In two weeks I return to proper classroom teaching after a break of fourteen years. Yes. Fourteen years of working from home, writing teaching resources, running workshops, tutoring students and caring for my children. I’m easing myself in by covering some classes in Latin and Classics for a few weeks for a teacher who’s away. It wasn’t part of the plan but I’m rather enjoying the prospect. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Stepping back from the ‘chalkface for such a long time has given me time to reflect on the reasons I became a teacher in the first place and the contribution I can make now, free from the stress and pressure which many teachers face every day. And free from all the management responsibilities around which I fitted my teaching timetable all those years ago. Interestingly, my friends who have given up teaching and escaped to other professions and those who never went away, think I’m bonkers.
Apparently “around 10,000 ex-teachers return to the profession each year, bringing with them valuable skills and experience”. I wanted to find out how they get on. The press and social media are full of stories of why teachers are leaving the profession in droves, yet, apart from a story about a recruitment agency (in Rochdale, I think) actively encouraging experienced teachers back into the classroom to fill vacancies I could find precious little from anyone willingly stepping back into the classroom. A thread on the TES website from someone wanting to return was a study in doom, telling the poor prospective returner that her knowledge was probably out of date, her child protection knowledge was certainly inadequate and she’d be lucky to get even a supply teaching contract. Very encouraging! And all this when some schools are desperately short of enthusiastic, experienced teachers.
It’s not much of an incentive to return. What are schools and individuals afraid of? Maybe teaching is akin to running a marathon when you’ve been a coach potato since you stopped playing hockey, aged 14. Clearly you have to be mad or very determined to do it. I am probably both. Tick.
I may not have stood in front of a class of teenagers for a few years but I haven’t forgotten how to do that. Teaching is about engaging with people, working in partnership towards a common goal. I do that every day. (What’s more, as well as the energy and enthusiasm that many of my colleagues who have remained on the treadmill don’t seem to have and a first class knowledge of my subject, I am now the mother of three teens/pre teens. My battle armour and tactics are in place, if indeed I need to do battle. Tick.
The other aspect that seems to trouble people is that my own children and husband will have to do more around the house (is this bad?) or I’ll never have a tidy house again and my social life will go into a downward vortex. Tick.
Maybe I should start blogging about my return to the classroom to redress the balance. Of course there will be terrible days. That’s life; but I think that the road back in, though it may not be paved with gold is not altogether bad.
Watch this space.