According to WordPress, it has been two months since my last post. In that time I finished up my summer holiday, started teaching and have been struggling with a work-life balance. In my two moths as a year 7, 8 and 10 teacher I have grown as a teacher in leaps and bounds and can with confidence say that while teaching in London makes me cry at least once a week, it is so rewarding and so, so fun. Teaching in Toronto vs. London is night and day. Here’s how:
In Toronto, I was used to teaching four 75 minute periods, with one prep period per day. So really, I only taught 3 periods a day. Here, I teach six 50 minute periods per day with three prep periods per week. It’s the difference between 375 vs 150 mins to mark, prep and plan. I spend my entire day at school (7:30-6:30) and still have to work on weekends. I have eaten many a microwave meal and have not been able to fit into my pants since September. I also don’t remember what a gym is. I think it’s a place where people go to do happy things but I’m not sure. It has become quite clear to me why the average teacher burnout time here is about 5 years.
This is both of students and teachers. I teach at an academy which is a fancy Britishism for “state school where kids are poor.” The kids I teach come from backgrounds where culture is not a priority or easily accessible and where English is usually not spoken at home. They have to access and learn all of the same texts as every other child in the country to pass the national exams. Despite their barriers, they are expected to meet a certain standards set by the school and by the teachers and they smash them.
The same goes for the teachers. We are expected to be professionals and there are organizations put into place to ensure that we are doing our jobs as we should be. Some might see this as excessive micromanagement but coming from what is starting to seem like the Wild West of education, it’s nice to work in a place where a teacher can’t have her hair coloured in class by her students. True story.
Students here have to pass a series of government regulated exams at the end of year 11 that essentially determine where they will end up in life. It sucks and it sets many students up for failure but I think they’re great. Teaching grade 11 last year was wonderful because it meant that I had a job but from a teacher perspective it was the worst 5 months of my career. The daily battle against apathy was crushing. My students simply wanted to pass– they did’t want to get any smarter, they didn’t want to do any more than they had to because they knew that with a grade of 100% or 50% in the class, they were still going to pass. It was a battle that I consistently lost. Having an exam at the end of secondary school keeps everyone honest. Is it stressful? Yes. Will I feel like a failure if any of my students fail? Absolutely. However, I would much rather work in a place where people keep trying to jump over a high bar than one where the bar is low enough to not matter.
While I’m tired and stressed more often than not, I feel like I’m in a place where I’m teaching things and making a difference. I love my job.