Six Reasons Why Teaching Is The Most Difficult Job In The Country

Nobody ever said teaching was easy, but I believe it is being made virtually impossible by the way in which it is being managed and steered by leaders and government. The job could be made a million times easier by addressing the six issues I’ve identified below.

This needs to be done, not in order to give teachers an easy ride and a cushy life (as most think we have already) but in order to help teachers do a better job, and by extension, help students achieve more. I don’t know one teacher who would reduce the amount of effort they put into their work if the concerns below were dealt with, they would merely maintain it and achieve more with what they’ve got. Who wouldn’t want that?

Vague measures of success
Part of the problem is that a lot of what constitutes success in teaching is tacit, and therefore very difficult to state clearly what it is, and even more difficult to measure it. The result is that teachers are given vague performance criteria, which are far too easily manipulated and argued to mean whatever the observer wants them to mean.

It’s very difficult to know whether you are doing something ‘right’ in teaching, and as a result sometimes experienced teachers are surprised at their apparent poor performance. I think perhaps a focus on measuring the learning rather than the teaching might be a way forward – so that if students are achieving, the way in which that’s been accomplished doesn’t matter.

Cookie cutter teaching isn’t achievable
By this I mean the expectation that all pedagogy works in the same way for all teachers. It’s just not true – one activity might suit one teacher, and be completely unworkable for another. Therefore, specific advice and prescribed activities, are useless and what really needs to happen is for a teacher to find what works for them individually.

What actually happens is that struggling teachers are told explicitly what to do in lesson, and when it doesn’t work, that is just proof that the teacher is really that bad. If they can’t pull off a certain activity then it is their fault, which leads to confusion if the activity has been carried out to the letter and still no success.

Inability to complete everything in time given
If you did everything you were asked to do in teaching you would have to give up eating and sleeping. The only way to succeed, and this is unwritten and not advised from anyone, is to find corners to cut where nobody notices there’s a snip. That’s how all successful teachers I have known have done it.

Why would you oversubscribe all your members of staff like that? It just creates a huge gap between what ‘should’ be getting done, and what ‘is’, and creates a necessity for spin and false appearances. High expectations are important, yes, as are raising standards, but when this occurs in the realm of fantasy it doesn’t help anybody.

Constantly moving goalposts
The way in which brains work and how students learn doesn’t change. So why does the recommended pedagogy change so often? The results are that no teacher can build on their experience and knowledge of ‘what works’, because ‘what works’ is said to have changed so often. This causes teachers to constantly replan and reform their working practices, so no one can get a foothold.

I understand constant improvement is necessary, but surely there are fundamental things about learning that never change that can underpin everything?

Personal attacks
There is so much emphasis on a teacher’s personality that a lot of suggestions for improvement actually form very personal attacks on someone’s character. Requests to improve on the presence of a dialect, on the way a teacher stands and moves or even what they do outside of work all form part of modern teacher appraisals. It’s micro-management of the worst kind.

Bullying and workload
And of course, no list like this would be complete without the two most popular reasons for wanting to leave teaching: the institutional bullying of teachers and the ridiculously high workloads in comparison to pay levels. These two in themselves, without any of the issues above, would constitute a very difficult working environment.

Do you feel that your working life is being made excessively difficult? Can you confirm that if it was made easier, you would not ‘slack off’ but maintain your effort levels and become more successful? Please comment below or email me.

Related post: Other Professions That Might Be Just As Bad As Teaching


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