Welcome to the greatest job in the world.
Yes, teaching is tough. It involves long days and lots of stress. It is emotionally and physically draining. In the days when I taught a full timetable, after five lessons back to back in an inner-city comp – punctuated only by bus and break duties, and running a lunchtime club and after-school detention – I was absolutely spent. I had to ingest wine intravenously whilst lying comatose on the carpet, mumbling about WALT and WILF. WTF. It was not pretty.
I’ve known many people who – like me – worked in a different industry before entering the teaching profession. And they – like me – had no idea what teaching would be like. They assumed working in the public sector would be easier than the private, that pay and conditions would be better (we’ve all heard tales of those gold-plated pensions) and that teachers always finished work at 3.30 and had lots of holidays in which to lie-in and be lazy. But when they became teachers, without exception, they admitted with a sigh that it was a lot harder than they ever imagined it would be. The hours were longer, the pressure much greater. Oh, and they actually had to work in the holidays.
Yes, teaching is hard work – and no more so than during your first year in the classroom when you still have so much to learn – but teaching is tough because it matters; it is tough because you are doing something important, you are improving the world around you one person at a time. Teaching is the greatest job in the world. Be proud.
Teaching is also a lot of fun. Working with young people is sometimes rewarding, often entertaining, and always interesting. No day is the same as the last and teaching is never, ever boring.
A friend of mine is a nurse and when she’s asked what she does for a living she replies (albeit tongue in cheek), “I save lives”. Take her lead: When you’re asked what you do for a living, simply say this: “I have the greatest job in the world. I change lives.”
It’s hyperbole, yes; it’s gilding the lily, of course; but it’s also fundamentally true. Because you do. You do have the greatest job in the world and you do change lives. Each and every day.
You are fantastic. You matter. You do a job which many other people could and would not do. Let them moan. Let them articulate their jealousies. No matter how tough life gets in your NQT year, stay strong. Believe me, it’s worth it.
Now take a deep breath, stand tall, enter the classroom and change lives…
To help you find your feet this September, I’ve collated several of my blog posts and magazine articles on being an NQT. You can read more of my advice for new teachers in my book The New Teacher Survival Kit which is available in paperback and various eBook formats. For more information, click here.