So, as I sit here typing this, I have just thirteen days left of my summer holiday from school. I should be relishing the last couple of weeks of the holiday and gaining momentum for another busy term – another busy year in the life of a Year 3 school teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays: catching up on my kids’ lives, books I haven’t read and some much needed gardening, but I’m not really enjoying it; I’m wishing the days away until the 25th, until I get paid, until I can finally do that weekly shop and put some petrol in my car!
At 45 years old, I’ve been doing this job for almost 15 years and it’s suited me well being the mother of 4 children; being able to spend much needed time with them, pick them up from school in their younger years, put a meal on the table, and chauffeur them to this club and that. But as I sit here with yet another text from my bank, all I can think about is what I can’t provide, and this summer has been a particularly difficult one financially as a single mum with three teenagers in the house.
Training to do a job which serves, which gives children opportunities and which I know I do well, is rewarding – but at what cost when my standard of living is verging on that of poverty? Did I really sign up for this when I did my training, thinking of the little children whom I could give so much to?
The stark reality of teaching goes far beyond the financial implications, there’s the mental health implications too, and if you’re not strong and positive then you’re not much of a role model for the parents and the pupils. I have focused immensely on ensuring I was emotionally strong: I’m now a Reiki Master, a Theta Healer and an EFT and Matrix re-imprinter, some of which I use in the classroom, and is welcomed by the children and the parents and a local charity that I have just started volunteering for.
So, as I sit here tapping away at my keyboard, the anxieties I feel about returning to work, about being stuck in a financial rut, about not being able to do anything about it, really make me question the whole essence of what I do – what I do very well, in fact.
Being financially insecure, with my three youngest kids to put through university, pains me; I mean, if I’m struggling to just do a weekly shop whilst I’m supposedly on a reasonable salary for a professional in this country, what hope is there for the unskilled, the young people who will be the bread and butter of our society one day? What are we doing this all for – what is the point of just existing and not enjoying life because of the worry? Believe me, I don’t think that money is that important (it’s just an energy), but when a lack of it means you struggle to provide for your own children, it makes me wonder what we are all doing this for; and this in itself can lead to mental health difficulties when you feel like whatever you do just isn’t enough to provide what your family need.
I’ve been topping up on credit cards (which are now exhausted) I have an over draft (which is now exhausted) so where do you turn when ultimately the difficulty lies in your outgoings exceeding your income? I have even advertised for a second job in between receiving food parcels from friends this summer and selling some odd bits on some local sites. I did not expect to be in this mess when training at University and doing a post grad teaching qualification – those years just disappear and you are left wondering what the hell life has in store next.
Teachers are the backbone of the generations of kids who have gone through school, some good and some not so good, but all with the clear intention (I would hope) of helping as many kids as they can. Teachers are definitely not given enough credit, or enough money, especially when you consider that they are dealing with classes of up to 32 children – I mean, I know parents who can’t even cope with one child let alone being responsible for the well-being and academic achievement of up to 32.
All in all, our pay is little reward for what we do: I hear you say ‘but teachers get really long holidays’, and yes we do, but I usually spend the holidays recovering from exhaustion – oh, and then of course teachers are so run down they are often ill when it’s the holidays. I’d encourage anyone who feels we get excessive holidays to come and train to be a teacher too; not many would rise to the challenge. Newly qualified teachers have the highest rate of drop out in the profession (there is actually currently a teaching crisis) and too many great teachers are retiring early or changing professions, because simply put the whole teaching thing is just far too much, for far too little reward.
So where do we go from here? What can we do to keep some excellent teachers educating our precious children, instilling in them the best morals and values and being the beacons of light that our children need?
I do not have all the answers, but feeling valued in our profession by getting a good wage, so that we can provide for our own, may well be a start…