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Sunday, 16 April, 2000, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Goodbye teaching
Andrew Riddles
Andrew Riddles has been a secondary school history teacher for six years. Here he explains why he is walking away from the profession to start a new career.

Last week, a very nice man offered me a job.

Not a high ranking job, not a head of department role, not a post with huge responsibilities.

In fact I am now to be termed a "junior". To be exact I will be a junior HTML hand-coder, one of these new media careers of which we read so much.

It is more grandiose than it sounds, but considering that I am entering this new career with no qualifications or experience I was surprised to be offered a salary which is pretty much the same as the salary I earn now.

And this is after six years in the teaching profession.

With shares options, bonuses, health care and free soft drinks, I will be better off on my first day in my new career than after dedicating most of my 20s to being a secondary school teacher.

'I am leaving for myself'

I used to have a dream that when I eventually left teaching I would make a grand gesture to some final professional insult during a staff meeting.

But now the decision time has come it is nothing so complex, nor heroic. I am leaving for myself and nothing more or better than that.

I cannot pretend that the new earning potential is not a major reason for leaving teaching.

But along with the increasing penury if I stayed in the teaching profession, I could have also looked forward to an increased workload, which can make unacceptable demands on teachers' personal time.

Persecution

Nor can I hope to understand the way in which we treat children.

Childhood is meant to be in some way precious and we believe that children need to be protected, whilst having instilled in them a sense of right and wrong and a intellectual basis for their futures.

Why is it, then, that I have to tell students - good, hard-working students who are under a huge amount of school-based and external pressure - to go home to change their black socks for white ones to conform to school uniform rules? What do they gain from that?

An appalling number of students I have taught have escaped persecution or war in other countries. Several I know have seen their parents die, violently or otherwise.

I can no longer send such children home in disgrace to change their socks.

Moral conscience

This is just one example. The list of ludicrous and bafflingly irrelevant orders I issue to intelligent young people on a daily basis is beyond the number I would expect to come out with whilst chairing a moderately lengthy game of "Simon says".

We continually tell children how to behave and how essentially "childish" they are, and then we tell them that they have to take the examinations which determine what they will do for the rest of their lives.

Failure is unacceptable. As time has passed I have moved from feeling uneasy with this to feeling morally opposed to it.

And so off I go, into a new career where the workload is probably just as heavy, but where I hope I will not be bullied and will not have to bully anyone else into working.

I hope to be able do my job, and just my job, not spending more time on pointless admin tasks than on my designated role.

I will be paid properly. And best of all, I will be respected.


Whiteboard is our space for those involved in education to reflect on how it is going from their perspective.

The views expressed here are personal.

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See also:

12 Apr 00 | Education
Teachers threaten work to rule
19 Nov 99 | Education
Red tape toolkit 'not enough'
05 Apr 00 | Education
Internet to cut school red tape
29 Feb 00 | Education
Stress forces teachers to quit
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