Personal Reflection: My Life as a Young Teacher in Ireland

images-9

Over the past two days interest in this, my most recent blog post has far exceeding any of my expectations. So, I sit here feeling the need to state very clearly that all opinions expressed here are entirely from my own experiences and my own challenges. Mine is just one story of thousands. I hope by writing this other teachers both young and mature of all ages will grow in confidence to share their own challenges and difficulties and stand together as one. 

Let’s begin.

In school I was asked what do I want to do when I get older? What did I want to study in college? There was always one answer I wanted to teach. So, I went to college feeling incredibly blessed to be able to do so. I was going to have a respectable job and a job that I loved to do.

In the first year of my degree we found out that due to the recession and cut backs newly qualified teachers who qualified after 2011 would be hit with a cut in their pay. At the time, this didn’t really bother us. Qualifying seemed like a distant dream when you have essays to write, teaching practice to prepare for and a daunting thesis that needed to be finished yesterday. Despite the workload I loved every minute.

Then in 2013 reality hit. Job’s were nowhere to be found. After we graduated over half my year left Ireland for jobs overseas. I decided to stay home and upgrade my CV. So, I enrolled in a Masters degree in Education.

In total I spent 5 years studying to get a job. I left college with my degree in one hand and my Masters in the other ready to face the world, how naïve I was. My first year out I was unemployed for months. I received my first job in November 2014, a 6 hour Maternity contract. I was delighted. Employed until May 2015.

When summer 2015 came along I signed on to receive the social welfare. Slowly as time went by anxiety, depression and anger began to set in. One thought constantly haunting me ‘I have done what society has asked of me, I made all the right choices, I worked hard, I went to college, I received a masters degree and here I am unemployed and lining up to collect my social welfare every week.’

After a few weeks on the social welfare I received a letter from my local office stating I had to attend a meeting. This meeting would according to the department of social welfare help me find a job. It would introduce me to the jobs bridge program and I would get my own career guidance councillor. The anger, anxiety and depression began to set in deeper. I did not need Jobs Bridge and I did not need a career guidance councillor. I needed a job, a job that I trained for. I needed the department of education, the minister of education and my unions to hear me. Instead I felt alone and forgotten.

September 2015 passed and I found myself yet again without a job. December 2015 a guardian angel was looking over me and I found myself with two jobs in two schools. I work a total of just 7 hours a week divided between two schools. I will be receiving the social welfare again in the summer. After tax one week I earned €80. If I did not have the security of living at home with my parents I would be living out of my car. I would be homeless.

This is my life, I cannot save money, I cannot move out of my family home and I cannot plan for my future. I am faced with constant job insecurity. I know I am not alone with this struggle. There are thousands like me.

Currently Newly Qualified Teachers are fighting for equal pay. Being heard and listened to is a big step. I am 100% behind all teachers fighting for equal pay for equal work. One thought however lingers in my mind. What good is this pay equality when I cannot get a full time job? Any prospects I have are cover sick leave, maternity leave or if I am really lucky cover a career break. As controversial as this may sound if someone turned around to me tomorrow and offered me my own full time teaching hours at the lower pay rate I would cry tears of joy.

Some of the public have forever scrutinized teachers over our holidays and short working days. Now we face more scrutiny for wanting to be paid as equals. If these people knew that teachers are living in such poverty with no job prospects what would they say?

Teachers are not the only group in public service that this is affecting. This is happening to nurses and gardai also. People who have made a decision to enter the public service. We have chosen to serve others, to dedicate our lives to educating future generations, to heal and to protect. To help people and hopefully make the world a better place.

This year we are surrounded by memories of 1916. But what have we learnt in 100 years? Young people are still emigrating, leaving their home country for a better and more secure future across the seas. Unions are still striking for better working conditions and better pay. Families are once again living in poverty and homelessness is on the rise. I often wonder if the seven signatories could see Ireland today would they be proud? Would they be proud of a society that begrudges others for wanting better working conditions? Would they be proud of a country that has forgotten the younger generations?

I live in hope that one day we can achieve an Ireland described in the proclamation “the republic guarantees…equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation.”

 

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Personal Reflection: My Life as a Young Teacher in Ireland”

  1. Hi Heather, your latest post speaks for so many people. Teaching is a second career to me and like yourself I’m finding it hard to get any kind of permanent posting in one school – I’ve been moving from school to school for a few years now which is not easy when you have a mortgage and family to take care of. Hope you keep blogging and well done again on an excellent piece of writing.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment Niall. I hope it spoke to a lot of teachers out there. Teaching is something I am extremely passionate about as I am sure you are hopefully one day things will improve.

  2. Hi Heather,

    Read sections of this blog post on Independent.ie, it somewhat struck home with me due to my own background which I’ll share briefly below.

    I completed PGDE in 2009 after having gone back to College after working for a few years in the finance sector. I like you had always dreamed of being a teacher. Upon graduation I had my masters (in History, done before starting work), my honours degree, my A grade in teaching practice, glowing references and to be honest I got absolutely nothing for them through “official channels”. I visited about 150 schools over the next 12 months, dropping in CVs, meeting principals and trying to put my best foot forward. But nothing ever came of it, not even an interview.

    I had bills to pay so took a job working in a shop, it required none of my qualifications….In the evenings I started giving grinds and tutor classes for extra money. I started working in adult education and training, I then eventually started up a brick and mortar grind school and after school club. Over the period of 3 years I went from schlepping around schools to at least doing my own thing!

    In the end, having effectively 4 jobs took its tole on me and I realised to have any sort of security or future I’d have to get out of education. I interviewed and got a job back in industry back in 2013 and just like that I was back in the corporate world with teaching nothing more than a memory.

    3 years later and I have a fantastic job working in the corporate sector, I have a full life, am involved in sports coaching and am getting married to the best woman in the world next year!

    I guess what I’m saying is this, I once was 25, with all of your qualifications and all of your upset. Trust me when I tell you, you’re right to feel hard done by, you have been….Here’s what I learned though

    The world for the most part doesn’t have time for your feelings, nobody cares about your personal struggle, everyone has their own struggles that we don’t see.

    Feeling bad about your situation won’t change it, the only thing that will is hard work and grinding relentlessly.

    1. Talk to your principal, advertise yourself for next year, if there’s nothing there for you ask for a reference or potential introduction with another school
    2. Give grinds and tutor hours: This is solid money for good work and it really and truly makes a difference to students, particularly in the run up to exams (music students always need last minute help!)
    3. Link in with your former classmates to see if their schools have anything
    4. In the summer don’t be afraid to look for another job, this is a big step to take, but you’re clearly intelligent and qualified. Companies need those people and there are plenty of HR people that realise “she doesn’t have the experience, but she’s smart she can learn”.
    5. Above all KEEP MOVING: don’t sit still, that’ll lead to feeling despondent, which you can’t afford. All you can do is keep working and eventually something will break your way, you just have to put yourself in the spots to grab those chances when they come

    Anyway, best of luck! If you’d ever like to chat further drop me a mail!

    Paul

    1. Hi Paul, thank you for taking your time to read my blog. Much appreciated. Everyday I consider moving down a different career path and it is certainly an idea I have not given up on. Thank you again.

  3. I read your post on the Independent and i agree and sympathise with you. Mainly because I’m in the same position and have been for many years. One of the main criticisms your post attracted was that your qualifications are not strong, mainly that the subjects you chose were airy fairy. Thats bullshit. Mater Dei has a strong history of training teachers. I had 4 young teachers from Mater Dei when i was in school. Besides, i have a background in the covet STEMs degrees and its still tricky. Its the “you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience” loop. My advice to you is take this time, where you have freedom and qualifications and look abroad. Go travel to where you are valued as a person, and don’t feel ashamed for this phase of your life. Turn this in to an advantage. You have no real commitments financially (mortgage etc) and your qualifications are needed in other places. I taught in Asia for a year and it was fulfilling and worthwhile and it helped me see the lack of equality and strong negative attitudes of Irish society. I am now planning to leave Ireland for mainland Europe, where I can find a career based on my worth and where my hard work won’t be sniggered at. Thank you for writing the post, and keep your head up. Maybe it will all turn around here soon, but value yourself higher than 7 hours a week.

    -RL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s