got my life back.

CrockedPot Wed 05-Nov-14 18:25:25

Have you thought about adult ed/further education? I teach ESOL and teacher training, and my ESOL learners are 16 - 18, teacher training (level 3 award, formerly PTLLS) all 19+. I absolutely love it - I can be as creative as I like with my teaching, behaviour isn't really an issue and the hours are great when you have children. Marking and planning is still a part of the job, and it doesn't pay as well as school teaching, but there are huge benefits.

MinuteMaid Wed 05-Nov-14 18:28:06

Another burnt out English teacher here.

Go into it with your eyes open.

Have a Plan B.

Remember: those aren't 'horror stories' - they're the truth.

antimatter Wed 05-Nov-14 18:31:51

and politics....
"don't use that printer! - It's mine!" (not his, but he put it on his desk when IT team brought it

"don't sit at this sit, Miss A sits there!"

and so on and so forth....

susannahmoodie Wed 05-Nov-14 20:40:35

Can I be a lone voice of encouragement? I am a ft English teacher in my 8th year. I have 2 dcs, 3 and 1 and I am studying for a masters.

It's fine in terms of workload. Hard, and when I am at school I do not stop working for a second, but between 4 and 7 I spend time with my kids, then after they go to bed I mark a set of essays, which I enjoy.

I work in an outstanding school which has reasonable expectations in terms of planning and marking. Behaviour is generally good. I love my job. Yes at certain times of year the workload is huge but it balances out.

Yes the syllabus keeps changing but that is a good thing in some ways. I am soooo bored of Of mice and men, for instance, and just because a text changes doesn't mean you can't use your bank of resources, they just need to be tweaked to suit the new text.

Being in a good school is the key, IMO.

Good luck!!

Wannabeteacher Thu 06-Nov-14 11:33:09

Thank you SO much for all your replies - most of you echo what I have heard in real life. I have health problems including fibromyalgia and I wouldn't be able to work full time. Having done just cursory preliminary research I'm not sure it's feasible at all. Thanks again for taking the trouble to give me the inside track thanks

SummerBayDreamer Thu 06-Nov-14 11:44:32

Don't do it! For all of the reasons above and especially if you have health problems. As much as I love working with young people, the negatives far outweigh the positives. I keep telling myself to give it one more year. If I could have my time again with what I know now, I would never have become a teacher which really saddens me!

junkfoodaddict Thu 06-Nov-14 16:15:20

I am primary and even in that sector the workload is horrendous. Same reasons as Brookville said. Sometimes you have two lessons back to back with no break (as in an afternoon) and you have no time to tidy up and prepare for the next lesson. My HT did a learning walk and after just 10 minutes said she would have graded it as inadequate despite her arriving as one lesson finished and kids were putting their work away and preparing to go to the carpet ready for their next lesson (they are mostly 6 going on 7, and when one child announced his weekend plans in passing, that sort of dug the knife into my reputation and HT wasn't impressed that I 'allowed' that to happen so graded it as inadequate.
I am now on long term sick considering my future to either go part time or quit and become a childminder. At least the latter allows me to be my own boss and dictate my own hours etc.

Brookville Thu 06-Nov-14 20:12:21

junkfoodaddict I was really saddened to read your post. Sounds like you are very despondent. I hope you are getting some emotional support too.
We need a career crossroads clinic for all of us teachers who are creeping towards the nearest fire exit!
Any takers to offer some coaching?!

echt Fri 07-Nov-14 10:08:14

I've been an English teacher for 35+ years, in both UK and Oz.
Have a good think about being a teacher if you have a significant health issue.
The marking load is tremendous, and I'm not even thinking of the insane planning levels of the UK, which, thank God, we do not have here.

junkfoodaddict Fri 07-Nov-14 10:31:18

Brookville - I have support from my GP and my midwife (currently in second trimester) who both think I am being bullied. It is a very grey area and whereas my HT has changed considerably since September (personally think she is losing the plot and stressed as we have moved into an OFSTED year) I am not the only one having issues. One other member of staff had time off with stress and two more diagnosed with work related anxiety after being monitored with a heart trace thingy-Bob for 24 hours. She has become extremely controlling and is putting a stop on our creativity, especially with displays. It doesn't help when she made a passing comment about HTs wanting to employ their own staff when moving to a new school (?!?!) and then telling me three months later that the only staff who are shining are her NQTS and new staff (all of which got 'good' or 'outstanding' whereas staff employed before her appointment some 4 years ago are now all getting RIs).

I thought I was ready to return last week after just three weeks but my GP coaches me very well and I realised that 'wanting' to go back was very different to being 'ready to go back'. My HT scares me. She can be very charming but ruthless and I struggle to tell whether she is being genuine when she comes across as 'caring' or whether she is just paying me lip service.

GP has already told me he will not hesitate to sign me off until I start maternity leave which is not for another 16 weeks!!

I love my job but workload is slowing killing me and my passion. I have 14 years experience and NEVER have I experienced such negativity as I have this academic year. It is no good going to work feeling like a failure, subjected to endless book scrutinies and observations that makes you feel like you are failing and can't do anything right because of all the 'steps to improve' and 'targets' for the next observation/scutiny.

ChippingInAutumnLover Fri 07-Nov-14 10:39:45

junkfood. Your HT found a 6 or 7 year old child telling you, in passing, about their weekend plans unacceptable? Is that right?

Raininginnovember Fri 07-Nov-14 22:30:54

Secondary English here. Workload is fine. Get a job in a nice school and it's lovely. smile

Pluto Fri 07-Nov-14 23:12:54

I am a Head of English. I am also an Assistant Head. I work in an outstanding school. I have 2 children: one doing GCSEs and the other in KS1. DH is a DH at home and at work..he is a deputy head in another school. In my 22 years of teaching I think I have worked out what it takes to be a happy English teacher..You have to love reading, you need to really like writing and you are likely to be pretty good at speaking and listening. And you need to love reading all over again.

Being a teacher of English is massively demanding but equally rewarding. You may work up to 16 hours a day (yes, really) in term time Mon - Thurs...and a bit less on Fridays. You will need to expect to schedule an afternoon or evening every term time weekend when you can do school work. There will be some holidays where you feel you get a proper break and others where you will be working on catching up from the previous seven week term and planning for the next one. You will need to develop characteristics of grit and resilience. You will develop a love or loathing for red pens and you will continue to love reading.

In terms of subject enhancement I would suggest you read as widely as possibly in terms of classic and contemporary fiction. Embrace yourself in the cannon! Join NATE or the English Association. Folow Geoff Barton on Twitter. Contact the Head of English at a Good or Outstanding local secondary school and ask if you can come in and shadow for the week.

chamill831 Sat 08-Nov-14 14:41:28

Isn't it hilarious when u get the view from a deputy head who has kids and still manages to work 16 hour days she makes it out to be perfectly acceptable!

susannahmoodie Sat 08-Nov-14 19:00:27

As I said, i am a ft English teacher in an outstanding school, I have 2 young dcs and I am doing a masters.

I do not and never have worked 16 hr days. Ffs.

I get in about 7.45. I leave any time between 4 and 7 depending on meetings/parents' evening etc but usually it is earlier rather than later. Most evenings I mark a set of essays, which can take 1-2 hours, but which I generally enjoy. I do this after I have put my dcs to bed.

susannahmoodie Sat 08-Nov-14 19:03:19

Lots of competitive tiredness amongst teachers IMO.

If people on here are so concerned about workload they could fill this in

susannahmoodie Sat 08-Nov-14 19:04:22


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