Why I left teaching

Tuesday 18th October 2011

AGES ago, I assumed everybody thought the same as I did; or would do once they’d heard my reasoned arguments. Took me a while to work out this was more about my arrogance than anybody else’s ignorance.

Eleven years in teaching taught me a lot. I held three posts, ending up as Head of Sixth Form at a large comprehensive. Professional advice suggested I apply for deputy headships: the logical next step. There was some surprise when I announced I’d be quitting the profession. A number of colleagues were no doubt relieved.

It had become a passion, not a job. I’d spent more hours than I should in meetings after school, rehearsing drama productions, writing reports, playing cricket and knocking on the headteacher’s door. He must have been fed up of my persistence, belligerence and other embarrassments. There were only a few mild attempts to persuade me to change my mind.

Project Week was the rise and fall, you might say.

Very few schools had them then: our first was in 1981. The last full week of the summer term, with students opting for camping trips, lace making, film studies, local walks, bicycle maintenance, musicals, journalism, archaeology, days out and many more. No uniform, no bells. Learning as fun.

A curriculum review followed the success of Project Week. I campaigned to re-structure the whole school on a similar model. Pupils would choose courses from the moment they arrived. We’d scrap classes organised by age, offer everything from A-level History to Roller-skating. Only in sequential subjects – Maths, Music, languages, maybe sciences – would it be necessary for scholars to progress from level to level.

The staff finally agreed to a trial year of three weekly sessions called Electives. I’d left before they started.

But there were other considerations. I began to feel uncomfortable advising sixth formers to work hard in order to get into university in order to get well-paid jobs and therefore be happy. As if…

I often wonder what teachers tell them today.







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4 Responses to Why I left teaching

  1. claire says:

    Marcus, you were always an inspirational teacher and made any learning fun. I have particularly fond memories of Classics in Translation, where your passion for the subject ignited a passion within me and has remained with me for nearly 30 years. Your loss was felt profoundly by many students and your departure was very much our loss as well as the teaching profession. Fond memories.

  2. rickvick1 says:

    I agree with you. I taught on one of the electives at that school. You were a legend by the way and most likely still are. You made a difference, to those you taught anyway. You might actually have been able to change things for the better if you had stayed but it might have driven you mad!

  3. pstok says:

    I understand some of your feelings. What is teaching for? Is it for life and its myriad of componenents or simply as economy fodder. I know which one I chose, but I also know what so manny peole. including parents want.

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