Teaching is stuck in a quagmire of self-doubt and navel-gazing.
As a profession it resides in a peculiar position – its one of the few for which the vast majority has had extensive experience. As such everybody has an opinion on education. The good, the bad, where it gets it right and where teachers get it wrong. An industry riddled with pay disputes and a declining perception within society houses within its own ranks a legion of battered and forlorn individuals who remain perpetually frustrated about the careerpath they find themselves on. From the aforementioned issue of pay to the unruly child in the class to the scheming principal/library teacher/fellow grade one colleague, there can seem no end to the complaints-list of a teacher.
In and of itself, this is not a terrible thing. For most people, their job is a place they spend much of their time wishing to be somewhere else. However complaining openly on social media and endlessly in staff rooms around the country serves only to damage the perception of the profession within ranks and hold back claims for respect from outside.
Whilst much of what is discussed here relates mainly to informal conversation within the walls of a school, a cursory look over the internet (god forbid) reveals a troubling attitude of martyrdom and self-depravity that I see as negative aspects of this by and large noble profession.
I’m certainly not saying that teacher’s should not stand for better recognition, respect within the community and pay as they deem appropriate. However, I fear too many refuse to fight that battle from a position of strength. Those within the profession are often the first to denigrate the job – criticizing those who belittle teachers one moment before backhanding their line of work/place of work/colleague the next.
By all means, teachers should fight and fight hard for dignity and whatever workplace adjustments necessary to get the best outcomes for the children we teach. It is, you could argue, a teacher’s responsibility to work to this very end. I simply don’t believe the majority of teachers have the knowledge to adequately pave that path on their own and fear the thoughtless complaining does more to erode the scaffold we’re trying to erect.
Though I, like many, have inklings as to how best to support and build the industry, I’m not in the know of the ins and outs of what needs to be done to achieve the goal. Whether it be policy production or a school’s perception in the wider community, I simply could not adequately argue the course we should take and it’s rare to come across those who do. Those who argue for better pay would find it difficult I presume to identify an appropriate payment structure let alone decipher where the extra money required would come from.
Regardless, if a teacher is able to coherently form a considered, researched and articulate vision for teaching and a clear path for enhanced reputation they should take the platform to do so wherever they can claw for airspace. It’d be loathsome and irresponsible to suggest that teachers be silenced from the debate and issues for which they are some of the most integral parts.
What I suggest, rather, is that each teacher be acutely aware of their role in the profession. Daily gripes about pay/parents/principals/policy/the timetable/reporting/the children distract too many from their number one task. I fear too many teachers share the same concerns about teaching as those of the outside and subsequently spend too long considering their appraisals – leading to an unimpressive situation where the professionals lower themselves to the opinions of the bystanders. Teachers too often lose faith and trust in their abilities, corroded by the perceived stares into their fishbowl – like jobs.
The reality is that no one teaching is going to be able to change the malaise of the perceptions of teaching or the farce of the policymakers over night. A facebook whinge or a staffroom complaint-athon achieves the opposite of where we want our road to lead us. Complaining to the public only lowers perceptions further whilst the barrage directed toward those in the trenches alongside us only crumbles the foundations from within.
Teachers must ensure they take pride in their endeavors and be mindful of the language used when discussing them. Of course, letting off steam is necessary for everyone – but not in a manner that degrades a career. Maintaining respect and passion for the minds we help shape and the ways we do it is paramount. Understand that it has taken much love, hard work and determination to step into the shoes of a teacher and that your work is as important as any other.
Be responsible for building the pillars and foundations from within. Be informed about issues related to teaching and be willing to share your expertise with your peers. Each positive remark to a colleague, thought-provoking conversation over lunch or initiative that improves the functioning of your school makes our profession stronger and builds our resilience. When genuine problems in the industry arise, take a considered, educated position and deliver it clearly where and to whom you see appropriate to achieve the greatest result.
Overall, try to remember to love the job you do and have respect in yourself to recognize that you are a vital member of this challenging, beautiful and yes, at times, frustrating career.
And would you look at that, yet another sizable whinge from a teacher.