Why I Could Teach, But Most Likely Never Will

// June 10th, 2009 // Blog

This post on homeschooling reminded me of a recent realization about my own aversion towards taking the PGCE route that so many PhD graduates seem to pursue, having realized that they can no longer tolerate the research environment.

It's not that I don't enjoy teaching – even teaching kids, and young people. I just can't deal with the discipline issues; or should I say, lack of discipline issues. I can already predict that having to deal on a daily basis with rowdy adolescents that are intent on pushing every button and testing every boundary, will eventually reduce me to one of those babbling, stuttering, post-nervous breakdown teachers that we've all been taught by at one point in our lives (for me, it was my year 9 History teacher. There were rumours that his odd behaviour was a result of him being locked in a cupboard by his students for several hours. And this at a private school).

Last year, I volunteered to give a presentation about Biology to groups of 11-15 year olds, who attend a weekend supplementary school. Each group was supervised by a teacher whom they were all familiar with, who ensured that the class behaved and listened to the demonstrator (i.e., me). I really enjoyed the activity because all I had to do was share my passion for Science – something I don't find very difficult to do. I could concentrate all my energy into getting the message across, and not have to worry about keeping the kids in line.

That's why smaller class sizes, like the ones found in private schools, and one-to-one tutorship work so well. The educator spends the majority of time doing the job that they signed up for, by not having to play the role of an animal trainer (though I do think supplying teachers with whips may help the process). There are only a handful of teachers that have the seemingly magical ability of mastering both duties: either by intimidation (think: your average gym teacher), or camaraderie (my A-level Maths teacher got this down, usually by bringing up football; he was a Man City supporter in a class filled with Man U fans).

If state schools are forced to have such large class sizes, maybe there should be a 'prison guard' system in place, where one person is assigned the sole responsibility of ensuring that the students behave themselves, leaving the teacher to, y'know, teach. As crazy as that pitch sounds, I really think it could work.

But whatever the case, you teachers out there have forever earned my respect and admiration. Those who can't: teach. But those who can teach: you rock. May God preserve your sanity, and give you the strength to keeping going against the odds. Āmīn.

8 Responses to “Why I Could Teach, But Most Likely Never Will”

  1. hfm says:

    Your title really should be revised since your post was so inspirational and full of motivation!

    I haven’t done any academic teaching since I’ve not completed my post graduate but I took up this scheme at University which trained us up to be professional mentors for teenagers across schools in my city. It’s intense and a little diverse from teaching,it’s more discipline orientated and let me tell you- it’s really not that bad. I think the main goal is to allow the students to know that you’re human, you have weaknesses, strengths and most of all: you’ve been there- you’ve endured GSCE’S, exam stress, peer pressure and through all of that, you’re at Uni.

    I teach at a madressa- Arabic to little 5-7yr olds, it’s a beautiful experience and each day I learn a new thing from my babies- I’m in the pro-teach gang- it’s an amazing life skill and it’s a way of repaying your teachers+parents for their efforts in educating you. Give something back to society and the community.

  2. Yusuf Smith says:

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I have heard of former bouncers being employed to “keep order” in classes in the UK. A huge shame, but as long as they don’t start throwing kids around the room, it could be necessary. However, if you were going to just become a teacher, what was the point of your PhD?

  3. iMuslim says:

    @hfm: I’m surprised you found the post to be inspirational. Alhamdulillah. I agree, teaching little people can be fun, masha’Allah. :)

    @Yusuf: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. I never planned to become a teacher – ever. But it’s almost guaranteed that the first thing people say to me after I inform them that I don’t want to continue in research, is: “Oh, why don’t you go into teaching?”. At which point I roll my eyes, sigh, and think about ways I can kill them without getting caught. << Kidding... but it wouldn't be wise to push me.

  4. Manas Shaikh says:

    what are you thinking?

  5. Yusuf Smith says:

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    A few years ago, I kept having friends tell me to go and get my PGCE and become a teacher, as if it was easy. Teaching is a difficult job and becoming more and more difficult for all the reasons described in this post, plus massive bureaucracy and lack of respect for individual teaching methods (it’s all standards-meeting and cookie-cutting). I hated school and never want to go back. I will probably home-school if I ever have kids.

  6. iMuslim says:

    @Manas – Right now, I’m thinking about the yummy burger I just ate. Mmm…

    @Yusuf – Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Even with the frequent teasing, and general teenage awkwardness, I still loved school. But my experience of it was not that of the average student. I went to a predominately white, Catholic, private school, located in the Leicestershire countryside. So how I say I know what it’s like for someone attending an ethnically diverse, inner-city, state school?

  7. Manas Shaikh says:

    food for thought.

  8. nadia says:

    My mum went into teaching because she was scared that her children will turn into rowdy kids if she wasn’t spending most of her time at home monitoring us. She was an engineer before. Meh… my mum is super protective of us. :P

    She was asking me to get a PhD… and to NEVER go into teaching. Like EVER.

    Kids. They will drive you mad.

    Anyway, you’re great being a scientist-cum-writer. Don’t have to worry about the teaching part… yet.

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