As a lawyer/teacher couple my girlfriend and I are always debating who has the toughest job.
Harriet is a typical City lawyer – she gained top grades at A Level and graduated with a law degree from a leading university. In stark contrast I studied humanities at a former poly and then went on to do the PGCE (the one-year teaching qualification) in Wales.
But contrary to popular belief I like most of my colleagues went into teaching to do something positive and not because we couldn’t get into more glamorous professions. Harriet on the other hand pursued a City career because that’s what all her friends were doing and of course for the money (those are her words and not mine!).
I also love my job even though the bureaucracy can sometimes be a little bit tiring whereas Harriet positively hates her job and spends most of her spare time plotting her exit from the profession. But that’s where it stops – the plotting never turns into anything more than pipe dreams.
Harriet has dreamt up numerous ideas, which include launching a horse riding centre for disabled children, even though she can’t ride herself, but the one that keeps cropping up is teaching. My girlfriend thinks that given her stellar academic background she could teach with her eyes shut so welcomed the Government’s plan to enable the most able candidates (like herself) to complete the PGCE in just six months.
I think fast tracking people with industrial experience into teaching after six months of training is seriously flawed. Although I accept that UK schools would benefit from a fresh injection of high calibre candidates, to think that you can make the switch from boardroom to classroom in such a short period is plain stupid. In fact the phrase out of the frying pan and into the fire springs to mind.
There’s no denying that some lawyers will make excellent teachers as they have plenty of transferable skills such as the ability to work under pressure. But delivering a lesson to 30 hormonal teenagers is much tougher than managing the expectations of even the most demanding client. For lawyers the client is king while in a school environment it’s the pupils who wear the crown. That calls for a teacher to take on numerous roles including that of role model, diplomat, policeman, social worker, confidant and indeed magician.
It’s like spinning 30 plates, each a different size, at different levels and speeds for 50 minutes five or six times a day. That is a talent that even the most able candidates will struggle to master in six months. So if like Harriet you think teaching is an easy escape route then think again.
The author of this article teaches at a state comprehensive in Kent.