Why I Chose Not to Teach

Teaching is a lot harder than it looks.


Ben Shelley

3 years ago | 4 min read

Back in 2010, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Dabblings in the past had kept my toes dipped into the teaching waters but beyond wading in at the shallow end I had never taken that first dive off of the tallest board.

University had ended. The so-called easy years were gone and whilst I had not managed to lose my virginity, a degree now sat in my qualification bank but what to do with it? Attempt to send it back and get a refund? Not a chance and even then, it would have been an all-around waste of time and effort.

The problem was that I needed money. I had committed to staying on in my flat for another year and therefore, needing funding, lest my Grandparents be asked to step in and pay the bill.

With this in mind and with no other direction opening up, I applied for a secondary school PGCE in order to be able to teach. It wasn’t necessarily going to tick all the boxes but as I’d been curious before, I thought, how hard could it be?

Being Accepted Onto a PGCE

Given the lateness of my application, the number of subjects remaining to teach that would accept me were rather thin on the ground. English (my first choice) was full and therefore, the only other subject that could offer me a place was information technology. A subject that I know a little about but would have had to sharpen my game up to the next level, to be successful at, lest the scenario of being bested by a spotty teenager in class could have occurred.

From application to interview took only a few weeks. I believe that they were rather desperate and this is why I received such a quick response. It is a perk of going through clearing. Rather than waiting months and months, you only need to wait weeks as requirements have been lowered due to the timeframe and need to fill the places. This is what happened for me, application to interview in less than a month.

I remember that this was not the end of it. I was invited into a day-long session where all the other new recruits would meet for the first time and we would be hit with another challenge, that being work experience.

The leader said that he would organise it for each of us at a local school, in order for us to get ready for the big world of teaching. Harmless enough but then again, everything is an assessment under the surface.

Work Experience

My prayers were not answered and I was placed at the local school. You know the one I’m thinking of here, the one with the bad reputation and the children that send a shiver down your spine.

I was placed here for a few days to observe and learn.

What I learned here lasted a lifetime. Children scare me. Having a class of 30+ staring back at you looking for answers whilst you sweat slowly and steadily, wondering how teachers do this day in, day out, filled me with dread.

Following on from my stint in the school I was sent back to speak with the course leader and at that moment he looked at me. One of those piercing looks that lets you know that they know.

They know what you are thinking, which speaks directly to you and saves time. Rather than having a lengthy chat, we both agreed that it was not the career direction for me, at least back then.

It Takes a Certain Character

My respect for teachers was high and now it is astronomical.

Meeting my wife has provided me with a newfound respect for teachers, which is said in the context of additional love and admiration. I always had respect for them but meeting my wife added a new level to my threshold.

Teachers work astronomical hours each week.

They work at school, on the train home and into the early hours of the morning. They receive 13 weeks’ holiday each year but not every one of these weeks is spent relaxing. Around half of these will be spent preparing and marking for the next term, which leaves six and a half weeks, which is the same amount of holiday that I receive.

With the lack of holiday and pay incentives, it takes a certain type of character to become a teacher. To enter into a profession with reducing respect each year and increasing expectations is tough and yet they do, hundreds of thousands of people do it every year in order to educate the next generation.

Not a Chance

There is not a chance that right now, I would change career and become a teacher. Why?

  • Long hours
  • No overtime
  • Reducing respect from parents
  • Increased demand
  • Little in the way of social life
  • Christmas parties not paid for
  • Tea and coffee not paid for.

Whilst two of those in the list I could live without, the overall message is clear, teachers deserve a lot more and society needs to provide it to them. They should have unconditional respect.

Teachers should be offered overtime, flexibility or at least something, as there is little to tempt people to the profession these days.

I always feel that deep down, I would like to become a teacher one day, but not today. The respect is not there and I want to be able to come home and spend time with my wife, not see her from a distance.

The Primary Thought

I chose not to teach because I was not ready. The children scared me and I would have been a liability. The confidence was not within in order to teach those minds in front of me, I would have let them down and that would not have been fair on anyone.

I am glad that I completed that work experience in the school as it helped me to say no and from there, I found my calling. I have kept abreast of industry updates and through my wife, I can see the changes day to day, what she goes through and what is lacking from teaching.

The pandemic changed so many industries, providing them with the flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time and teachers were offered a glimpse of respect during the first lockdown.

From that point, the paradigm was reset and the world went back to the way it was and it was for this reason that I choose not to teach but to respect.


Created by

Ben Shelley

#husband #marketer #writer #runner #reader #travel







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