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What Has Teaching Become?

You must think, ”What does she have to talk about after only a year as a teacher ?” Well, I agree I don’t have much experience but I have many experiences, and that is what makes me want to write today.

I arrived in the UK, like many foreigners, as a Foreign Language Assistant. Classic story, I met someone and decided to stay. I graduated my PGCE and found a job to do my NQT’s. Unfortunately, today I feel my PGCE was nothing else than a big loss of time and above all, a big loss of money!  I don’t believe in teaching anymore. I don’t believe in education anymore, at least not the way they want us to do it!

There are many things that are different from the education system in France, the system I was used to. In France, school days are much longer, meals are much healthier, grammar is much more important and the curriculum; well I had 12 subjects to revise for my A Levels and I didn’t get to chose every single one of them. That was what surprised me at first. Then, when I started teaching, I realised that the problems went deeper than that.

It was not only a shorter day for British pupils, but also much longer days for teachers. It was not about fast food, it was about teachers having to choose between going to the toilets or having some food. It was not about grammar or curriculum but about ticking boxes to please Ofsted and maintaining the school at a correct standard.

I realised that all I loved about teaching had been destroyed by a policy of numbers and ticking boxes. I chose to be a teacher because I wanted to share my knowledge and my passion for languages with young people, I chose to teach my own mother tongue because I wanted to share not only my language but my culture with young people.

But let’s be honest, we are not teaching anymore!  We are spoon-feeding the students. We are making them dependent on us, incapable of having their own mind, express their own opinion or making their own decisions. I have seen pupils in Year 13 asking me if they should write down what I was saying!  I have seen pupils doing nothing, waiting for the time to go because they didn’t have any pen!  I have heard pupils asking where they should write when their page is full!

In France, pupils go to school with their own books, notebooks, pencil case, ruler.  I’m not saying this is ideal, their bags are so heavy!  But it gives pupils a responsibility to bring their equipment and not to rely on the teacher, again!  Teachers need to pay attention to have enough glue sticks, rulers, green or black pens, teachers need to mark books to ensure pupils have written everything properly.  Don’t get me wrong, feedback is important, but what pupils write during the lesson should be their responsibility!  I’m not talking about all the “crap” (excuse my French) that the tick list is adding to teachers’ workload. There is more and more work for teachers and less and less work for pupils, using the excuse, “Let kids be kids”.  Well I say, “Let kids be kids but help them grow up. Kids yes, not ignorant!”.

It is all over the internet, all over the news; teaching is not a desirable job anymore, teachers are ‘off sick’ more and more often.  Teachers have to choose between having a family and working full time because doing both is madness.  Teachers are leaving the profession.  We are talking about it everyday on Twitter, on Facebook, and yet nothing is done ! When are we going to open our eyes and stop this madness ?

So yes, Ofsted does care about these problems and added them to their long tick-list “Wellbeing of teachers”. I had an INSET session not so long ago about it. The school put in place a yoga class every Wednesday night, they gave us some tips to meditate, they reminded us how important it is to drink a lot and take some time for ourselves.

What they don’t seem to realise is that we don’t need yoga or meditation, all we need is TIME!

Time to have time to go to the toilets AND have some food at lunch; time to help a pupil at break time instead of completing all the “crap forms” or calling a parent because their son’s uniform is not perfect; time to plan efficient and engaging lessons; time to take care about ourselves at home and spend quality time with our family; our children.

It is time teachers are recognised as human beings!  Time to stop making our students ignorant and irresponsible. I was probably one of the most motivated teachers.  Everyone was telling me how creative, organised and driven I was. Everyone was telling me I was made for teaching. And I was all these things until teaching was not about teaching anymore!  I have left the teaching profession before the end of my NQT year because I don’t believe in education anymore!  I don’t believe teaching should be restricted to ticking boxes.

Teaching is about making our students grow, giving them tools to build their opinion and seeing them becoming reasonable and responsible adults. Where has this gone?

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The author

The anonymous ‘Madame MFL’ is a secondary teacher with 4 years of experience in the teaching world. She has been an English teacher in France for a year and a half, a foreign language assistant in the UK for two years, in two secondary schools, and a Modern Foreign Languages Teacher in 3 different schools.

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