A week in the life of an English teacher

Last week I was lucky enough to do a week’s work experience in the English Department of a local secondary school. The school itself is in quite a poor area, and many of the pupils enter the school in year 7 with much lower achievements in primary school than the national average.

My time spent there was an incredible insight in to the teaching profession. Some of the classes were extremely challenging: one class I assisted with had several pupils who had entered secondary school unable to read past the level of a six year old. In other classes, the teachers were a support to innovative and creative thinking, an aid to interpretation.

It was clear just how versatile each teacher was, how quickly they must adapt to the ability of their class, and how well they understand each child. I saw teaching with fresh eyes. I wasn’t a student and I wasn’t a teacher: I was an outsider looking in. The absolute dedication required in this profession is apparent after just a couple of hours sitting in the classroom. It’s safe to say that by the end of the week my desire to teach was confirmed.

However, my Dad is a teacher, and is trying to convince me not to follow in his footsteps. This might come as a surprise, teaching is a great profession, you might say? Yes, it is, and my Dad firmly believes this. What my Dad does not agree with is the vast amount of hours teachers are expected to put in, and the fact that in the current economic climate, you are resigning yourself to a life of pay below minimum wage.

Although many people think that teaching is a well-paid profession, I soon learned this week that it isn’t. A deputy subject leader I was working with calculated that per hour, her wage falls just short of £3. £3, a completely illegal wage. Teachers are paid for the 6 hours a day that a child sits in front of them in a class room – for roughly 30 hours of their work per week. Teachers are not paid for the endless hours of exam preparation, the six classes (at least) worth of books they have to mark, the parents’ evenings they have to run, the lessons they have to prepare and the reams upon reams of coursework they have to moderate. This is without even addressing the outrageous behaviour many teachers have to cope with in their classroom.

The teacher I was working with estimated she worked roughly 2.5 times the amount of hours she was paid for over the course the academic year, which is appalling. If this teacher was paid for the 45 extra hours a week that she works, her yearly wage would be a six figure salary, she worked out that these extra hours, if paid, would work out at an extra £87,500 a year. This is a shocking figure when considering the average salary of a deputy subject leader usually falls between £32,000 and £37,000 per year.

Despite this, the job satisfaction that comes from teaching is evident simply from being in the staff room. Working with children and making a difference is an incredibly rewarding experience, one they would probably do for nothing. Yet it is a complete flaw in the system that teachers are not given a fair working wage.

In a recent Guardian article, it seems that teachers in Finland are highly respected, well-treated professionals. Training teachers is ‘as important as training Doctors’. I believe this is the correct attitude to adopt. There is no hope for a child to become a Doctor if he hasn’t first been taught by a teacher.

Without teachers, I would not be capable of writing this post, nor would you be capable of reading it. As Malala Yousafzai, who fought for the right to be educated, stated ‘one child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.’ And surely, with this in mind, our teachers must be treated with respect and allowed the right to a fair wage.

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