Work is a Four-Letter Word


Thought I’d begin my rant on the subject with this little film. It’s only a few minutes long but makes its point so eloquently I almost don’t want to add anything else.

In a way, my job is done. So I’ve just fired myself.

Ha, that’s better! The burden of having to fulminate against such an obvious target was beginning to weigh heavy. Who doesn’t curse their job several times a day? And who needs an old codger like me, long-since retired from the wearisome world of work, to kick against the pricks he no longer has to suffer?

Don’t get me wrong. I liked teaching … whenever I had the time and energy to do it properly. Teaching is simple. You choose a topic that interests and perhaps even excites you, organise the lesson carefully (leaving as little to chance as possible while making sure you can take advantage of any unexpected developments) and then engage with the students proactively to stimulate an active response which keeps the inquiry going into future lessons and down avenues where you will learn as much as they do.

Most of your energy should go into three tasks: prepare, teach, mark. Instead you are dragged into a hundred and one side-tracks devised by people who are not practising teachers yet think they know better than dedicated professionals what needs to be done. And on top of all this unnecessary office work you have to try and keep the kids on task. Result: an exhausted profession and a big recruitment problem.

Teachers in the UK aren’t badly paid but a job that takes up so much of your time should be rewarding in every way. Teaching should be the best job in the world. Nothing demoralises you more quickly than realising that for no fault of your own you’re not really getting to grips with what needs to be done. And meaningless work is soul-destroying, as the cartoon so clearly demonstrates.

Hmm, thought I’d sacked myself …


Images: and

22 thoughts on “Work is a Four-Letter Word

  1. That was superb. It was both amusing and made a number of thought provoking points.
    I remember work well. It’s a type of prostitution (even if you enjoy it).


    1. I’m really glad you liked it, Opher. I value your positive comments to all my posts but this is the theme on which I most eagerly await your response. I would like to make a personal recommendation and unashamed plug to all past, present and future teachers … indeed, to anyone interested in education … oh heck, to everyone! Opher is a prolific author and the book about his experiences as a high-school teacher and headmaster is like no other book on education I have ever read. Honest, characterful, funny, revealing, moving and often inspiring. Click on the following link to the Amazon page which includes several reviews including mine.

      Thanks for the re-blog, Opher, and let’s all be thankful for teachers like you.

      As for work, well, I love it … I can sit and watch it all day.



    1. It manages to be simultaneously funny and horrifying – true gallows humour! Laugh, I nearly died! Without my sense of humour, I wouldn’t have lasted a day in the classroom. Kids are best treated as fellow prisoners …


    1. Thank you, Cathum, don’t know about you but artistry like that leaves me breathless with admiration and more than a touch of envy. Actually I’ve had to re-employ myself because the next post is a kind of continuation. I’ll try and make it a bit more upbeat but the wounds are still surprisingly raw …


        1. Funny you should ask that … writing this post seemed to trigger a very strange dream that night. Obviously something my mind needed to review … so perhaps a process is working itself out in there. Think I’ll start my next post with the dream …


  2. Goooo Dave!
    In tight teaching situations, I often wear,
    with great joy, I might add,
    a silver pendant,
    like a small fancy dog-tag,
    given me by a former student of mine, now a teacher:
    it is engraved “illegitimi non carborundum”- don’t let the bastards wear you down.
    (Yes, i know. I also have the so-called “great latin”, but I still find it funny.)


    1. Funny and so true. I remember Latin. One time our Latin teacher, known affectionally as Baldy, went mental because the class was tittering about the phrase ‘ad silvam festinamus’ … though some had to have it explained to them, as I recall. We took pleasure in simple things in them days …

      And, yes, it is still worth it.



  3. I laughed through it Dave, in a sort of glad my life didn’t resemble it. For the most part, my job was to do what I wanted to do and persuade people to pay me. 🙂 I only got in trouble when I tried to conform to other people’s concept of work. I did teach once upon a time, in the Peace Corps. Then I tried it when I returned and decided it wasn’t for me. Peggy, her mother, and my daughter are/were all teachers. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds great, Curt! You describe a way of working that I believe all jobs should have, where employees are autonomous and independent and able to contribute more fully. Those were the things that attracted me to teaching – once upon a time you were king in your classroom and could be creative – but by the end of my career things had changed into more the kind of Kafkaesque world the film catches so well. There was a lack of trust and faith in human nature – but perhaps I’m just an idealist lamenting that we’re not in the 1960s! Wonder what the teachers in your family think …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Here, an awful lot depends upon the principal, Dave. Peggy, I like to believe was a very good one. Her teaches and the community certainly felt she was. When I walked on campus with her, she would be overwhelmed with knee hugs from the kids. 🙂 And her school went from one of the lowest scoring in the district when she started to one of the highest when she left. Tasha, our daughter, has been lucky in having good principals for the most part. She has always seemed to be respected and given considerable freedom. –Curt


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