The third and final part of my time as a teacher.
Rebecca Bamfield is a Recruitment Consultant at Fellows Finance. She has written this article so that you can learn a little bit more about her.
If you missed them, you can read part 1 and part 2 here:
I spent around 10 days of the summer holidays in and out of my new classroom trying to get all of the displays sorted for the children starting. I must say, I did enjoy that part of the job. Being creative and organised are my favourite things to do. My classroom looked great. We had a castle for a reading area, a 3D phonics tree, superhero costumes for the writing area. The kids loved it. They were not pleased when I was advised to take the tree down a few weeks later because the phonics sounds were too high.
On the first day I felt nervous all over again, I still couldn’t answer the parents’ questions. Their children were only 4, they must have had so many things to ask! In Reception, parents were allowed to bring their child into the classroom, obviously as soon as it was time to leave, four of them would start to cry or try to run out of the room. I’d have 26 children sat in squiggly lines all over the carpet and 4 more children on my knees crying.
The thing about Reception is; the kids are great! I loved every second of being with them, they are so funny at that age. It was difficult to grab 10 seconds to myself in the corner of the room but there was always something to giggle about. Lining a group of 4-year olds up for assembly was a challenge– imagine trying to line 10 cats up in a straight line and you won’t be far off. It was also a challenge trying to help 30 children get changed for PE, the number of socks or shoes missing at the end was laughable. Where could they possibly have gone? It was extremely tiring, although a completely different kind of tired to year 3. I suppose I was exhausted because I was non-stop with the children all day. The bonus was that I had no marking to do, I did miss those breaktimes though, that allowed me five silent minutes to get myself organised.
At first it was hard to work in a team. The head wanted something for Early Years that we couldn’t give him as a team and it became difficult to voice opinions. I felt that I would rather have good relationships with the people I worked with each day than fight a battle to please the head. By the end of September, we had already lost a TA due to sickness resulting in us having two staff in Nursery and two in Reception. If one of us had to leave at any point, the unit was under ratio. Imagine the battle here when one of us needed a wee or when our safeguarding lead was called out. It was like a game of tag; one person came from the corridor to tag you so that you can go to the toilet and another classroom was left without a TA. This reminds me of a time in year 3; I had photocopied my resources but seemed to be missing two sheets. No TA meant that I had to line up the entire class and walk them to the photocopier just so that I could copy the extra two sheets!
As the year went on, we became shorter on staff in the school, everyone was being stretched in different directions, including support staff. There was an expectation to teach vocational subjects like Art and Music but literally no time to fit them in along with the ridiculous amount of interventions that needed to be done each week. At one point I was doing 10 different interventions for children who weren’t meeting different standards, that shouldn’t have been what Reception was about. The questions would come – what are you doing about this disadvantaged child? Why is this boy not reading at this level? Early Years is a different ball game. Children are expected to meet 17 early learning goals by the end of the year. Each one of those goals is broken up into smaller objectives. On top of that you have the exceeding children, at the beginning of the year it was predicted I’d get 8 (this was where the pay rise came in.) It was unmanageable and I spent the whole year stressing about it.
The majority of the staff were miserable. Everyone in the school were tired and sick of the constant expectations and underappreciation. This was the reason I left in the end. We put in a considerable amount of work for those children and tried our best to meet the school targets, working weekends and after school but nothing was appreciated. You’d do something helpful and a week later be told that you didn’t do it right: your display doesn’t have enough information, your provision doesn’t have enough opportunities, the children aren’t thinking critically enough. It was enough to feel like you were a terrible teacher at times. Everyone in the school felt it, there was such stress and anxiety oozing out of everyone.
Money was short, again. We were out of resources, Ofsted had been and although we’d done pretty well, there were another 1000 things to improve upon and it was going to start the following week. It was non-stop. I remember people telling me while I was at university; “don’t do it, you’ll regret it.” I used to think ‘yeah thanks, I can’t just quit in the middle of my degree.’ I find myself saying the same to other people now. The profession is in turmoil. Staff are short, mostly miserable and there’s no money to buy a thing but the expectations for teachers and children to achieve are getting higher and higher. I realise that I’m only speaking from my experience mostly in this school however, I also speak for many of my friends across the country. There’s no wonder the statistic of new teachers leaving in the first five years is so high!
I had decided by the Easter holidays that I needed to leave. There was one occasion where I’d had the most stressful week, I remember being in the bath at around 7:30 and feeling guilty for it. This was the moment that I knew. I couldn’t even get a bath without worrying that I had work to do. It was constantly on my mind, I would wake up and dread going to school. Sunday nights were the worst, I would feel sick at the thought of coping another week. My nerves were through the roof – often for no reason. Sometimes the week would be fine and I would feel over dramatic. Other times I would panic each time someone entered my classroom, waiting for them to tell me what I was doing wrong.
I suppose the sad thing about it is that the children do deserve better. They shouldn’t have to deal with teachers who are burned out or exhausted or who have been crying for the last hour. There’s too much pressure to hide your feelings and just get on with the job that you’ve signed up for. It is frowned upon if you are not willing to put your life and soul into your job which is something that, millennials especially, are not keen to do. Since starting my job in recruitment, it has been a breath of fresh air, I have time to put the washing on before work, help my step-daughter with her spellings and I have nearly completed my Christmas shopping! These might only sound like tiny things but the difference it has made to my health and mind-set are huge. I don’t think I’ll be getting any stress rashes here!