First of all I need to state that these views are my own and are not of my employers, this is not a criticism towards them at all, I am just trying to reflect objectively.
Life as an early career teacher is an interesting and varied job. In my previous experience working in the corporate world, many many things are handled differently within the education system compared to corporate life. I will provide you with a small example of the differences between both my former working life and mine now. I don’t think I can express any more clearly how much I currently love my job. I have searched my entire life for a job that suits me and my personality and my passions in life. Funnily enough I’ve had jobs in the ICT sector, working for big telecommunications companies, and I worked in travel and sales within corporate environments both as a salesperson and a manager.
Lets start with this, honestly when I sit back and reflect on my first year of university training, on the educational “theory” and philosophies, I’m hard pressed to find any real value to it. My second year was better, more practical, and my third and fourth years were more “On the job” experiences. However in reality, these “experiences” were no where near the level of training and experience a teacher really needs before they set foot in the classroom. Thankfully my university have addressed these issues, and it seems more rigorous. My experience with teaching at university actually made me so disengaged that I questioned whether I truly wanted to be a teacher. When fate crossed my path and I taught my first day.
You are thrown into the deep end when you take your first casual day. You’ve got your piece of paper to say your a teacher, trust that piece of paper right? I taught as a casual teacher for over a year and a half before gaining a full time position. I had schools that supported me fabulously, and it was a large learning experience in my own practice. Little does it prepare you for your first time on your own class though. Throughout my time as a casual teacher, I was asked possibly twice to sit in on professional development sessions/days. As you’re not attached truly to any school and drift between this school and the next, honestly by the end of the day you don’t want to think about doing any professional development.
The first full time class.
- They don’t tell you how to actually write report comments at university.
- They don’t really tell you how to deal with parents.
- They don’t tell you how to deal with those staff members you just don’t seem to get along with.
- They don’t tell you about the marking hell and expectations of data and assessment.
- They don’t tell you how to find a mentor and what use they actually are.
- They don’t tell you it’s completely natural for first year and second year teachers to do massive amounts of hours and have no life.
- They don’t tell you it’s basically two jobs in one, one of teaching (30 hours a week) and one of paperwork (30 hours a week).
- They tell you about accreditation but the time between when I did that 2 weeks on it, to now so much has happened i don’t remember.
- They don’t tell you about work life balance and burn out.
In the corporate world, for most positions there is on the job training in almost any role that you do. Normally with a manager of some sort, where you go through 2-6 weeks of work and training and you know that you have your job until you decide to find something else. ***I’ll come back to this ****
- In your on the job training, you are reviewed and given roles and responsibilities gradually to what you can actually handle.
- You are reviewed in your performance usually every 3 months, given things you could improve on, and a career and succession path.
- If you need time to do something, do it. You will get the time.
- You have a job description that encapsulates everything you do.
- You arrive at 9 am (8:30 if your impressing the boss) and leave at 5:30 (6 if your impressing that boss again).
- When you log on or log off your working day starts, but you can take mental breaks and brain breaks when you need them.
- You work 40 hours a week, 50 if your keen.
- Your boss or colleague needs something done asap? That’s a tomorrow thing.
- Known fact that training a new employee will generally cost your business double the time, double the pay, and 1/2 your productivity.
The Temporary Contract vs Permanent issue.
This truly is the elephant in the room.
As a temporary teacher, there are expectations that I do everything a teacher is supposed to be doing, marking, grading, assessing, working ridiculous hours etc. On top of this is the extra curricular activities, sports coaching, maker space, lunch time events, after school events etc. Are they to impress my boss, to show that i’m an active member of the community? Probably…
I’m temporary though, so do I bust my backside off, hoping that I get another contract next year?
On the flip side, the high percentage of Early Career Teachers on short term contracts, what’s the benefit and reason for a school to invest their time and effort on me? I hope that I show my passion for my job on the outside just as much as I do on the inside, but things can always be misinterpreted. I truly believe that schools should try and invest their time on mentoring and looking after early career teachers not just for the benefit of the school, the teacher but the students as well. Thinking about this further, I think that there are truly some people management and pure management techniques that would benefit the running of schools. I’m not saying turn them into corporate learning factories, just use some techniques.
Where to from here?
As an older Early Career teacher, I find that sometimes due to my maturity and my worldly knowledge and I guess that i’m naturally a quick learner and very perceptive it feels that sometimes I can be overlooked that I need additional help. The only feedback you have really to show that you’re being effective is the results of your students assessment and the quality of their work, which because this is a very individualised thing can be very hard to measure the metrics of. I’ve personally chosen not to involve myself too much in the extra curricular activities around my workplace, possibly at my peril, but I want to make sure my practice is right before branching out.
- I think changing the temporary vs permanent contract system should really be reviewed.
- I think teachers have placed too much expectations on themselves and what needs to be done.
- I think there should be more time for teachers to collaborate properly with other teachers and share their ideas.
- I think there should be some sort of real effective feedback system introduced.
- I think there should be better on and off the job training.
- I don’t think the measurement of data of students results should be the key way to measure a teachers effectiveness (this is for another day).
Once again I feel the need to state that these views are my own and are not of my employers, this is not a criticism towards them at all, I am just trying to reflect objectively. I also feel the need to point out that it is not that I don’t feel supported as an early career teacher, its the disparity and gap between university, casual teaching and full time teaching and the training/teaching elements around it.