This is a very sad blog post as today another valuable teaching professional has decided it is just too much and feels forced to leave teaching completely. With permission he has agreed to let me post his detailed resignation letter here, maybe if there are enough teachers being this vocal about their reasons for leaving, something will change.
The NUT works very hard to help teachers facing difficulties and I am proud to be a part of that. Please remember to sign up and get involved with your local division of the NUT let's try and improve conditions before we lose any more!
Dear Mr [redacted],
Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from my position at [redacted] with effect from 31/12/16 (end of the autumn term). This has not been an easy decision to make and I have been wrestling with it for some time. I would like to take this opportunity to outline some of the factors that have led me to this conclusion.
Over the sixteen years of my career it is true to say that I have sometimes found my view of education to be somewhat at odds with the prevailing wind of government policy. I have always kept myself going with a deep belief in the principles of education, and the value I was able to bring to students’ lives, in spite of the worst excesses and stupidities handed down from the DfE. However, over the last two years, I have had a growing realisation that I can no longer do this. In fact, it sometimes feels like I am being actively prevented, by decisions made by people who have little or no educational knowledge, from affecting students’ lives positively.
The sad fact is that, after a decade and a half, my skills, experience and professional judgement now count for nothing. Target grades, which bear little or no relation to the abilities of the students, are imposed from on high; curricula and grade boundaries are subjected to the grossest political manipulation; our lessons are micromanaged to the point of sterility. The end result is that I no longer teach English, I teach tests. Indeed, it often feels like I no longer teach at all; I merely ‘deliver’ a curriculum, a curriculum that is so narrow, so tedious it defies comprehension. At what point do I actually get the chance to enthuse a student with my subject? At what point do students have the opportunity to engage with the subject without fear of assessment and grading? The answer is never.
On top of the fact that our education system has very little to with actual education (as opposed to training – they are very different; look them up) is the insane workload. The never ending barrage of marking, planning, interventions, moderations, spreadsheets, DCPs, meetings, observations and appraisal is, quite frankly, horrifying. All this is additional to the actual teaching of lessons. When we inevitably fall behind we are deemed to be “falling below expected standards” and threatened with “support programmes” which do nothing but add to the workload. We are constantly expected to do more, to a better standard, in less time, with fewer resources and for less money. It is somewhat akin to telling Usain Bolt that, in order to be considered a success, he needs to reduce his world record time by half a second while adding ten metres to the track. It is total madness. The prospect of trying to maintain this level of ‘performance’ for another 20 years is appalling.
Also appalling is student behaviour. For many years I have resisted the common teacher’s complaint that students’ behaviour is getting worse but I am now forced to concede that it is true. Why must I tolerate verbal abuse, threats of (and actual) physical assaults, blatant defiance and disrespect on a daily basis? I am sick of having my carefully planned lessons destroyed by a concerted and deliberate refusal to engage with learning. I am no longer prepared to put myself through this, day in, day out. I am well aware that the worst offenders are in a minority, but it is a minority that is growing inexorably without any sign of being dealt with at any level. A decade ago I might have expected one or two students in a class to cause issues. This was manageable. Now, though, it is four or five per group and nothing is being done.
So, to sum up, (at the risk of indulging in cliché) I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. There is no longer any aspect of the profession that I enjoy, or feel has any value, and this makes me incredibly sad; for the best part of my adult life I have been proud to be a teacher - but no longer. Therefore, I have decided, for the sake of my health and sanity, to turn my efforts towards finding a new direction before I am completely burnt out. In the short term I may, perhaps, continue in the profession in a supply capacity, but my aim is to leave teaching for good.
I would like to thank you for the support you have given me in my time at the school, particularly in my role as NUT representative (the only area where I feel I am doing something worthwhile), and wish you, and the school, every success in the future.
Cc: [redacted] – Chair of Governors