It’s scary when you finally log back in to your wordpress account to find that your last post was 3 months ago. Not only does it reinforce the belief that your best-laid plans for writing a blog were unrealistic, but it also makes you wonder where on earth the time has gone.
In my case, I’ve changed jobs, which for various reasons has led to a month-long break from teaching, although I have still been working in a language school environment. And while I am cautiously welcoming a return to the classroom from next week, I am struck by just how much I have enjoyed being at work without having to prepare and teach classes.
I think all teachers need to take breaks from time to time. In my previous position, a number of factors had led to me taking on a workload of more than 30 hours teaching per week. This meant I was teaching more or less all day and had practically no time to plan; and while I’m experienced enough to be able to deal with situations like that, after a few months it gets to you. Basically, I wasn’t enjoying teaching – everything became run-of-the-mill, clock-watching; and while the students still seemed happy, I certainly wasn’t.
So, it was time for a change.
Thankfully, I was able to find a job that had more focussed responsibilities and a much-reduced hour bank of teaching, which will hopefully allow me to try to implement more of the ideas I have, which I will then be able to share with you all!
In the interim I’ve been behind a desk, dealing with student enquiries and doing admin. With full control over the school Spotify account!
I guess the whole episode has made me think more about our profession. Teachers working in the state sector have the much-discussed summer break, which is often six weeks (or more), alongside other breaks between terms. I guess what this does is give a teacher time away from the classroom – time to reflect on the session just passed, to think of ways to develop or approaches to explore in the sessions ahead.
In TEFL this just doesn’t happen. Summer is likely to be our busiest period – try asking your DoS for a week off to go on a family vacation in August! You might even be working 24 hours a day in a residential summer school. We tend to be scrabbling around for hours, which is stressful enough, or be in roles with no security or tenure. Often, time outside the classroom is time we aren’t earning a living. I remember I spent a whole calendar year (2013) without taking a single day off. I took all the cover classes I could get, led excursions at weekends, and managed to earn a pretty decent wage for a single man living in Manchester at the time, but I don’t remember my developing much during that time.
I think it’s time as a profession that we started to look more seriously at the way we work. That’s why I feel good that there are groups such as the Teachers as Workers SIG that have started to putatively band TEFL workers together. Eventually it’s going to become a health issue for many teachers alongside an economic one.
I know I’m not alone thinking about things like this. For further reading, a good starting point would be this post by Anthony Ash.