It’s been another one of those funny old years.
There’s much to reflect on, in terms of pedagogy; this time last year, it had just been announced that we were going online for teaching, a situation that lasted until March. Now we’re trying to get y 11 students read for exams when they haven’t had a normal school year since they were in year 8, and y13 students who’ve never sat a GCSE, which is presenting its own set of head-scratching challenges. As in my last entry, now 18 months ago, the frustrating feeling from all of this is the fleeting nature of it. When am I ever going to need to use these techniques, that I am working so hard to develop, again?
So enough of that. I’ve been prompted to write today, instead, by the existential crisis lots of people seem to be facing in terms of their careers. I had a drink with my friend Tracy before Christmas and she bluntly described this as wondering what the point of work is. It’s clear that this is happening in all types of careers and maybe this is just a forced speeding up of something that was already in motion: flexible hours, the gig economy and so on. I remember my beautician telling me some years ago that it was very normal now for people to not work full time. I’m quite interested to see how this plays out in terms of teaching.
Schools seem generally quite resistant to part time staff. I work in a place that is not resistant to it. Flexible working is granted whenever it can be, which is really comforting to witness. The school has a low staff turnover (in my limited experience) and retains excellent teachers who know their students well. That said, as a full-timer and HoF, it is also interesting to see the impact this has on the school: lots of children looking for staff members who aren’t in school; difficulty getting everyone together for a meeting; missed CPD time; delays in making decisions; uncomfortable splits in classes and scheduling of teaching time. I can’t square this away. There’s no denying that flexible working doesn’t suit schools, which is a paradox, when you consider that most school teachers are women and women are more likely to want to work flexibly.
I’ve been thinking about flexible working for a while. So long, in fact, that I can’t remember when I started. In the autumn of 2019 I stayed with an old work friend I hadn’t seen in 5 years and told her I was thinking of requesting part-time hours; ‘You were saying that five years ago,’ she scoffed, ‘when are you actually planning to do something about it?’ A good point, well made. I have terrible work FOMO about going part time, though, and no concrete reason to do so – I don’t have children or caring responsibilities. The best idea I can think of is to request a 0.7 or 0.8 contract but agree to be in school all the time, so I don’t miss meetings and can respond to emails; I’d just (in theory) have more time in the day so that I don’t need to bring anything home. That would be winning, in my book.
But then why not go further? I could stop teaching altogether. It would be risky but not impossible. I think this might also be something I think every year, especially in the holidays, hence my plan to note it here so I can come back and remind myself it’s probably just cyclical malaise. Why not just quit? The simple answer to this is, I don’t want to. I like my job too much. I love talking T&L and curriculum. I enjoy being in the classroom and in front of students: something completely reinforced by the pandemic, when I wilted at home behind my monitor and didn’t really come back to life until I was back in front of class. I remember the exact moment of peak joy, in front of my year 11s, rubbing whiteboard marker off the board with my hand. In spite of the long hours and longer to-do lists, I enjoy turning up every day and doing the work, which seems like a good enough reason to stick with it.
Well….that and the pension, obvs.