Chapter 6: Being a teacher is weird II
Get two teachers together, whether they know each other or not, and I can guarantee that within thirty seconds, after establishing whether they’re Primary or Secondary and what subject they teach, they will be focusing on doing one thing and one thing only: having a right good moan.
Teachers love to have a really good complain. About the kids, about the building, about the Senior Team, about the government, pretty much about anything really.
It’s one of the things that has puzzled me about being a teacher for a while; we're supposed to be these upstanding members of society who are guiding future generations, so a part of me assumes that we should be a pretty up beat bunch, full of enthusiasm and positivity, and to a certain extent we are. When we’re in front of parents we are nothing but perky and corporate, going on at length about the positives of a particular student or the school as a whole.
If there's anything negative to be said to parents it’s done carefully and subtly. One of the most often-asked questions at open events from parents thinking about sending their children to our school was,
“Is there much bullying here?”
The truth would be: yes, of course there is, because kids are horrible to each other.
But what we actually said was a much more political answer that neither confirmed or denied anything. The aim was to try to be as positive, happy and as shiny as possible, and generally we
did a good job at that I think - we knew how important these events were, and we knew how to
put on a good show.
Behind closed doors and just between us professionals though it was a different story. I don’t think it was just me, but the teachers I met generally seemed to focus on the negative, which isn’t healthy.
Despite how well a class had gone, you always remembered that one student who had played up
or had been rude or had not even attempted to do the work.
I don’t know if it was because we all thought it was bad form to sing your own praises (and those teachers that did were certainly seen as arrogant and could have done with keeping their mouths shut) and that we needed in some way to show that we were still learning and improving our practice, or if we needed to continually reinforce with each other what a hard job we were doing.
Of the thousands of students that I have taught, I’m sad to say that I have forgotten the vast majority of them that were cheerful or kind or hard working. I can however rattle off a list of
names of kids who were annoying, badly behaved, disruptive or just plain vile. It’s a shame that these negative experiences outweigh all the positive ones I had - and I did have a lot of positive experiences in my career.
To a certain extent, having a good whinge about an annoying class or student was a release valve that we all needed - if we kept all that frustration bottled up nothing good would come of it. It was often cathartic to talk to a colleague and discover that Student X was just as much of a handful for them as they were for you, and the idea that perhaps you weren’t such a rubbish teacher could perhaps start to grow in your head.
More annoying though (and I have to admit that I have been guilty of doing this myself) is when you’re having a rant about a student and your supportive and caring colleague replies with, when you pause for breath before you continue ranting,
“That’s strange, they’re never a problem with me…” in a slightly puzzled tone that implies that they never even considered having trouble with their behaviour management ever ever ever.
It’s in those instances that the legendary patience and control of being a teacher comes into play
as you resist the urge to at best swear vociferously at them or at worst punch them in their smug face. (sidenote: fights between teachers happen - apparently the old Head of Department before
I started working at my school had once had a punch up with another member of the team, in a classroom, in front of the kids! If there’s only one thing you can say about teaching as a career it’s that it’s never dull!)
At the end of the school day, it was generally the moments that had gone wrong, or you could have done better that rattled around in my head. It was a rare day indeed that I went home surrounded by a rosy glow of a job well done. I might perhaps put the source of this at the feet of my Head of Department at my base school when I was training.
He was a great guy and an excellent teacher, but the one thing that I remember about him and which I often repeated to my own classes is what he would say at the end of a ‘bad’ lesson. He would, very calmly, tell the class that that had been a bad lesson - at this point, a slightly worried silence would fall over the class as the kids prepared themselves for the inevitable telling off - but he would then continue by saying that as he was the teacher and he was in control of the lesson, that it had been bad must have been his fault, not the fault of the students.
He would tell them that he would have to try harder next time. This generally caused at least
a couple of eyebrows to raise or even a jaw or two to drop in surprise, but I could see where he
was coming from. It was our job to make sure the lessons went well. However, as valid a point as this was, and as good a strategy being honest with the students was, it was also a healthy dose of guilt-tripping to the more clued-up kids, and they knew it. I also couldn’t help thinking that in a lot
of situations, it hadn’t been my fault at all, but the fault of lazy, poorly-behaved kids.
One of the more regular topics of complaint that teachers like to moan about is pay and conditions. Now, I agree with some of them, pay for teachers could maybe be better - a lot of teachers work themselves into the ground and the pay doesn’t really reflect that. Our working hours could be
very long indeed.
I’ve worked in other industries though, and know first hand that the pay and conditions for teachers was very good. Could they be better? Sure, but they weren’t as bad as some like to make out. I had more money in my pocket being a lowly junior designer living in a rented room than I did as an experienced teacher on a very good wage.
It’s one of those weird things about being a teacher that most of us will complain loud and long about all the things wrong with the job, but the vast majority of us buy almost whole-heartedly
into the lifestyle of being a teacher. We would complain about the 50-60 hour working weeks and having to work in the evenings and at the weekends, but we still did it, we didn’t make the choice
to have a better work/life balance.
I know a lot of teachers will argue that having a better work/life balance is an impossible thing to have due to the demands of the job, but it is possible: just decide to put the paperwork and the marking away. It’s not going anywhere, so give yourself a break. We do work very hard indeed, because it needs to be done - as challenging and interesting and rewarding a job as it is, it’s also demanding and frequently hard, but we know and accept that, so we should probably stop complaining about it a little bit.
Having said that, the lack of work/life balance, and the stress it causes was one of the main reasons I left the job. Teachers I’ve found are notoriously bad at looking after themselves, and most will only call in sick if they are actively bleeding out of their eyeballs, otherwise they still go into work and soldier on.
I’ve always wondered with unrestrained awe how colleagues with families did what they did as I would get home most nights completely shattered and without the energy to do more than shove something carb-based down my throat and then collapse into bed. I take my hat off to those people who do the job and do have a semi-balanced life.
And yet I did this for over a decade, so I must have bought into the lifestyle too. I justified it to myself by saying that this was just the time of my life when I had to put my head down and work very, very hard, but in the end I had to make a change to that view.
“But what about all those holidays?” I hear you cry, with jealousy in your voice, alongside frustration, because how can teachers possibly moan about being overworked when they get to have at least a week off and sometimes much more than that every eight weeks?
Let me tell you about school holidays my dear reader.
When you hear the word ‘holiday’, you picture a warm sun, a gently-lapping sea, and perhaps a cheeky mid-morning cocktail.
This is not what most holidays are like for most teachers. Holidays for teachers generally mean
one thing: recovery.
Week-long half terms are essentially pointless as a holiday. All there is time for is maybe a lie-in once or twice, but the main activities are collapsing because you’re exhausted, and then going
back into work to catch up on all that marking you know you should have been doing all term.
The main differences are that you can be slightly more comfortable because you can wear your
own clothes into work, and you can actually get some ‘real’ work done as you don’t have the inconvenience of having to actually teach all those children. Schools during the holidays are great - quiet, serene, there isn’t a panicked dash to the photocopier and it’s amazing how much you can
get done. But that week goes by very fast indeed, and soon enough, and often too soon, you’re
back in your too-tight work clothes with a sea of eager young faces in front of you.
Two-week holidays are a bit better as you have the first week to collapse, recover and do some work, and then you might be incredibly selfish and take a day or two to yourself before dread sets in towards the end of the second week and you start to gear up for the new term. There’s the possibility that you may even return with a bit more energy than when you broke up.
“But those summer holidays!” I hear you cry, “They go on for ages!”
I do admit, the summer holidays are a blessing. They’re brilliant. You get to stop. You get to forget all those things you should be doing. You don’t have to harangue kids on a daily basis. The feeling
at the end of an academic year when you know that you don’t have to set foot in the building for at least five weeks (at this point you’re ignoring the fact that you will be coming in to do some work at some point in those five weeks) is bliss.
Batteries are recharged and you might even get to go on a real-life, proper holiday. I’m incredibly grateful for the long breaks as they have given me the opportunity to travel to places that I might not have gotten the chance to see otherwise. The summer holidays are good.
But there’s also the dread, apprehension and anxiety that starts to build towards the end of those five weeks that undoes some of the good that the time off has done you.
You can bet a significant amount of money, and be assured of winning, that within at least three days of any holiday, you will pass a colleague in the halls, you will both notice how tired you both look, and one of you will say,
“It’s as if the holidays never happened!” either in a sad, wistful way, or with just the barest trace of frustration. Okay, a lot of frustration. Holidays, as often as they seem to to occur to non-teachers don’t happen with anywhere near enough frequency or length for a lot of teachers.
An unexpected, bonus holiday that all teachers pray for is the Snow Day. Growing up in Cornwall I didn’t get to see much snow and in total I think I had a day and a half off school and 6th Form combined due to snow.
When I knew I was going to be moving to Kent to teach, I was a little excited because I knew they got more snow than at home. We had a few days off, but not as many as I would have liked - our Head was of the opinion that the school should stay open, no matter what, so we always had a few students in even if the majority of them couldn’t make it in due to cancelled busses.
If the snow was bad enough that the school was closed, or I could ring in and say I couldn’t make it through (I lived in another town from school, 15 miles away, so sometimes I had a legitimate excuse saying that I couldn’t make the journey), the day was a complete gift, an endless horizon of possibilities made even more glorious because it was unexpected.
There was one time that the school closed when I wasn’t even there. I had gone on a trip organised by the Art department, and my friend Miss T and I were in charge. We’d travelled up to London to a particular museum, and everyone was happy that we were out of school for the day.
The museum was largely underground, so everyone’s phone signal cut out. As soon as we left and came aboveground again everyone’s phone started ringing. I picked mine up,
“Hello?” It was school, and I didn’t really know why they’d be calling me - usually it would be the other way around if I needed to call in an emergency of some sort.
“Get back to school,” came the voice on the other end. It was Francis, one of the Senior Teachers and a thoroughly nice chap who would do anything he could to help out. “Get back to school now.”
“Okay, we’re just about to set off now.”
“Get back now - we’ve had to shut the school because of the snow.”
Now this was a bit odd in itself because as I looked out of the window there wasn’t a flake in sight, and it was actually a fairly decent day. As we drove out of London, no snow. As we trundled along the M25, no snow. Until, that is as we started to go down the hill heading towards the A21, then all you could see was snow.
We got back to a ghost-school. Everyone - and I mean everyone - had left, apart from another of the Senior Managers, Justin. He’d stayed behind to see we got back and to see that all of the kids on the trip got picked up safely. We ended up staying for about an hour or so for the last parent to fight his way through the snow-panicked traffic to come and pick up his daughter, and then we were free to go. It then took me three hours to drive back home. It took some of the other teachers who lived in the same town five hours to get home. The UK unprepared for snow? Never!
One of the things that I’ve noticed about being a teacher is that we can sometimes come across as abrupt, or even downright dismissive.
One of my aunts had been a Primary school teacher before moving on to be a Headteacher. My mum always used to say that when talking to her on the phone, if my aunt thought the conversation was over, it was over very quickly indeed and the phone hung up. The implication here is that my aunt was a tiny bit rude, but having worked as a teacher, I now recognise it for what it was: she was just being a teacher.
There are so many parts of the job of being a teacher. There’s the planning and preparation that goes into each lesson and sequence of lessons, the resources you make for them, the tracking
and monitoring of students through a project or exam course, the marking (oh, the marking!), all the admin you had to do, phoning parents, dealing with any emotional crisis that popped up with any of your tutor group, training, Parents Evenings, data analysis, professional predictions… the
list goes on.
The thing is, as a teacher, your To Do list goes on and on and on, and you know that you will never, ever reach the end of it. It can be a little soul-destroying at times because you never have the total satisfaction of having Finished The Job.
Because you know that you always have things to do, time is a precious thing, and you manage it as best you can. You don’t have a lot of time to stop and relax or even take a break, so you move from one job to the next seamlessly.
One of my Heads of Department was so busy (he had Head of Department stuff to do on top of
all the things he had to do with his normal teaching load) that he said that he ignored every e-mail that was sent to him and that he threw away every memo he got. He figured that if it was important enough, someone would tell him to do it, so he ignored everything and tried to work his way through his mountain of tasks as best he could without being distracted.
Because you knew you had other things to do, teachers could be a bit… curt socially - not because they were rude, but because they had a hundred other things to do; they’d said what they needed to say and now they need to get onto the next thing. I’ve done it myself, and had others do it to me - you’ve said the bare minimum that you could to get the message across and then you go, and this
is what my aunt used to do on the phone to my mum. She’d been pleasant, she’d had a chat now she had other things to get on with, bye! >click<
Now that I am no longer a teacher, I can feel myself unwinding bit by bit, and hopefully that means
I can start to be a bit more pleasant when talking to people. There’s less need to move frantically from one thing to another, so I get the time to take my time.
Teaching does tend to consume your life, and I wonder if it is the training and the job itself that cultivates this attitude, or whether it’s the kind of person that becomes a teacher is more susceptible to over-focusing to the detriment of everything else.
It certainly seems that I have known more people with OCD during my time teaching than at any other time of my life, which is a strange thing in itself because teaching is an odd mix of chaos and control. The majority of teachers that I knew had a rigid control over their rooms to the extent that for some of my colleagues, a table that had been nudged out of place by a centimetre or two would make them start to twitch and become seriously uncomfortable until they were able to put it back into place.
I would certainly put myself into that category, but luckily enough, the tables in my room were so heavy that most of the time they stayed where they were. I just had to worry about paper being all over the place, or the neat, ordered ranks of computers looking like a hurricane had passed through the room.
My personal bête noir was the big boxes of coloured pencils I had in my room, the ones that had
16 colours in them, and that I would present neat and tidy to every class that needed them. What would almost reduce me to tears every time was when they were returned as if someone had grabbed great big handfuls of the pencils, thrown them up in the air and managed to get most - but not all - back in the box.
Now, I don’t think I’m OCD, and if I am it’s very much a mild form of the condition, but seeing the chaos in that box of pencils where only beautiful, calm order should reign was truly upsetting. When I rule the world (an inevitable situation, you wait and see), I shall on the whole be a benevolent dictator, but you’d better believe my secret police will be monitoring the state of everyone’s coloured pencils very carefully. You have been warned.
At first I would very grumpily sort them out myself, but this got boring very quickly, and the students were here to learn weren’t they? My usual phrase in my later years of teaching was,
“You know how I expect the pencils to be put back.” with no wriggle-room left in that statement at all, and most of the time it did the trick.
It could be suggested that I was a little sarcastic at times, but in my defence, I couldn’t really help it. At the start of lessons that required sketchbooks, or paper or printed resources, I would put them on the front table in nice neat piles.
Literally seconds after giving the all clear for the students to start their work and get going, the tables would be covered in messy smears of books and paper.
“I’m so glad I put all that lot neatly” might slip from my mouth at this point, sometimes at a
volume designed to be heard over 20 chatting teenagers, “I guess I’ll be tidying this up then?”
and sometimes I would, but sometimes the snarkiness in my tone did the trick and one or more
of the kids would scuttle over and shuffle things back into relative order.
Having a certain level of control over your room and keeping it tidy had an unexpected bonus: it really endeared you to the cleaners. It was always a good thing to be on the good side of the cleaners and the care taking staff, in case of cleaning emergencies (I’ve only ever had one student ever throw up in my room, bless him. When I was at school, I remember kids throwing up left, right and centre! Did the children in my generation have unnaturally weak stomachs?), the general need to have a supply of bin bags on-hand or in case unexpected spiders that needed removing.
This was a perpetual fear for me. I do not like the eight-legged devil-spawn, and I was genuinely worried that there would come a time when a spider would be in my room and the students would ask me to get rid of it. This would not happen. There would probably be an urgent phone call I needed to make in the office if the situation arose, and all the students would see would be my hastily-retreating back. Luckily this never happened, and I was able to sidle away and let one of the kids deal with it.
Sandra recently told me that she had received a ‘Spider-related Injury’ in one class when she had to - very bravely - remove a spider from a desk.
“Miss… Miss! Spider! Spider! Spiderspiderspider!” squealed one of her students, pointing to what has to be admitted was a relatively small specimen on the table. It should be pointed out here that the student in question was a) our Head Girl, and so it could be assumed had a certain level of moral strength in her, and b) had been to Kenya two years previously on a month-long expedition and had had to deal with many species of the creepy and crawly type.
After sweeping the room to see if anyone else was going to deal with the monstrosity and only receiving blank stares that said, ‘I’m not touching it, you do it.’ Sandra steeled herself to do the deed.
Picking it up with a piece of paper, and holding it as far away from her as possible, she started to manoeuvre her way around the room to the windows to release the beast into the wild. It was at this point that she managed to bang her knee on a desk (she assured me that said bang resulted
in an impressive lump and bruise later), which also resulted in her throwing the paper and spider into the air. As one of her students - all 6th Formers by the way, including some strapping lads who really should have been able to deal with a spider - noted,
“That went well, didn't it.”
… back to the cleaners. Special mention has to be made of Dave, Pam, Maria and Dawn who always had time for a good chat, and made life at school a little more pleasant because of it. Strangely, it was the cleaners who were some of the people who were the most upset when news that I was leaving got around. Pam was particularly upset, and made the comment that,
“All the good ones are leaving." Pam had been at the school even longer than I had in one job or another, and I was gratified that I was included in the Good Ones group.
One of the aspects of being a teacher that I didn’t necessarily struggle with, but that I was very aware of and slipped up with once or twice was being very careful of what you said and to whom.
I think most teachers are aware of how they are perceived by students, parents, other teachers
and the community in general.
It’s an unwritten rule that we’re supposed to be role models, and while I have no problem with that and agree with it to a certain extent, it did put a certain pressure on you. There was the expectation that your behaviour would be just as measured and controlled outside of work as it was when you were on school grounds. The students generally got a bit of a thrill when they saw teachers outside of school, neatly summed up by the genius of Matt and Corey:
Corey: Do teachers ever sleep? I thought they lived at school…
Matt: I’m always really surprised when I see them at Tescos
The main thing that I struggled with was potential slips of the tongue. Outside of school, as my friends can attest, I do swear like a trooper. I’m not proud of it, and I always think that it makes
me sound stupid, to the extent that I am slowly training myself out of it, but sometimes my mouth works a little quicker than my brain. I was very aware of this at school, and I soon developed a vocabulary of harmless words to use instead of my usual more colourful terminology.
I, and a lot of the other staff, often called students ‘donuts’ and muppets’, and they certainly understood that we were being more controlled than we possibly wanted to be. Sometimes I wasn’t so controlled. There was one particular time when I was at the end of my tether for a variety of reasons, and a class that I usually got on very well with were unfortunately the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I can see now, with a few years between then and now that they certainly didn’t deserve what I said to them, and it was just my stress and frustration finding an outlet.
“You are very lucky to have me as a teacher, but you are certainly annoying me greatly” is what I said… okay, it wasn’t. Make the tone quite angry (one of the few times I was genuinely angry and not just acting as if I was), and substitute a couple of the words for certain four-letter versions and you have a more accurate picture of that moment.
I’m not proud of it, and I certainly didn’t see it as a strategy that I could use with more classes, but it just shows that sometimes that tightly-held teacher control can slip. That my outburst stunned those students into silence for the rest of the lesson, and they all got on with their work while I particularly grumpily ignored them was perhaps the best outcome I could have hoped for.
Another example of having to be careful of what you said and did as a teacher, and perhaps as a male teacher, comes from my friend Craig. Craig was part of the group of D&T trainees on my training course. He was based at my old school, the one I got as my second placement, so he was there longer than I was in the training year.
On one day when he was walking with his assigned tutor group on their way to assembly, he noticed that one of the girls in the group had bruises all over her legs. Being aware of situations that might mean our students are at risk is part of our role as a teacher, and so Craig correctly mentioned it to the group's tutor, the teacher who was supposed to be showing Craig the pastoral side of the job.
“Why were you looking at her legs in the first place?” demanded the tutor.
When Craig told us this story, all of us in the D&T group were flabbergasted. He had done the right thing - he had seen something potentially worrying about a student and passed it on, exactly as he should have, and all he got was an angry reply and the implication that he had been checking out the legs of a young girl for less than savoury reasons.
I don’t know the reason behind the tutor’s response to Craig, but it shows that even when the best of intentions are behind them, some things that come out of our mouths as teachers can be taken in completely the wrong way. It might be knowledge and awareness of that that makes experienced teachers somewhat reticent and potentially boring conversationalists, but I don't think I’m alone in running whatever I was about to say to a student, or even to a fellow teacher through my head before actually saying it. That kind of self-awareness and self-editing can be wearing after a while, but it has to be done.
I remember once when I was up in the English office chatting with Sandra. To be more accurate,
we were of course having a right good moan about something or other. Considering the rest of
the story, I would guess that we were talking about some of the staff members that were due to
be leaving soon. It was at this point that another of the English teachers chipped in, and his smug, patronising tone immediately got both my and Sandra’s backs up.
Both Sandra and I, and many other of the staff at our school believed that we were successful
as an institution not because of government policy, or local authority funding, or because of the governors and the senior team, but because we had an amazing, dedicated, creative staff of teachers who worked very, very hard.
(I’ve always found it interesting that we called ourselves a ‘staff’ because ‘staff’ is the collective noun for a group of servants. I was proud to be thought of as a servant to education and the people we taught every day. One of the things that upset or angry students used to throw at us was the comment that,
“You think you’re better than us!” which I never thought. If anything, I saw the incredible potential of our students [which some of them sadly failed to see in themselves] while I knew that my potential was much more limited).
It was said more than once during my training year that ‘The worse the kids, the better the staff’. Our kids weren't that bad, they really weren’t, but we did have a brilliant group of people working with them. People who were completely dedicated to working with young people and hopefully making their lives better.
I certainly wasn’t the only teacher there to buy resources using my own money simply because
we didn’t think twice about using our own resources for the kids, and I’ve known more than one colleague to regularly bring food in for students they knew did not get regular healthy food at home. I often saw my friend Miss T slip a cracker or a piece of fruit to a student as we chatted in
her room at break, and was always struck at the unthinking way in which she did it - it was just something that needed doing so she did it. She managed to gather a somewhat ragtag group of students around her simply by offering a quiet, safe place for them to be at break and lunch time, and she proudly called it The Sanctuary. She was not alone in opening up her room to vulnerable students, it was just what you did.
So when Sandra and I were talking about the loss of some of our staff who were a part of what made our school special, and the other English teacher came out with,
“Staff come and go - bricks and mortar never change.” and sounded genuinely proud that he’d shared this pearl of wisdom with us, both of us drew in breath to heartily disagree with him.
People make schools what they are. The ethos and tone of our school had not changed when we were in the middle of the build for the new school and a lot of us were in temporary huts for a year or so. Nothing changed when we all moved into the new building, because as a staff we still had the same vision and motivation behind us.
A new building did not mean a new school entirely, it just meant we had new rooms, nothing more. So to hear the opposite from our colleague was not something we could agree with, and we told him so. I think he was surprised to hear us disagree so strongly - he was a relatively new member
of staff, a high-flying fast track teacher who was full of buzz words and a carefully-planned career trajectory.
Some of the staff and students thought he was marvellous, but an equal measure thought he was full of hot air. He left as quickly as he’d arrived, moving on to another school and a post that was a step up on his climb to the top. I’m not saying that a teacher cannot have a huge impact on a school or the students if they only stay a year or two, or that the only way an impact can be had if you stay for years, but he was wrong that the school is more than the sum of its parts.
All these weird parts to being a teacher are often recognised by those doing the job, and even embraced to a certain extent - many teachers might freely moan about a lot of the aspects to the job, but we were still undeniably into the job and freely did it. But one thing we also knew: that unless you were a teacher, you just didn’t get it.
You might complain about having a literal ton of marking to do, and be continually behind in your marking, but you still ploughed your way through it, often for hours and hours in your own time. You might begrudge it taking up your own time, but you still did it because it was part of the job.
It would be a brave non-teacher friend who would suggest that you just leave it for the next day, and the flat stare you gave them should be all they needed to grasp that there was no way you
were going to put your personal enjoyment ahead of getting work done. I often put off marking
and told friends who I worked with that I did so - but we all knew that I felt guilty doing so (despite me protesting that I didn’t), and that I knew I should be doing it.
Non teachers just don’t get how tired you get, so that you can say with 100% accuracy that you were exhausted two days after returning to work from a two-week holiday. I completely understand that a lot of jobs are hard and demanding, and a lot of them are much more difficult and demanding than teaching will ever be, but until you do the job you can’t criticise someone being tired for having done it.
Non-teachers don’t understand that your needs are completely ignored in favour of those of a single student, a whole class or just getting some work done. For most of my career I would regularly not eat or drink anything during the day because there was always something to be done that seemed more important than looking after myself. That I was permanently dehydrated and would often have headaches for days was ignored as best I could.
Being a teacher is a very weird combination of caring deeply about others while at the same time ignoring your own needs most of the time, and until you’ve been a teacher, you just won’t get that.
I remember watching a tv show where people tried out different jobs from their own, and a politician tried being a teacher. On her first day, right before her first lesson, she stopped to go to the toilet, and as a result she was a few minutes late to the lesson.
The teacher in charge challenged her on this when she arrived,
“I had to go to the toilet.” the MP replied, thinking that this explanation would be an obvious and acceptable reason for being late.
“You were late.”
“But I needed to go to the toilet”
“The class was waiting. You get here on time.”
The implication was clear: your needs are far, far less important than the needs of the young people in front of you, so if you have to hold on for an hour (something I have had to do many a time, despite being dehydrated), if you get someone to look after the class after you have set them up and they’re working, if you wet yourself in front of them, they were all far more acceptable alternatives than arriving late because you needed to go to the toilet.
The teacher made this very clear to the MP, who was obviously surprised at this turn of events.
It was then that I think she started to understand whose needs came first in a classroom.
Being a teacher is weird, yes, but sometimes the rewards outweigh the strangeness and the demands that you willingly accepted as part of the job.