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Becoming A Teacher: Expectation Vs Reality

Few people on the planet are as motivated and idealistic as new teachers. If only we stayed that way...

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Expectation: Endless enthusiasm.

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A positive disposition will go a long way, we are repeatedly told in training. So you paste on your happy face and plan to keep it there permanently.

The reality:

Paperwork, cover lessons, politics; holding in silent screams during meetings is your new ab workout.

Expectation: Exciting, interactive lessons.

Learning is all about experience! Information is stored through engagement! Text books and worksheets be damned; your class will be a haven of stimulating scholarship for all.
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Learning is all about experience! Information is stored through engagement! Text books and worksheets be damned; your class will be a haven of stimulating scholarship for all.

Reality:

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You put animations on your slides - that counts as a kinaesthetic activity, right?

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Expectation: Extra-curricular adventures.

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You have heartfelt aspirations towards out-of-hours projects. That school play/chess club/hip-hop choir will change the lives of your lucky young people forever.

Reality:

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The kids are in a bit of a rush to get home.

Expectation: Clean living.

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As you become a role model in your professional life, you may as well take the opportunity to make over your entire existence. You will eat fruit, jog regularly and consume alcohol in moderation.

Reality:

Magic trick tip: if you want to see pints of beer and glasses of Pinot Grigio disappear, go to a school-adjacent pub at 4pm on a Friday. Return an hour and a half later for a performance of the trying-to-carry-a-huge-bag-of-marking-to-the-bus-while-shitfaced dance.

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Expectation: Meaningful marking.

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You spend a fortune on stickers, stamps and coloured pens, and plan on putting them to use every week as your pupils receive formative, thoughtful feedback on their work.

Reality:

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You drag the same set of books back and forth between your house and school for days, before finally scribbling something unintelligible at 11.30pm as you try to keep your eyes open.

Expectation: Work/life balance.

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You plan to love your job, your pupils and your school, but not to the detriment of your personal life. A programme of rich and challenging leisure pursuits will only benefit your teaching.

Reality:

Wave goodbye to week nights, Sundays and going to bed later than 10pm. And when OFSTED come calling, you get to experience the kind of sleep patterns encountered by torture victims.

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Expectation: Quality time.

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What better way to get to know your students than breaking bread with them in the canteen? You look forward to spirited exchanges over nutritious, Jamie Oliver-inspired school dinners.

Reality:

Detentions, playground duties and other time-zappers obliterate your precious break. A cheese baguette at your desk is the height of luxury.

Expectation: Trips!

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You will lead truly brilliant trips, beckoning your wide-eyed charges to the most thought-provoking places they will ever encounter.

Reality:

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Beforehand, you find yourself becoming dangerously obsessed with your risk assessment, laying awake at night imagining the disasters that could befall 50 Year 8s in a petting zoo.

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Expectation: Changing lives.

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You have been employed to shape young minds! You can conceive of no greater honour than engaging and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow.

Reality:

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You also need to track data, write long-term plans, create reports, attend meetings, answer emails, call parents and a try to scale an ever-rising mountain of admin.

Expectation: Professional identity.

Above all else, your greatest tool will be your teaching persona. You will showcase intelligence and wisdom, maintaining an air of authority at all times.

Reality:

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Your pupils are (sometimes intentionally) hilarious. Your straight face will crack, probably in response to a joke about someone's mum.

Expectation: Emotional fulfilment.

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Every student you come into contact with will admire and respect your efforts.

Reality:

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You are equipping your pupils with skills they will cultivate and cherish; they are grateful (even if they don't always say so).