Why I haven’t quit teaching… yet

  • Why I haven’t quit teaching… yet

Ten years on, and I still enjoy teaching. Am I crazy? I know, I know… it’s difficult to believe that after ten years in the teaching profession I still eagerly anticipate the challenges that will face me as I make the morning commute to work. Rewind a decade and I could never have imagined being in the same school for five years, let alone twice that! Yet here I am, conjuring up innovative methods to deliver intricate topics to teenagers, planning whole school events, managing behaviour, dealing with curriculum change and yes, finding the time to write this article to share my experience, too.

Behaviour isn’t everything

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and at the beginning of my practice – like many of you reading this, I imagine – I stocked up on the latest books on behaviour and classroom management as I was under the impression that as long as I could get the kids to behave, that would be half the battle won. Of course, that turned out to be not entirely true. However, I’ve learnt that there is so much more to teaching than yearning for a class full of perfectly behaved, angelic students who greet you in unison, hang off your every word and wait with bated breath to copy down the lesson objectives… Sorry, I drifted off for a moment there!

Back to reality: with all the negative press that teenagers receive, one might find it difficult to understand why anyone would be ludicrous enough to enjoy teaching, let alone admit it. The truth is, a teacher sees students at their worst – but also at their very best. Recently, an ex-student popped in to say hi to a few teachers at his old school. He thanked me for teaching him ICT; I thought that was quite polite of him – after all, I’d only taught him in Y7, surely he didn’t remember that far back? But he went on, thanking me for my enthusiasm in lessons (I just remembered being incredibly nervous as I was an NQT, hoping that the students couldn’t smell my fear!) and enabling him to tap into his creative potential. As a result of those lessons – and other subject areas of course – he had decided to pursue graphic design at college. I was pleased that he was happy with his post-16 choice, but more taken aback that he took the time to express his gratitude.

The whole journey

Similarly, I recently bumped into an ex-student working in our local hardware store. She greeted me and proceeded to say, “Miss, I think I should receive some kind of ‘most improved’ award; I was a nightmare at school!”

In my usual ‘teacher-like’ manner, I replied, “No, you weren’t that bad” – but it was said in a very high-pitched voice, accompanied by nervous laughter. If truth be told, seeing students develop from an insecure or troubled start to a confident, reflective and affable young adult is what really makes it all worthwhile. And no matter how long it takes, it’s always worth the wait.

Teaching is so much more than just planning a lesson, marking work and returning the results to students. It’s being a member of a profession that encompasses the culture of the institution and the students’ journey from start to finish, and beyond. So, to return to the beginning: ten years on, and I still enjoy my job. Am I crazy? No: I’m a teacher, and proud of it.

About the author

Eileen Bryan is an assistant headteacher at St Paul’s Academy in Abbey Wood.