“I plan on having evenings off and seeing friends at weekends, will I be able to do this?” questioned one new TeachFirst Participant.
It was hard not to laugh.
The first term of teaching was completely devoted to my new career. Twelve hour days Monday to Friday, weekends filled with essays/planning/marking. Every waking moment was spent thinking/worrying about my classes, finding new resources, coming up with wacky classroom activities that in reality were completely unnecessary or worrying about up and coming observations/essays. When sleeping, dreams were filled with school or nightmares about lessons. Teaching was my entire life.
As the year has gone on I have managed to make myself only do school work at school. That still means leaving at 6:30/7pm but once I leave I have those precious three hours to myself. If I want to go somewhere at the weekend I will plan accordingly to get everything done so I can come out from my hermit-shell and be sociable. It is only occasionally that I devote an entire Sunday to marking so my “work life balance” some would say has improved.
A tough ‘work/life balance’ is not unique to TeachFirst or teaching for that matter. I enjoy catching up with my university and school classmates on the drive home (hands free of course) by giving them a call. This is normally about 7pm and often I am only able to speak to one of my friends and they are a fellow trainee teacher! All of my other graduates are still in the office, working on a task I can’t fathom. They work for hours, HOURS at the same desk. They are putting in exactly the same amount of work as me, arguably more. A work/life balance is not possible for new graduates.I got to the last round of interviews for a discount supermarket graduate scheme; a £45k salary with an Audi A4. The sacrifice? Your soul. Yes you get paid a fortune but wiping your tears away with a wad of £50 notes kind of defeats the object doesn’t it? Graduates have it tough, you work hard for your £30,000(+) certificate and if you don’t perform in your job then there are 200 other grads on your heels waiting for your role. As young professionals, graduates’ energy stores are exploited but I can’t imagine that changing anytime soon. The cure? My plan is to work my way out from the bottom of the pile quickly so i can survey my options from there. This means a LOT more hours and the scales being heavily weighted on the work side of the work life balance.
However, personally I don’t really see it as a “work/life balance” quite simply because I love my job. My work and my life are intertwined and I am incredibly lucky to be able to say so. Of course I have had moments where I resent the fact that I am too tired to go out on the weekend or I can’t make a social gathering because I have books to mark and I remember muttering expletives about having to write essays in my precious holidays. But, I do not resent the appreciation from the pupils or the outcomes from my hard work. I know I am new to the profession and perhaps this outlook does wear off but as soon as I start seeing my job as a chore then I will be in the wrong career. Working simply to make a living means you don’t enjoy 5 out of the 7 precious days of your week. I’ve done the maths, thats not a good proportion!
When I have a family of my own I am sure this will be altered and this scares me. How do people do it? Is it possible to juggle the needs of the 150 children in your classes with home pressures of your own children/spouse/abundance of cats? Is there really a glass ceiling for women in education? What do you do when childcare costs outweigh your weekly salary? So many questions which, as a naive newbie I really don’t have the answer to but they are questions I am excited to deal with (much later on!).
This has been a spillage of thoughts but the take home message for new teachers is, no you won’t be able to stop working at 5, yes you will have to work weekends at the start but it does get better and above all it’s completely worth it.