They’re not the only public service group we should rate more highly, but they are close to my heart and they deserve more from society than they get – and not just money.
Think about how we feel as parents on the last day of the holidays when we know we’re handing our little darlings to their school to look after for five daytimes a week – now consider why every Friday at 4pm is such a blessed relief for teachers! They are surrogate parents, social workers, policemen & women, nurses, psychologists, mind readers, baby sitters and much more yet we complain about teachers more than most other professions; why is that? Even as a teacher myself I’ve been known to criticise Jake’s teacher when I hear something he’s done at school I don’t agree with. Is it because we all think we can do it as a job – how hard can it be?
I admit that before I took to the classroom I had a fairly low opinion of many teachers and their constant moaning (I’ll return to that thought later). I mean look at them they start later than the rest of us, finish earlier and get thirteen weeks off a year for goodness sake – what’s wrong with them. And then you enter the lion’s den yourself and very quickly you see the job for what it is. The constant juggling of up to thirty kids at a time ensuring you cater to each and every one of them whilst trying to teach them at the same time sounds impossible when you stand back to consider it. I think of our two at home and how unruly they can be – multiply that up to a class full and you have to wonder what daftie would volunteer to go into that arena in the first place.
The majority of teachers that I know are great people who went into the job because they love their subjects and want to pass on that knowledge to the next generation. Many were influenced by their own teachers who stand out in their minds and are role models for them in the position. The one thing I can honestly say is that in no other job I’ve experienced have I seen people work so hard yet still feel like they are standing still or going backwards. One of the worst issues is the constant tinkering with the education systems by successive governments both north and south of the border – the job is difficult enough without numerous changes every year to recycle ideas that were discarded twenty years ago because they didn’t work – it’s a veritable tragic roundabout.
Why is it as teachers you feel ashamed or worried to say you are a teacher when meeting new people or when in a taxi? I’ll tell you why because everyone is willing to tell you what you are doing wrong even though they don’t know you, your abilities and your job. It goes back to that “how difficult can it be” idea that people have – from first hand experience for nearly a decade I can tell you it is tough. If it doesn’t look tough that’s because the teacher is so good at their job they can add “relaxed exterior” to their multi-tasking portfolio.
However as a group they (I would say we but I’m almost out of this bracket now working in the college) complain too much and do themselves and the career a disservice in the way they view and relate it to others. Pay is a big thing in this area. I think largely teachers get a decent wage – it’s above the national average level and in most areas of the UK it is a great wage in comparison to others around it. Where teachers often feel they are being short-changed is in the amount of work they take home with them and do in their own time. Sadly this is very true but no one else sees that they only think about the hours you are actually in the building. There is an unspoken expectation that you have to work over 50/60 hours a week instead of the contracted 35 to do the job well, and that’s not fair – but banging on about it and striking is not the answer in my opinion. Instead, ironically, educating the public about what actually goes on to allow their child to pass a course should be more transparent so there is a better understanding of the situation. This might also stop the serial complainers who contact schools weekly to moan about teachers and how they are not doing enough to help their child. Perspective is needed.
We are over-protective of our kids and that’s understandable that we want the best for them, but too often we fail to trust the experts who are trained to do the job. Not only do we expect to get our kids through school so they leave with flying colours we expect them to do this with constantly slashed budgets, severely under-resourced departments and buildings, a lack of real support from Governments and a minority of kids who just don’t fit into the current system but have no alternative. From the work load of CfE to the on-going covering of backs through a chain of paperwork to ensure you have followed procedures in case anyone questions your judgement there is a huge expectation on the teacher but no real credit given when – against all odds – come out the other side successful. And I don’t understand why we see teachers in this light.
Yes there are a few bad apples in the profession, but that’s true of any job area and like any other career we need to root them out and make it the best we can. Constantly berating teachers will not improve things – support from parents will; support from the management structures in the schools will; support from both local and national authorities will. Until there is a more positive view in the public’s eye of the job I fear it will continue to get worse and more talented professionals will look elsewhere for the opportunities. In the last few years with early retirements and voluntary severance packages the profession has lost so many great and knowledgeable teachers and the younger staff can only learn so much from each other.
Teaching is the greatest job you will ever do, but also the hardest as you are fighting against expectations from all areas of society that anyone would struggle to match up to.