Are you a graduate in a useless, yet inspiring, subject having trouble finding a job you actually like? Fear not, you can always go into teaching. If advertising is to be believed, there is no end to the benefits of this profession. Golden Hellos, bursaries, ‘learn new words’, ‘work with people who haven’t made up their mind yet’, holidays galore, you get to ‘use your head’ and, of course, the rest of your life will be one massive egotrip where you tell thirty unsuspecting youngsters what they are to do next (‘circletime!’, ‘assembly!’ et al).
Sounds good? BEWARE! The bursary is not actually enough to live on and the postgrad courses are of hellish proportions. Wave goodbye to your social life, wave goodbye an awake state and wave goodbye to conversations that don’t evolve around education. It appears that teaching is not actually a job, it is a way of life all about staff rooms, singing assemblies and cultural awareness. And if you think you can go home at 3.30 and that’s that, think again, for you will be up till the crack of dawn planning lessons, panicking and immersing yourself in behavioural theory (‘You know the fair rule about not slicing your friends eyeball with a compass, don’t you?’).
Whilst at uni, you will have a whole range of scary setups to contend with. You may well catch yourself performing pantomime in front of thirty others or hear yourself saying ‘I agree with Chomsky here, but how would Bruner solve this imminent crisis of speech?’.
Then there is the teaching practices, of course. You will be thrown in at the deep end and find yourself standing in front of thirty giggling and toothless six year olds, trying to explain to them the ways of solving word problems. You will be wielding apples, plastic cubes, teddybears (‘if you’re not quite and sensible, the teddy is going to hide! Do you want the teddy to run away? Nor do I!’) and number fans.
And did I mention the assemblies? A bewildering array of Christian children’s songs (‘Who’s the king of the jungle? Who’s the king of the sea? Who’s the king of me? J.E.S.U.S!’ or ‘We are the church! Happy to be! The Children of God’s fa-mi-ly!’) complete with actions (‘jungle’ equals 200 children plus staff to scratch their armpits gorilla style. You get the idea). Wicked.
The most fun part of all is the bit where your lessons are observed by someone from your university. Now remember, it is not actually in their interest that you get through this course, for they are likely to have overbooked the whole thing and will be weeding out nonbelievers as they go along. Hence your language will never be child-friendly enough (unless you have the ‘matron’ approach down to a tee), your explanations (‘2D shape is flat. Triangle has three pointy bits. Can we all say ‘triangle!’) will never be clear enough and the behaviour in your class will never be good enough (‘Two out of thirty children were fiddling with their shoes!’).
You will be trying to shoot (ie. children. And believe me, anyone with any self-respect will be ready to employ at least an air rifle at this point) a moving target for the rest of your life if you’re not careful. It’s a jungle out there. Children are not all that sweet, they will stab you in the back during lesson observations (‘Miss, we are bored with these mini whiteboards and your face has just gone really red!’) and they will misbehave at exactly the time when they must not do so.
And the actual teaching part is not all. One of the standards all budding teachers have to fulfil is to ‘contribute actively to life at school’. This means you have to get into that staffroom, talk the talk (‘This assembly this morning. Beautiful, man!’) and walk the walk (‘Follow me to the first aid room this instance!’). You will also put up a number of educational displays (‘We used our hands to work out the five times table’) and photocopy for everyone and her (teaching is reserved for females, remember) dog, squirrel and rabbit.
If you value your sanity and have the slightest bit of self-respect left in you, then teaching is not for you. If you value a social life that does not evolve around field trips and church visits, teaching isn’t for you either. But don’t worry, the university will pick up on this before you do, they will make damn sure to make your life hell until you leave the course out of your own free will (ie. they chisel, you crack) and pursue the career YOU had in mind initially. This is when your useless first degree suddenly comes in very handy indeed.