Interview with an ECT (uncut)
Interview with an ECT (uncut)
Sam(uel) graduated from UEA and was recruited by a local authority onto their Science Teacher Training scheme. He was as keen as mustard when he was allocated his (secondary) school in September ‘21 and now he’s about to embark on his third, but final, term. There’s no way he’s doing this for another year, however good the money and holidays are. So what happened between then and now:
- So, Sam, was teaching something you always considered as a career?
Sam: Yes – I quite liked school and knew several teachers who moaned a lot but seemed to enjoy their job. They all warned me not to do it, but I thought I’d be good at it, and better than them because I felt I would understand the students and could get them to like me. I remember being at school and respecting/liking some teachers more than others.
- Were the holidays and bursary money a factor in your decision.
Sam: Yes defo (definitely). The recruitment ads were really impressive – must have cost a fortune – all those actors smiling and laughing with their colleagues on the posters and being so proud that they were improving the lives of so many youngsters – but it worked. I was starting on 28k and living at home – I was going to be minted. And 10 weeks a year when I could stay in bed all day if I wanted to – and have money to go on holiday with my mates…. And I would be getting paid when I needed a day off – you know, to get my haircut or if I had a hangover – like at Uni.
- Isn’t it like that then? You know, like it says in the ads?
Sam: No it f…g isn’t. Well, maybe on Fridays after work – straight to the pub – some more moaning before some good laughs until Cindy spoils it – she drinks too fast and starts crying around 7.30 – she’s thinking about Monday already.
- What about ‘improving the lives of your students’?
Sam: More a case of letting them down. There’s no time to do the job properly. All the teachers I know do ‘care’. It is the main driver for us all – way more important than the money – but it seems to me we’re set up to fail. The system seems so stressed. It’s all about getting through the curriculum and measuring ‘progress’ but when half the class aren’t interested, it’s hard.
- Were you ready for the workload and commitment?
Sam: Was – I – f…! I’d been told about lesson planning and marking but my god – the expectation was ridiculous. Just not enough hours in a day. Within two weeks I was constipated because I didn’t have time to go. I think most of the staff were constipated for a lot of the time. That ‘days off’ thing was not an option – could not let the students down, or expect my colleagues to step in. Even when I was ill I went in. No choice – too much to try to keep up with.
- How did you feel going into your school on the first day?
Sam: It’s a blur. There were four of us. I remember it being quite exciting. The school itself was quite nice and so were the teachers. They were generally concerned for us and making sure we knew about the ‘well-being’ initiative. On reflection I think most staff were in some sort of therapy – or would have been if they’d had time. Our ‘Mentor’ was ok but a bit negative – a lot of warnings about year groups and classes we had yet to meet. We were promised unlimited support. I sensed he felt sorry for us – for what was about to happen.
- And did you get it? The unlimited support?
Sam: In practice, no. The ‘support’ was observations – at the end of which we were made to feel useless. The support we needed was with bad behaviour and managing our classrooms. In some classes there was a lot of tension. There was more than one occasion when fights broke out in the classroom – on one occasion quite big year 10 boys. I sent a student to get help but it seemed a long time coming. I’m 6ft 1 and reasonably fit but I didn’t feel it wise to get in between them. After a dangerous 4 or 5 minutes during which a chair was used as a weapon, an experienced teacher from down the corridor came in and put a stop to it just by shouting clear instructions to each of them. She was fairly young, about 5 and a half foot, but had a massive presence. I felt pathetic. Two days later the same students were both back in my lesson – after being forced to give grudging apologies. As far as I know that was all that was done about it. I think the Deputy Head had decided it was my fault i.e. caused by my inexperience.
- So did the students like you as expected?
Don’t get me wrong, most of them were great – I’ll really miss them, but there were some silly year 9s and a group of years 10 and 11 who were very difficult and yet quite clever. I simply had no control or even influence with them. I was worn out by Christmas, survived Spring and am taking Summer day by day. I feel sad but there’s more to life. Of 5 ECTs, 2 left at Christmas (one through mental health, one got another job, two are planning to complete their qualification but probably elsewhere (but looking for alternatives as well!), and me.
- What next?
I really don’t know. I’m lucky in that I can live with my parents whilst I look. Whatever it is, I’ll make sure I don’t have to spend every evening and most of my weekends preparing, marking and worrying – it’s ridiculous what is expected.
Does this sound familiar? Do you have any advice for Sam? Share your views: firstname.lastname@example.org
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