Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teachers leave them kids alone...

I’m a teacher. Sometimes that feels like a hard admission to make, since teachers seem to be universally reviled by the British press. Only today, Boris Johnson links bad schools to rioting. It doesn’t seem to be long before teachers will be blamed for the current economic situation (probably because we didn’t teach maths properly!)
For the last ten years, it seems that the teaching profession has been systematically abused by government and media agencies. Schools have been criticised for not being good enough whilst at the same time examination results have improved...but that’s been explained by exams becoming easier. Literacy and numeracy are quite consistently rated as not good enough with no headline space for the number of children in schools who speak English as a second language and whose only contact with English is through school. Meanwhile the current government has scrapped the investment in school buildings that started under Labour, so if children are being educated in damp and cold and overcrowded spaces, then that’s unlikely to change in the near future...but that doesn’t matter does it? Teachers and children working in decrepit buildings aren’t as headline grabbing as teachers causing riots!
Unfortunately, many people seem easily convinced by the media and government propaganda, believing that teachers have an easy life, work short hours and deserve the cynicism heaped upon them. Many people remember the dark sarcasm of their own classrooms and will never forgive their teachers for the suffering they caused.
So, let’s just look at the day in the life of an ordinary teacher:
Although school starts at 9a.m for most children, teachers will be in school at least half an hour before, photocopying, preparing materials, marking and responding to emails.
In the course of a school day, a teacher will come into contact with between 100 and 150 children.
Each class of children will be unique. Some children will work quietly and quickly, some will need plenty of additional support. Some will behave, others will not.
Can I just say it again....most teachers come into contact with 150 children every day.

150 children every day

The majority are lovely, some aren’t, but on any given day, 150 children are not going to be EASY.

On any given day, 150 children are not going to be PASSIVE (nor would you want them to be)

On any given day 150 children are not 150 adults following instructions

150 children will ask questions, will need help, will complain, and will shout (with excitement or frustration) will laugh, sigh, cry (sometimes), will hit out in anger, and will have a bad day.

150 children will swing on chairs, lose their books, forget their equipment, suffer bereavement, be ill, be happy, be unhappy, have fallen out with their friend...will love you or hate you...

150 kids will not let you, EVER, lose your focus because the moment your focus slips, someone is crying or shouting and you have a riot on your the WHOLE of your day is spent on maximum alert, monitoring every nuance and comment in the classroom- every potential conflict or joy.

And it’s your job, every day, to make sure that they are o.k. to make sure that they learn, to make sure that they can walk into the world with confidence, to make sure that they can pass an exam that will possibly have an impact on the rest of their lives...and you probably spend at least some of your summer getting ready for the new year ahead, planning and reading and resting your brain for a while.

As well as the 150 children, the teacher may also come into contact with their own ‘tutor group’; the teacher will closely monitor the tutor group students’ needs, socially, educationally, personally. It is the tutor’s concern if children in their group are under performing, unhappy or celebrating their birthday!

The teachers will also need to work together to ensure that they are aware of difficulties or problems, marking criteria, new government strategies and if there are biscuits in the staff room.
The teacher will make sure that the children have the knowledge and skills to pass exams, as well as the knowledge and skills to function in society. We try and make sure that the students we come into contact with every day are pleasant, can listen, can co-operate and treat each other with respect.

Lunch times are often spent helping students with work, offering lunch time clubs, spending time supervising the students on their lunch break, marking, catching up with e mails and planning.

More lessons after lunch

Schools finish at varying times, but most teachers will do some sort of work after school, either at home or at school. This may mean meeting with parents, planning, preparing the lessons, writing reports, marking or reading the new exam criteria to make sure everything is covered. know, if you worked with 150 young people every day, trying to help them to learn, to pass exams and to behave appropriately for the society they will eventually be a functioning part of, despite their indifference, or antagonism or social disadvantages, then perhaps you too would appreciate a week off every now and is exhausting.

And sometimes, you know that the children you teach will find it very difficult to get a job, that the economic climate will be unfavourable for them, that their family will not or cannot pay for the cost of university.

And you hope that any small thing that you can do with those children will help them to cope with the world they are about to travel into.

And you sometimes spend your evenings and your holidays helping those children to find work, suggesting voluntary arrangements that may help, giving advice, researching every possible avenue to help a child who gets help from nowhere else.

And sometimes you know that the students you teach have no hope that their future will be filled with learning. That school will be forever, the best part of their life because after school there's the dark future of unemplyoment and nothing to do.

And you’re probably not paid very much...but it’s a lot of fun

And exhausting

And you love it...because the children that demand so much and need a constant focus are also the warmest, most wonderful and enthusiastic and funny people that you know.

They are full of cynicism and greed for knowledge.

They love you and hate the system or they hate you as part of the system.

They love the time you give them and love or hate the books you make them read!

They make you laugh probably every day with their wry observations of life. They are the wisest and most naive people you know and you hope and fear for them in equal measure.

They thank you for their lessons and sometimes write down things that make you cry.

They are the future...

It’s just a shame that the British public seem to think, after every headline and every bit of bad journalism, that you do an easy job and you do it badly.

Thanks Boris, I hope that every single London teacher refuses to vote for you in the next mayoral election.

1 comment:

  1. Sian I salute you! Good teachers are just treasures. Teaching the curriculum is just a part of what you do and it's all the other 'stuff' that is equally important and makes your students who they become.
    The slogan that my local Education Authority uses on its recruitment advert is "Make a difference. Teach." Sort of sums it up really...
    I couldn't do it and I'm thankful to those who do.
    PS Enjoy the Easter holiays!


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