- C.S Lewis, The Four Loves
It's probably worth reading the quote again before I go on. In fact, it may be worth reading it again, then closing this window on your browser - what am I going to be able to add to the words of a literary great? Well, perhaps I can elucidate on how the quote might pertain to teachers.
It's that second sentence - 'Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken' - that rings so true for teachers at the moment. Hearts are being broken; hearts once in love with teaching, in love with being so instrumental in the lives of so many children, in love with the creative nature of the job, in love with the fact that no two days are ever quite the same. The pressures placed on us by the ever-changing demands of the government, the fear of Ofsted and poor leadership (in some schools), not to mention the workload generated by all of this, are wringing hearts dry. Teachers are losing the love, many against their will, because the job does not love them back.
And Lewis' suggested solution? Don't love anything. Don't love teaching. But the consequence of that? Your heart will become 'unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable'. Lewis is saying that love is worth the risk of being hurt.
We must love teaching despite its riskiness. By loving teaching we will weather the storm, even though it'll be difficult. By not loving teaching, and by trying to protect ourselves by becoming indifferent, our heart for the job will grow cold and we will enjoy it less and less. We must go on loving the job, exposing ourselves, being vulnerable, but so that love itself continues. So that children go on being taught, nurtured and shaped.
It may be that working in a particular school is, in this analogy, like being in an abusive relationship, but this doesn't have to mean never loving again. A new school or situation and a fresh start can reignite love, and through making oneself vulnerable again, great love can be found. The job can love you back; it is the experience of many. I know a few teachers who, having considered leaving the profession, rather than 'locking away their hearts', have moved on and found the love again. One told me:
At my old school I felt unsupported... I felt angry about new things which were rashly implemented in the school and which I strongly disagreed with... I felt like my opinion didn't matter and an overwhelming fear that I would be the next teacher bullied and forced out of my job. There was a severe lack of organisation which strongly impacted on workload. We were often given pointless time consuming tasks and ridiculous deadlines such as the next day or a text message on a Friday night with a deadline for Monday. This created unnecessary stress.
I did consider leaving the profession as when I spoke to some teachers at other schools they too were unhappy but I felt that it was not to the extent that I was. I wrote my letter of resignation before even applying for any other job as I knew I could no longer work there. It was the first time I had ever applied for another teaching job.
My initial impression of my new school was that the head teacher was much more personable and the teachers appeared much happier and said things like 'You'll love working here, it's a lovely school'. From day one I was given the chance to develop my career in the area of my choice and have had so much support. I also feel that I am greatly appreciated and the head often sends emails or personally thanks me for things such as putting on the harvest play - which to me means a lot! It is nice to belong to a school that I feel proud of again. Good organisation from the management means that I have a much better work/life balance and less stress as I am given plenty of warning about deadlines and I'm always given help and support if I'm unsure about anything.
Moving school is the most drastic of solutions, aside from leaving teaching altogether. If you are seeking a love of education, and your current school situation isn't loving you back then maybe extreme action is needed; another school could be reciprocal in the love you give. Another school could mend your broken heart.
If you feel like leaving your current job would be too radical, then I wonder if some of my other blog posts would be of use to you. I have found ways to remain in love with the profession and I'm desperate to share them - I mourn the fact that so many feel unloved by this job and long to help others to a place where they are once again feel like they're in a loving relationship with teaching.