10 years ago this week, I applied for teaching job overseas and handed in my notice at work in London as a secondary English teacher.
That first job in Kuwait opened my eyes to a very different world. It opened doors to a future I could never have imagined in my London classroom.
I’ve never regretted a moment of that decision. For my own sanity I could no longer work in the UK, in a system that was more concerned with test results than educating the next generation to think for themselves and be able to make the world a better place.
In those 10 years I’ve been saddened to see an education system that was once the best in the world brought to its knees.
I’ve seen teaching friends despair at what is expected of them. I’ve seen family life of those teachers eroded as more and more of their time is taken up with work.
There is no end of the day, every teacher takes work home. No matter where in the world you work you will be marking at weekends and evenings and planning in holidays.
All of it because as teachers we care about the students who’s care and education have been entrusted to us.
But now all that work is no longer to benefit our students. It’s only there to pass meaningless tests that will not equip them for the future. Meaningless tests that put them under greater pressure. Tests that brand children as a failure before they’ve even finished primary school.
It’s there to test the teachers, to test their ability to do their job as if 4 years of university and probation followed by continual training are no longer of any importance.
The respect that teachers once had in society has long gone. Teachers battle every day to do their best but are met with angry parents and a society who blames them when a child can’t use a knife and fork.
Now we are reaching the point where non qualified people are at the front of the classroom. As our teachers have been driven out of the profession by undermining them at every level.
The country will get the society it deserves which will reflect the level of education we give to each and every generation.
Successive governments on all sides don’t want an educated majority who can think for themselves at a time when we have more access to information than ever before.
They want people they can control who won’t notice the faults of those in charge. Who will be too busy watching cat videos or the latest reality TV show to realise or even care what is going on in the world.
Unfortunately I also began to see a similar trend in some schools overseas where profit was put first. There was no attempt to put students first though they did come slightly ahead of teachers as they were the consumers.
Teachers were little more than servants being paid the minimum the school could possibly get away with. At least there it was open and as a teacher you could choose to work there or not. There are few non-profit private schools which are run for the benefit of their students and realise that means you need good dedicated staff so will give teachers a decent package too.
Now they want to privatise schools under the guise of academies. Is everyone really that blind?
3 years ago I was working out my notice in Qatar as an International Baccalaureate Diploma teacher. I was treated appallingly in those last weeks, as if I were a criminal. Bank accounts were frozen, money withheld and passports taken. All until the very last moment.
My 4 years dedication to the school, staff and students meant nothing in a system run for profit. There was complete distrust, my students excellent exam results meant nothing. It was the same for all the teachers leaving that year.
They were more concerned that we didn’t leave with a stapler. Or fail to get a piece of paper signed by someone in an admin building we’d never seen or met before. Threatening constantly to withhold our well earned gratuity payments.
I loved teaching overseas and at home. It was a privilege to be a part of moulding young minds. But I cared too much about those students and could no longer work in systems where they weren’t put first.
At home there is no other choice for most of our children. The majority will have to go through the system that the government puts in place.
When will governments stop meddling? When will they let teachers teach and allow the system be run for our children?
Unless there is a drastic change in the way we treat our schools and teachers things will only get worse.
I would like to think that one day I’ll return to teaching, but right now I’d rather do anything than that. I know how lucky I am that I have that choice where so many of my profession feel they must stay regardless of how they are treated. Pensions, mortgages or rent, bills and putting food on the table for their own families must come first.
When will we as a society put the teaching profession first and therefore our own children?