To teach or not to teach

dilemmas
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
After enjoying remedial teaching and work in playgroups, Moira took a teacher training course. Now, halfway through, she feels that she is not cut out to teach and can't keep discipline. Her tutor thinks she should finish despite her problems. Would it be stronger to cut her losses now or stick it out to the end?

Moira's question is one that most of us face at some time in our lives. Should we stick in a job we hate or a partnership that's in trouble for the security it gives us, or leave and risk either ruin or loneliness for the possibility of a new, fulfilling life?

The arguments for and against usually appear to be equally strong. But while jobs and partnerships might be endless, a training course is finite. And when the end is in sight, surely the best thing to do is to stick it out. For though there is a certain bravery about quitting, there is an even greater bravery, sometimes, in completing what you have set out to do.

Moira has been a teacher and has enjoyed it. If her pupils enjoyed her teaching, perhaps they are a better judge of how adept she is at communicating her enthusiasm than she is herself. Perhaps she is a hopeless student but a brilliant teacher. Perhaps she is brilliant at teaching individuals but hopeless at dealing with large numbers. Even if she feels she is not particularly good at the course, this doesn't mean she is a bad teacher, only that she is not very good at the course. Anyway, there will certainly be some tips that she can pick up from it that will be useful not only in a classroom but in daily life - for we spend most of our time either teaching or learning.

Whatever she feels about the course or her own standing in it, at the end Moira will have the added confidence of knowing she has stuck it out. Even the last marathon runner still has a glow of satisfaction from having completed the task, albeit six hours after everyone else.

I know myself what it is like not to stick at things. Taking the advice of my father - life's too short to do anything you don't want to do - I left school at 16, art school after a year, university after a term, a secretarial course after a fortnight, a speed-reading course after a week and, more recently, a salsa course after two lessons. And I know from personal experience that when you leave mid-stream, although you may get an initial high from being relieved of a burden, you can also be left with a residual wash of self-disgust, like the scum left by a wave on a clean beach.

Moira's tutor says it is worth her carrying on; what she is really saying is that she is unlikely to be failed. But what is the point in passing, she may ask, since she feels so glum at the prospect of teaching as a career? Well, the qualification that now may seem so pointless may not prove that she is a brilliant teacher, but it will show the outside world that she is capable of endurance, of sticking a gruelling course without dropping out. It will always be useful, whatever she does.

I would say to Moira that she should keep on in there. I am on the sidelines cheering her on. And I hope this answer will give her the same final burst of adrenalin as the roar of a roadside crowd does to a runner. In other words, I hope, perhaps, that by my answer I can transmit the enthusiasm that she already has transmitted and will, if she gets her new qualification, continue to transmit to her students.

The right school can be a springboard

Moira should certainly continue with her course. She has been sufficiently motivated at the age of 35 to go to college for three years and there are many different opportunities in education today.

It is important for Moira's college tutor to assess the quality of supervision and help she has received in the schools where she has done teaching practice. Given the variety of schools, Moira should be guided into the type that is right for her. Her experience of remedial teaching, which is what prompted her to go into education in the first place, could well provide her with a springboard for future work.

Quite often things come together in the final year of a college course. It is far too early to give up.

TJ Vardon, headmaster

Coventry

Follow your instincts, cut the course

Follow your instincts and drop the teaching course immediately. I trained as a music teacher and spent many years unhappily "toughing it out" in order to earn extra cash for the family. Yet I knew, as I sat on the Underground train going on almost my first visit to my teaching practice, that I wasn't able to keep control of the children. And this never changes. However much you try to improve, however much older and more experienced you become, however many times you change schools and start again, the same weakness remains, making it impossible to enjoy what should be a satisfying and fulfilling occupation. With the disciplinary sanctions available nowadays, even the strongest teachers are finding it difficult to keep order.

Get out before you waste any more of your life. This is a character-building experience you can do without.

Rosemary Robson

Derby

I toughed it out and reaped rewards

Moira should follow her tutor's advice and see her course through. Whether or not she really is cut out to be a teacher, if she decides to "tough it out" she might feel differently at the end of it and experience a considerable boost to her self-esteem and confidence.

I will shortly be finishing a four-year diploma course after three abortive attempts at studying over the past 10 years or so (I am 33). It has perhaps been the hardest thing I've done or put myself through, and many times I've wanted to give up. But I felt I'd never really respect myself if I did.

After almost four years, I'm starting to reap the benefit of having stuck to it, and although I'm lucky in that I want to work in my chosen field, I still feel that if I didn't, the whole experience would have been worth it for what I've learnt.

Take heart, Moira, especially after having got so far. Three or four years of a lifetime is not so long and you're almost there. Remember your original inspiration and the fact that you were accepted in the first place. It won't be time wasted.

Christian

Kingston, Surrey

If you can't keep discipline, keep out

I recently retired after more than 30 years as a teacher and headteacher. The classroom is no place for anyone who cannot maintain discipline and this is not a skill that you can easily learn - you either have it or you don't. So my advice to Moira is to be strong enough to pull out from the course now. If she continues, she will condemn herself to a life of misery in the classroom and adversely affect the education of untold numbers of children. Discipline is at the heart of good teaching, and with the demand for higher standards there is no room for teachers who cannot maintain discipline.

If Moira faces the issue now she will gain self-respect and self-esteem, knowing that she has made the right decision. Have courage Moira - I'm sure you will not regret it.

Veronica Wheeler

Surrey

NEXT WEEK'S PROBLEM: A CLASH OF TWO CULTURES

Dear Virginia,

I'm a 29-year-old Asian - Hindu - man living with, and loving, a white English girl I met at university. However, my parents know nothing about this. Their method of marriage would be to introduce me to someone they know with a view to marriage, and hope we fall in love after the ceremony.

Of six "introduced" marriages of close family, four have ended in divorce, including that of my older brother. But I'm worried first that my parents might disown me when I tell them, or that if they accept it, they will be disowned by other members. I also fear that if they knew, they might shackle my younger sister by not letting her go to university as she wishes. The problem is, I seem to be saddled with not one, but two cultures, as I was born here and my parents were not. How do I resolve the situation without upsetting anyone?

Yours sincerely, Ajay

All comments are welcome. Everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a Dynagrip 50 ballpen from Paper:Mate. Please send relevant personal experiences or comments to me at the Features Department, the 'Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (fax 0171-293-2182) by Tuesday morning. If you have any dilemmas of your own you would like to share, let me know.

Comments