Comment: I'm a teacher and this is what we have to cope with

As a teacher you are used to abbreviations. The one that cropped up this week for me was PRD: Professional Review and Development.

A new study has shown that the average teacher in Scotland works far more hours than they should. Picture: John Devlin

I sat there in my head teacher’s office, discussing how I hoped to play my part in taking forward the priorities for the school and myself for the coming year.

At the end of the review, she turned to me with a slightly querulous smile and said: “You know something, Carolyn? You always seem happy. Every time I look at you you’re smiling.”

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“You know why that is though?” I replied. I only work Monday to Wednesday.

Since going part-time I have found a huge difference to how I feel about my job and my workplace. The stress levels have reduced dramatically.

A full-time, class committed primary teacher has one of the most difficult jobs out there. Huge class sizes (where you need to Get It Right For Every Child) are not for the faint-hearted.

Planning creative, meaningful lessons every single day for the myriad subjects that are your responsibility is no mean feat.

No sick cover

Attempting to distinguish the “needs” from the “wants” that you wish for your pupils becomes merely a prioritising of the most essential, when you are always told there is not enough money.

Being inspirational leaders when the classroom carpets are buckling and the rain is coming in your window, or the heating isn’t working, or the IT system is down (again) is a challenge.

Encouraging nurturing attitudes across the school is tricky when you feel unwell but dare not be absent because you know there is no supply teacher available to cover your class.

Being a deep, critical thinker of all things educational; the very things that make the children you love become better in all that they do, can be a very hard ask if you’re reduced to spending exhausting hours at home, making your own materials and ticking boxes.

And all this against a backdrop of the prevailing media representation that paints our pupils (and ergo, us) as failures. Would I go back to full-time? Thanks, but no thanks.

The author is a primary school teacher from Glasgow

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