Career Bereavement?

I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I first got what being a teacher was. As a teenager I ran a very successful debating society in school and that I believe was the start of my teaching career. It may have taken some time and several countries before I actually became a full time professional teacher but a teacher I eventually became.

In my career, I have changed stage (secondary school to middle school), changed subject (History to English) and changed career aspiration (Head of Year to Head of Department). I have found teaching to require the hardest work possible, I have found it aggravating, I have found it devastating but overall I found it exhilarating, challenging and rewarding.

Despite this, I never felt that teaching would be my career for life. I imagined becoming a Headteacher at 40-41, do it for ten years and then move on to something else. I had begun the process by applying for Deputy Head jobs. I’d even had an interview for one, a job very luckily I didn’t get. Lucky for two reasons: firstly it was due to start last January when I was in the midst of terrible boom and busting, secondly the Headteacher was an idiot who I deeply disliked and who deeply disliked me!

Now I am faced with the potential situation that I will not be able to teach again. At times it seems inevitable and at times (such as now) it seems simply a possibility.

If you have seen the recent rap Dear Mr Gove by Jess Green you will have some understanding of the pressures teachers are under. How Ofsted and Gove often seem to remove the focus from teaching to quantifying the teaching. Now, my last blog referred to the importance of data but data should only be used to improve your work rather than data for data sake.

The workload in teaching is outrageous. Before I became ill, I taught 120 students a minimum of 4 times a week each.

1. Marking
– According to Mr Gove and Ofsted, their books should be marked after each class – that’s 510 individual items of marking a week. Assuming each piece of marking takes 30 seconds (some chance!) then that is 4.5 hours of marking per week.
– Each child is expected to do two pieces of homework a week. Assuming one is just a tick, tick, flick piece of homework (not recommended) then that will take 1 hour.
-The second piece needs to be more substantial. Each piece takes probably 5 minutes to mark. That is about 10 hours of marking.
Marking alone then makes up 15 hours and 30 minutes.

2. Lessons and lesson planning
Before I was ill, I taught 20 hours per week.
– each lesson takes 30 minutes to plan and prepare resources for. That is 10 hours.
– 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon was spent with my tutor group. Total of just under 3 hours.
So I spend a total of 33 hours teaching or planning.

3. Meetings and duty
– every Monday we had a meeting which lasted up to 2 hours.
– duty every Tuesday at break – 15 minutes
– departmental / pastoral meetings once every two weeks or so – 1 hour
So this is a total 2 hours 45 minutes a week.

4. Data recording
– data workload varies dependent on the time of the year. At reporting writing time it can take up most of your half-term. However conservatively I will put it at 3 hours a week.

Do a simple calculation and that requires a weekly workload of 54 hoursa week and that doesn’t include chasing students for homework, after school clubs, a child in tears because she fought with her friend that means you don’t get a lunch break. Add to this the fact that I am a Head of English then 65 hours a week plus isn’t just likely but inevitable.


It is no surprise therefore that I do worry that I will not be able to return to teaching. A 12 hour day plus working at night and the weekends seems completely impossible at the moment. Going part-time, I’ve always been adamant, is impossible. Part-timers always complain that they can’t complete their work during the day and therefore end up working at home on their days off. My days off will have to be for rest and rest alone. A part-time Head of English is just not feasible. It would be deeply unfair on the children whose education you are there to support.

If I cannot return to teaching full-time, I must therefore give up teaching. Give up teaching at least in the traditional sense, tutoring perhaps is a possibility. To leave teaching would be like a terrible bereavement. Teaching to me is a vocation, I believe I had no real choice but to become a teacher, all paths would have eventually led to it. I must therefore begin the process of coming to terms with the reality that I may have to leave. In order to reduce the trauma of leaving, I must begin to consider it a possibility in order to reduce the shock and sadness.

I am incredibly lucky, the senior management in my school are incredibly supportive and understanding. They are putting in place the only plan I believe possible that will hopefully enable me to stagger a return to full-time teaching from September.

There is no guarantee that this plan will work, all the support in the world cannot defeat the vagrancies of this illness. I must therefore be positive and hopeful but not forget what reality might be.

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6 thoughts on “Career Bereavement?”

  1. Same thing in the Nhs i’m afraid. We were asked to fill out a ‘job tool’ indicating hours over a week. When it came out in negative numbers. I.e not enough hours in a week by at least 10hrs plus. All those 2 hours extra at end off shift. Emails/training/supervision in all own time etc etc we were told to change the figures!


  2. Hi Karen,
    Wholehearted agreement here.
    My partner teaches HE (degrees) in an FE college. She has worked both weekend days over the last 3 weeks. And she is my carer, I’m so grateful she loves me. Still there are only 168 hours in a week – I think!


  3. I totaly agree, to much work! I did work as a teacher in my young days, don’t now the word for it, when real teacher is sick, they called me! (the brain not working right now)And I worked all days 8-16, and all classes exept matamatic and germanclasses, don’t know anything about it,=) and I worked at home in the evenings and weeekend because I loved it and I worked for 5 years! Loved it!!!!but if you are sick it’s not possible to work like that and halftime no good because you do the job fulltime=)


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