Today, as some of you know, is an extremely special day for me. Today is the day I can finally share my story with the world on why I left my job and why I couldn’t speak about it until now. Since it’s a bit of a long story I will be posting it in parts. Part 1 is about how I got into the teaching profession and my first experiences as a teacher trainee.
Today is my first official day as a former teacher and the first thing I wanted to do to mark this special day was to write about why I left this profession, why it was so difficult to actually resign and what led me to today in hopes of educating the public on the difficulties teachers face on a daily basis.
I thought I could do it in one single post but I realised I’d be missing out on so many important moments that I wanted to take my time with it. Teachers aren’t very popular in general and everyone seems to have this preconceived notion that they have the best jobs, the best holidays, and an “amazing” pay for just sitting down at a desk all day watching kids work. I want to talk about that stereotype a lot of people have and why our reality is nothing like what it looks like.
I began my teacher training in 2019 and due to the pandemic and the March 2020 lockdown happening, my training was cut short and everything moved online. My first placement as a teacher trainee had its challenges, but I felt respected and was helped to develop my skills by the entire department. This gave me hope that teaching could be challenging but also rewarding with a good department and good teaching. I loved it there and was sad to see the experience end, especially when I was told where my second placement would be. It was an outstanding school that from the outside looked like a dream and from the inside seemed like a living nightmare. One of my friends on the course had her first placement there and had told me multiple times it was not a great school and she disliked it very much.
On my first day there, I, along with other trainees from different subjects felt really welcomed and looked after since we had a couple of days of induction and they seemed to be allowing us to get used to things. It was pretty great, we were told we’d get equipment and were quickly handed our logins, a map of the school, and everything we may need.
I noticed very quickly that my login was wrong, they had misspelled my name and even when I arrived in the morning the ladies at reception had called me by a different name. I was used to people getting my surname wrong but never my first name as it was pretty common, but it was quite painful to go through the entire placement with people calling me the wrong name, typing the wrong name in emails, and IT refusing to create another login for me even though I asked several times for it. They told me it could’t be done 🙄.
It would’ve avoided all the awkward moments when other teachers called me something else and showed me they actually cared. But they didn’t…I was a trainee and I’d be gone in a couple of months so why bother giving me a login with my own name? Not to mention that the “equipment” they bragged about giving us turned out to be the oldest laptops they could find, some missing a few keys or taking twenty minutes to load. They didn’t allow us to have our own devices so we were supposed to carry a massive laptop that was extremely heavy and barely worked to work everyday so we could teach our lessons since there were no computers in the classrooms. Teachers that actually worked there had better equipment of course but the trainees were given whatever nobody wanted and were expected to make the most out of it. I eventually managed to get them to let me use my laptop but it all took a few weeks and until then I was stuck carrying that laptop around everywhere since my mentor refused to let me store it in her cupboard and the school didn’t provide a safe space for it to be deposited.
Now, speaking of mentors…on that first day, all the mentors came to meet their trainees and mine showed up with the head of the department looking very disinterested as soon as she saw me. We had an allocated time to spend with our mentors and all mine did the entire time was ignore me and talk to the head of the department. I didn’t think much of it at the time and as we were thrown into another session after and I tried to forget about the negative vibe I had gotten from her.
After the session, our schedule said to spend lunch with our mentors (sounds nice, right?) so we were all sent off to find them and have lunch with them. I will never forget arriving in my mentor’s class, seeing other people in the department sat down, eating lunch together and my mentor saying she didn’t have time for me now (basically to leave her alone) and that I couldn’t stay for lunch with her because she was busy (having lunch with everybody else). I nodded because I couldn’t actually speak and when I left the room I headed for the first bathroom I saw to not let her see me cry.
My experiences with her and the department from then on were similar, I was made to feel less all the time and like my opinion didn’t matter because I was a trainee and when the lockdown was imposed I was extremely relieved to never see those people again. There were only a couple of teachers that made me feel welcomed, but it always felt like they had their little group and were not willing to welcome me in it. Work isn’t about making friends, I knew that, but I also knew that these teachers were meant to guide me, help me evolve, just like in my first placement and I was met with little effort from them and I had to walk on eggshells for most of the time.
I had seen people thrown out of the course because of misunderstandings with their mentors so I just ignored a lot of microaggressions and sucked it up because I thought it was okay to be treated like that in teaching. It wasn’t okay but it is common practice in a lot of schools.
When the pandemic hit and I got a breather from all of this, I realised I still had to find a job for next year. The teaching job market was almost non-existent since everything had come to a halt and even people that probably wanted to leave their jobs, didn’t because of the fear of not finding another one. There were only 2 jobs I found where I could apply when there are usually loads and I eventually got an interview with a school that although had a bad Ofsted rating, was charming and made me want to work for them.
They offered me a position the same day and I was thrilled because I needed the financial stability and the school seemed like a really good place to work at. My new mentor and head of department was amazing from day 1 so I thought to myself “What could possibly go wrong?”
Well…I’ll continue the story tomorrow.
I understand some people may think the things I went through in my placement aren’t as bad or could’ve been worse, but think about how you want to be treated by others. Would you not want them to be able to say your name or at least try to spell it correctly? Would you not feel left out when you can see your entire department eating together and be sent away because your go-to person can’t be bothered with you? It all comes down to respect. People’s attitude changed once they saw me teach but I felt invisible, bullied and like I didn’t matter, only because I was at the beggining of my career and needed to be taught what to do. Tomorrow’s post will be about how much worse things can be in a school and I hope you stay till the end of this mini-series because it will totally change your opinion of teachers.