Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Unexpected job satisfaction

I'm a secondary school teacher in a reasonably tough school. I've worked there 6 years now which is the longest I've worked in any school by far.

Teaching in the UK is a tough job. In my opinion, for this area, the pay is good and the holidays are great but these perks are earned a thousand times over with all the stress and additional work we do for no overtime or thanks.

But there are moments of great job satisfaction. When you walk down the corridor and hear kids talking about your lessons, in a good way! When you hear that random people around town know when kids have been taught by you, just because they've left school that day on a high and when you find out that a class that other people have written off as no hopers have excelled at their exams. These are all great moments.

However, teacher tends to be an in the moment kind of job. The students consume huge amounts of your time and effort while they're at school and then they're gone, job done. Until recently. All of a sudden, ex-students are getting in contact with me mostly over facebook but also in the street! I just want to recount 4 stories which have completely changed the way I view the school I'm at and the possible futures of the students I work with.

Like I said, it's a tough school and the tendency is to assume that there are very few prospects for those that leave it. One of my jobs is to teach a very low level BTEC qualification but one of my students in my first year there is now finishing her degree in the subject! she's had to work all the way through the lowest level of qualification and now she's going to be a bachelor in it! This was the first person who shook my view of what I do. I hate that BTEC, it's insultingly easy and I never really thought it was worth very much but look where it's got her!

Another of my BTEC students has got in contact recently because she needs another copy of her certificate. She's applying for university, not in the BTEC subject but in Midwifery - she's working as an assistant in the ward where 'One born every minute' is filmed and has decided to get qualified! It's filmed in Southampton. Thats nearly 200 miles away, I used to joke about people in the town not knowing where the road out is.

Another student who managed to find the road out is now living in London. He's an assistant manager of a bar and night club in a big hotel and got the job partly because of the subject I taught him. I'm so proud of these people!

The final student ran to stop me in the street today. He'd been sent to our school late in his education because all the schools in his area were 'full'. he was a troubled boy and I taught him religious education. I am not an RE specialist and generally get given all the students who are most disaffected with the subject. For some reasons I manage to get some kind of unspoken understanding with them and they toe the line. This bloke told me today that he's emigrating to Australian in the summer because he's got a place in the Australian Air Force. The Royal Air Force was his dream at school but, like I say, he was troubled and didn't focus on his studies. He tells me that you don't need as high qualifications to train to be a pilot in Australia. I'm absolutely made up for him.

It's the kind of determination we rarely see while the kids are with us but we must be doing something right because they become such fantastic adults. This kind of job satisfaction is far better than children having fun in my classroom or a handful of good exam results. This kind of satisfaction lasts because I'm not pleased for me, I'm pleased for them.

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