Is there something in the air? Is a post-Olympic slump that’s brought out the Teacher Bashing Season? Or were we merely beyond the radar for the summer holiday – which is simply too long, as all right thinking people know.
My favourite Michael – Sir ‘I am Clint Eastwood Wilshaw’ has once again shown his distaste for the profession he is meant to represent. We should all work longer days to get pay rises and furthermore Ofsted must enforce this.
The truth is, for as long as I’ve been teaching, some staff have always left on the bell but a great many others left later, or what most did was choose the time and place of their non-contact teaching time. To pretend teachers don’t work out of school hours is a nonsense: you can’t do the job effectively if you don’t.
For years I lived and worked in the tropics. School finished at 2:30 and yes, on several days we were out the gate by 2:45, down to the beach to go fishing or walk the dog. The sun was gone by seven, the evenings cooler and I did my preparation and marking then. Actually I spent hundreds of Fridays sitting on a beach at Drimmie Heads marking year 11 essays while my beloved fished. Ah, the difference between being and English teacher and a Maths teacher!
These days I am at school around 7:30 and leave around 6 most evenings. This weekend I immured in numbers as I ‘crunch data’ and sort out my departments KS4 Schemes of Work for another meeting. I am working this weekend, Michael, because my week is too crowded with sudden demands up the food-chain; the manic ‘I want this yesterday’ from someone who seems to be ticking boxes.
Is that what teaching is about – ticking boxes? Is that what Wilshaw has – a list of provocative statements he wishes to hurl into the public domain to undermine the teaching profession?
Here are some truths, based on nearly 30 years of doing this sodding job, in no particular order.
1. Teaching is demanding work; children drain your energy and you need time and space to recover, to be able to think and revitalize. In Shanghai – where students do exceptionally well – teachers teach less hours because the powers that be want them to have time to think and plan imaginatively, effectively.
2. Some teachers are inefficient and need to work all hours to do what others can do in half the time.
3. Some teachers work better at home, prefer to work at home; some prefer to have everything done at school and separate their life from work
4. You need all sorts of people in a school – we have all sorts of kiddies, they need a variety of adults to interact with – we’re not ‘Stepford Wives’ and we shouldn’t be!
5. Most people I know care enormously about their students, they invariably go the extra mile.
6. There are more good teachers than bad, and I do agree with the former Ofsted head, the odd limited teacher is not the end of the world for a student
7. Learning goes on outside of school, longer hours at school does not mean better educated
8. University is not the holy grail of education – decent, thinking human beings who can look after themselves and contribute to society should be the aim.
9. You don’t have to examine and test everything
10. Character is as important as results
11. Most adults would not choose to spend their day in a room with 30 teenagers: most adults can’t bear to be near more than 6 teenagers at a time – well 3 really, and only their own, on a good day
12. The two counties in the world with the biggest social mobility issues are the UK and the USA and they examine and test the students to death and blame teachers for it all
13. Teachers need to be valued
14. One size does not fit all
15. There are too many egos in British education and schools
16. All new principals/head-teachers think they know the way, the truth and the light
17. Good teachers are offended by the likes of Wilshaw because of his blanket generalizations; poor teachers don’t care what he says
18. We all deserve a decent life-work balance; the kiddies want people who are real, who know about life and can guide them as well as teach them.
19. Most of us remember an inspirational or caring teacher that made a difference to us
20. Relationships are what matter most in a school
A final note: in the paper last week there was a small column about the amount of respect the public had for various professions in the community. Doctors and nurses were at the top, followed by teachers on around 70%. At the bottom, the very bottom, were politicians on 1%.
Remember that the next time Gove and Wilshaw (who is just a politician these days – ‘look at me, look at me’) make a pronouncement about education. (Images courtesy Google Images)