The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A close friend, an engineer, has signed up to do a Maths PGCE in the coming Autumn, and emailed me some questions about her new career.

Inbetween marvelling at how consistently A Socially Useful Job appeals over and above the temptations of the corporate life, I did try to answer rationally:

Everybody says it's awful, and the kids are appalling?
No it's not. It's actually really fun.

Will I be poor forever?
No. Teaching's properly remunerated these days, especially given the twelve weeks off a year.
Work in an inner city school and if you push for rapid promotion (instead of feeling some outdated leftist desire to break yourself on the wheel of socialising the masses by staying in the classroom, as I have), you should be hitting £35K within three years, £45K within five. That's if you push, and push hard for it. Teach in a 'nice' leafy suburban school, and be happy doing it, and you may be penniless longer.

I'm told the first two years will kill me or give me a nervous breakdown?
A twenty one year old university graduate who can't say yet no, who hasn't yet learnt to be assertive, and has little life experience may well find it so. It's not inevitable, however, and anyone with fifteen years of business-end experience of tunnel engineering will probably find it easier to juggle.

After a brief stint observing in the classroom, she wrote back with some observations.

Teachers whine and whine and whine as if their lives depend upon it.
True. Everywhere. All of them. And always have done.
It's a Stalinist hangover from the days when there were few teachers, a population explosion, and a nice middle class job for life.
Plus lack of knowledge of real life conditions in the rest of the jobforce. We *all* work harder and longer these days. Only teachers think this a personal insult. Ignore them, and don't get dragged into the sniping-culture of negativity. They'll die off one day.

The children are hideous! All lumpy and strange shaped - tiny boys with high pitched squeaks, and gruff voiced girls, hulking four feet above them.
Teenagers are endemically physically hideous. Youth in and of itself is only beautiful before and after the age of fifteen.
On the receiving end of pituitary outbursts, everyone is frightening looking. Year after year, I used to photograph my graduating class, too used to their faces to recall the danger. The photos were developed (doesn't that sound old fashioned, now?), only to cause an involuntary recoil of 'holy mackerel' response as you see a perfectly nice young person depicted at the least physically attractive moment of their life.
Still, it all helps. On your worst days, with your worst classes, you can rest safe in the knowledge that at least *you* don't have to go through puberty again.

Tales of teaching, via an outsider's eyes. You get it *all* here at The Blackboard Jungle, don't you?