Top 10 Reasons To Leave Teaching: Number 8: Lack of Creativity and Autonomy

When you sign up to your teacher training, you are told that teaching is a creative profession, where you design your own way of working, are boss of your own classroom and get to try out your own ideas. This is widely accepted as being a complete lie, and many teachers report feeling cheated that teaching is described in this way.

The reality is that there are that many boxes to tick, that many hoops to jump through and that many required elements in a lesson that your own creative ideas do not get a look in. For example, lessons must be in the correct format of Starter, Main and Plenary, must include materials that are of a visual, auditory and kinaesthetic nature, and must be shown to develop key skills in some way. This rules out a lot of potential creative and innovative teaching activities.

When you get past key stage 3 as well, it’s all about the results. Inspiring students with creative lesson plans is way down the list compared to the results factory that you are expected to set up. There is an episode of the Simpsons where the class are required to memorise possible sequences of letters for a Sats style multiple choice exam. It’s funny because it’s true.

What is even worse, is that a lot of the best schools pay lip service to this ‘teaching is creative’ lie. Gimmicky lessons are all the rage, for example, best practice was shared with me to have a paperless teaching day, or to make students jump up and down singing a nursery rhyme as punishment for poor results on a test. Surely something with more substance would be preferable?

Similarly, I have been encouraged to teach lessons with ‘impact’ at any cost. I remember best practice being referred to, where students were asked to remember a recent negative event, which resulted in a recently bereaved student leaving in floods of tears. This lesson had impact, they told me, and was therefore outstanding.

As for the promised amount of autonomy in running your own classroom, the reality is that your every move is scrutinised and criticised as part of lesson observations, student feedback, having to keep detailed lesson plans that are pored over with a magnifying glass… do what you want in there, yes, but be prepared to have little strips torn from you until you are doing what someone else wants.

The reality then is a sad, teaching by numbers feel where teachers are terrified of going outside of the lines.

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nstone said...

Great points. I went into teaching having formerly been in youth work where learning is creative, fun, inspiring. Teaching was great but after 5 years I felt my creativity sapped and drained. I innovated for my students but as much to keep me motivated. There is not enought time to be truly creative in the curriculum for reasons you have explained but also because there is never enough time and because you can only be so creative when your class is sitting in rows behind desks and you need to fill in risk assessments to take them anywhere else!

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