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June 23, 2003
Teaching and dreams

Today I had lunch with a friend who has just got herself a law degree. She mentioned in passing that one of the jobs of her dreams would be to do teaching in some exotic location where the air was warm and the pupils were well behaved and eager to learn. But she wasn't going to do this because it wouldn't, she said, lead anywhere. By this she meant that if she came back to England she'd be no nearer to a real career than she is now, and she can't afford such dalliance. We talked of other career options, which sounded much more realistic.

It was only afterwards that I realised. Here was someone who "dreamed" of being a teacher, but to whom it simply did not occur to become, or to even try to become, a teacher in England. And nor did it occur to me for a moment that she was wrong. We didn't discuss it. We simply moved on straight away to the more promising stuff. We dismissed without even seriously considering the possibility, that teaching in England, or the sort that could result in a career, could ever have anything whatsoever to do with dreams.

Rather revealing, I think.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:55 PM
Category: The reality of teaching

Can teaching truly be that terrible a career choice in the U.K.? I would agree that there are many school systems in the U.S. that are total nightmares, but there are also many that are not. My wife has just completed her fifth year of teaching (after many years as a systems analyst and database architect) and despite a considerable list of frustrations (with certain students, certain parents, and certain administrators), she loves teaching and is very glad that she made the career change.

Here in Rhode Island, by far the smallest of the fifty United States, there are some school systems that are terrible places but there are others that are rather good. Surely in all of the United Kingdom there must be good school systems where teachers might enjoy teaching and students might enjoy learning?

Comment by: Jim on June 25, 2003 07:21 PM

Perhaps most people with such dreams want to really help people, and they feel that they can't do this in the first world. We may cry about the state of education, but education is still generally good in the US (and presumably the UK as well). Compared, that is, to some third world countries. There a teacher could make an astronomical difference (or perhaps that's only the perception.)

In the US, at least, there is a teacher's certificate that is needed in most states. Without it, one cannot teach. This makes moonlighting as a teacher part-time or for a brief period an expensive proposition. Thus it's only people who intend to have a long-term career in teaching who actually jump through the hoops to become teachers.

Comment by: Lucas Wiman on June 26, 2003 08:14 AM

Jim and Brian,
*Of course* there are teachers who enjoy teaching in the UK and it can be a fulfilment of dreams. There are still good school systems too – even in the public sector. We do have Grammar schools thank goodness, where both enjoyable teaching and learning takes place, at least some of the time. Dedicated and excellent teachers exist in the comprehensives too, where they do a sterling job, often under stressful conditions. But I am one of the lucky ones, teaching a subject I love, in a selective school that is a dream. Watching those bright and eager faces progress from shy but keen Year 7’s, to confident, mature young adults is fascinating and playing a part in their intellectual development, however small, is very gratifying.
I have worked in industry too, earning good money as a freelance programmer and systems analyst, which was fine at the time. But there is no question that I have infinitely more job satisfaction as a teacher than I would have had I remained in computing. It’s not all doom and gloom out there!

Comment by: Marina on August 13, 2003 08:57 PM
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