How I Failed as a Professional

My name’s Philippa, and I’m a statistic. I only lasted two and three-quarter years in the teaching profession. I’m one of those often-quoted teachers who didn’t last five years in the job, in fact, I barely made it half way to that.

I could blame the government, Ofsted, the exam system, performance-related pay, the hours, the expectations. But I don’t. I blame myself. I failed.

I was a teacher who taught at least 95 percent of my lessons at the good or better level. A good chunk of the students enjoyed my lessons; some of them learned things (except for where to use capital letters apparently); and some of them even liked me! A pretty successful teaching professional in that respect.

The trouble is I am a sensitive human being. I am a worrier who gets stressed and anxious easily. In short, I am not fit to be a teacher.

I failed by taking things personally.

When a student choose to disrespect me, shout at me, answer me back, call me rude for raising my voice or insult the quality of my teaching, it affected how I viewed myself. I understood that the child was not directing their behavior at me personally and it was more at authority generally, or because their parents were getting divorced, or their carers hadn’t fed them that morning. The trouble was, it was still happening to me. I couldn’t let it wash over me — not when I was having a bad day, not when it was the fourth time that day it had happened, not when I had an observation the next day or when my dad finally went into the care home.

I failed to rise above it.

When a student decided to square up to me and step into my personal space, I couldn’t teach him again. I was scared of him. He was bigger than me. He didn’t understand boundaries. I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t attack me. I couldn’t rise above it and give him another chance. He was a child who was still learning and struggling, and I couldn’t help him.

I failed to remember why I was doing it.

I let stress and negativity overwhelm my motivation to teach. I couldn’t talk to my colleagues about it, as they were equally stressed and negative. It was something we were all in together. Except I couldn’t shake the feeling that just because we all stood on the edge of the cliff together, didn’t make it ok that we were on the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t help anybody standing out there, even if I wasn’t alone.

I did make a difference.

Last year, two of my old students whom I hadn’t taught for nearly two years, got in touch to thank me for the role I played in their General Certificate of Secondary Education results. I don’t feel like I can take any credit, mainly because I stopped teaching them back in ninth grade, but they remember me fighting in their corner. They remember me focusing on their strengths and not their weaknesses and pushing them to be the best that they can be. I feel guilty for not being able to do that for other children, for being human and letting it get to me.

I now think of myself as a recovering teacher. I used to think I would make it back to the profession one day but I don’t see how I can. I failed, and this isn’t the sort of thing you can retake.

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Source: Black Voices Huffington Post
Link: How I Failed as a Professional