One of the first emails I had today was a reminder from recruitment site eteach that there are vacancies in my area. Of course I had to check. The grass always looks greener after all. Then going to check the news at the BBC I noticed that one of the top five stories was about the thousands of teachers who leave the profession. According to findings, nearly 10,000 teachers left teaching for other jobs between 2000 and 2005. And in 2005, 8,000 people qualified to be teachers but did not go into teaching.
Now this sounds like a lot but I know that the number of teacher training places at colleges and universities has increased, and that there is now a variety of funding and grants to train to teach certain subjects or in certain areas. To a debt-burdened graduate, being paid to gain an extra qualification is no bad thing. However, paying somebody to take a course when there is no intention of doing the job after the training seems like a waste of money. So why are too many teachers being trained?
Some trainees find it difficult to get a job upon completing the course. Those who are flexible and willing to move and tough it out in an area with a high teacher turnover will always find desperate schools ready to snap them up. But those who are restricted geographically because of family, for example, often find themselves on the books of a supply agency, sent out to all sorts of jobs on an irregular basis, unable to consolidate the work they've done during their training course and not able to complete their NQT years. And when there's no supply work they have to find something else... and suddenly they aren't teaching, but working in an office or a store: a statistic in surveys.
Why should teaching be for life anyway? Some of the worst teachers I know are those jaded and brow-beaten by years of churning out the same content, trying to make it fresh and exciting for the 35th year in a row to the 70th class... "and we call that an ox-bow lake..." or "to find x we have to multiply together these two figures...". New teaching methods come and go but the content often stays pretty much the same: "a simile is different to a metaphor because...", "and in October of 1066 Harold was defeated...". It doesn't matter if you use flashy interactive whiteboards or show innovative DVDs, reveal information by piecing together cards in groups or by playing a game, when you have stood in front of a bunch of adolescents for the tenth or twentieth time and hear the same factoid trickle from your lips it can cause alarming deja vu.
Some of my colleagues have been doing the same thing for three times longer than me. I'm tired of it now, already. Some teachers get promoted and move out of regurgitating the same old stuff but there's not room for everyone at the top. Maybe there should be more opportunities for sideways movement to non-teaching but education-related roles. That way the teachers who are weary of cutting out cards for the next class to wreck can move out of the classroom before they become too jaded, and the new fresh teachers from college can bubble and fizz at the front of the class while they have the enthusiasm.