Why it’s hard

Before you start teach first, everyone tells you it will be really difficult. Like, crazy hard.

They are completely right. But the reasons why it’s hard – at least for me – are different to what I thought.

Yes, the hours are long, the behaviour you encounter is disgusting at times, and you don’t get much thanks.

But by far the most difficult part I have found is trying your absolute hardest, over and over again and it still. Not. Working.

In an early lesson observation I was told I have “an impressive range of behaviour management strategies”. That’s no accident. I have soaked up every ounce of practical advice. Has it worked? No. Behaviour is still completely unacceptable in my classes. My teaching is routinely obstructed. I try so, so hard to get it right. I have “learning conversations”. I do detentions. I phone home. Blah blah blah. Whatever. I am still getting worse behaviour in my lessons than some of the teachers who treat this job as nothing more than a pay check and never plan a lesson.

A second example. I spend hours crafting a lesson on a key topic. I think through misconceptions. I differentiate. AfL is chock a block. But still, I teach it and that hour is decidedly mediocre. The kids aren’t getting it like I thought they would. They lie on self assessments so I progress them too fast or slow. The technology lets me down. And then that hour is over and all that time spent planning makes me feel foolish.

That feeling of the results being incommensurate with effort and work put in is so frustrating. When you’re tired and overworked, it is more than frustrating. It is morale destroying.

That’s what’s hard.

3 thoughts on “Why it’s hard

  1. Seeking Sir

    It does get better, honestly…! Also keep in mind that a teacher who fails miserably in one school can be a resounding success in another – if it’s really not working, ply your trade elsewhere; you may well find that you get considerably better results. That said, if you’ve recently completed your first term, keep going – it’s a war of attrition and, particularly in a poorly run school (which yours appears to be), success largely boils down to dogged determination even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and, often, outright opposition. Alluringly magical l if you can get there though. Welcome to the asylum…

  2. Rob Anthony

    Keep going and don’t give up. Accept it is going to be difficult and it’s not your fault. Never take it personally! Work on building positive relationships-run a club at lunchtime or after school. Chat to students. Once they get to know you are ‘alright’ they will find it harder to misbehave.

  3. teachingbattleground

    It’s a bit of a myth that behaviour can be solved by knowing “strategies”. Kids aren’t animals. They won’t simply respond predictably to the stimulus they are given. If they are used to not having to work then any strategy which forces them to work will be unpopular. Any strategy. They may not ever accept that doing work and behaving in lessons is normal. Younger year groups tend to calm down a bit after Christmas. The worst students among the older ones sometimes stop attending. But it can take years before students in a school generally realise that your expectations are more important than theirs. The important thing is to keep fighting, in a way that is sustainable, and not to expect any sudden transformations. And not to feel bad about having worse behaved students than other teachers because:

    a) Some of them have good behaviour because they did what you are doing for years even if they don’t seem to be doing it now.
    b) Some of them have good behaviour because they never force kids to work hard and so they only have to confront kids occasionally about things getting our of hand, not constantly about expectations.
    c) Some people in positions of authority set classes so as to give themselves nice ones, and new teachers unteachable ones.

    With regard to lessons, planning helps but a lot of effective teaching (particularly around misconceptions) comes only with experience. When you are starting off it is best to focus planning on the bring things, like how resources will be distributed and behaviour management. With regard to your particular points…. It is important not to rely on technology. It’s also important to realise that self-assessment is usually worthless, not because kids lie but because everyone is the worst judge of their own competence. Peer assessment not great with least able either. You might want to look into the Dunning-Kruger Effect to explain why.


Go forth and opine