It’s a given that teachers are superheroes but we’re only beginning to unmask their secret identities, writes Laura McInerney
Superman was a journalist. Batman a billionaire playboy. But did you know that Spiderman was a teacher? In 2001, J Michael Straczynski took on the authorship of the Marvel comic book series and made Peter Parker a teacher, who fought crime alongside his otherwise stable career. In a later series, when Parker gives up superheroics for good, he goes back to teaching.
In his autobiography, Straczynski explained why he gave Spiderman this double life: “It has become a cliché that the right teacher, in the right place, at the right moment, can change someone’s life. But […] everything I’ve ever achieved as a writer can all be traced back to the moment that two teachers entered my orbit.”
Comic-book heroes aside, teaching is a job that involves “double lives” in the real world. Teachers experience an “in-classroom life” and “out-of-classroom life”, and the two are often quite distinct.
How do we know? Well, there’s the 69 per cent – nearly seven in every ten teachers – who told Teacher Tapp on Christmas Day that they had not told anyone off all day because they were “very good at turning off their teacher role at home”.
Of course, they were among the 5,500 teachers who answered Teacher Tapp on Christmas Day, so their dual lives are perhaps less distinct than they think. On the upside, we know that only five per cent of teachers did any school-related activities on the festive date, and most of those who did were simply messaging their colleagues.
When it comes to exam marking, middle leaders are making the most cash
A second source of double identity recently revealed itself when we learned that 16 per cent of teachers – roughly one in six – earn additional money from a job outside the classroom, not including the standard activities of exam marking or making and selling resources. Around eight per cent of teachers do some private tutoring, but what about the vast majority of others?
We fired up the Tapp signal to find out, and teachers got in touch to remind us that many of the skills they teach are also useful for paying jobs. Music teachers play in bands or work for recording studios. PE teachers often coach sports teams. (We also had a science teacher write in to say they coached netball.) Arts teachers often make and sell items. All of which is an excellent reminder of what an incredibly diverse and talented profession teaching is!
When it comes to exam marking, it’s the middle leaders who are making the most cash, with 18 per cent of them taking on extra workload in the summer term. Given middle leaders consistently report they have the worst work-life balance, as they try to keep up simultaneously with high teaching loads and increasing administrative demands on their time, it seems odd that they voluntarily take on even more work. However, in secondary schools at least, they also tend to be the most excited by their subject, and may have been financially motivated to take on the job. No surprise then that they would also keep their eyes peeled for other opportunities.
However, middle leaders are not more strapped for cash than other teachers. One way social surveys ascertain respondents’ financial comfort is to ask them whether they could access either £1,000 or £5,000 without a bank loan in the case of a sudden emergency. The majority of teachers at all levels said they could access £1,000, but that reduced dramatically at the higher £5,000 point – with just 36 per cent of classroom teachers and 44 per cent of headteachers saying they could find the cash if needed. Note that middle leaders were in the middle – not as cash-strapped as classroom teachers, but not as well-off as heads – so their moonlighting for extra cash isn’t because they have less money to hand. Other factors are at play.
Maybe they just really like marking.
Or maybe they are secretly off fighting crime. After all, what would Spiderman have tapped for that question?