I try to keep a very clear dividing line between my professional and private life, and that’s why I’ve rarely, if ever, spoken about my professional life on this website, which is very much a personal blog. In these times when a small child jumped up when interviewing potential employees via Microsoft teams, not only is the boundary between work and private life increasingly blurred, there has also been so much reporting about teachers recently that I did can’t resist to add my two cents worth. Not because I want to trumpet this or that political point of view or to advocate whether it is right or not to continue opening schools under the current circumstances, but because I have some theories about teachers and why we often seem to be a fair game of criticism be like other professions don’t.
The thing is, they think they know us. And by “you” I mean “everyone”.
Everyone thinks they know us. Everyone knows what teachers do, right? We all went to school. Some of us loved it, some of us hated it, but whoever we were, whether we were the hardworking kid who was in the lead in everything, or smoked behind the bike shed all year round, at some point we all sat together Desk, in a classroom, with a teacher in front of us. And not only that, we did it too every day, for years.
What other profession can claim to be so well known to such a large percentage of the population? The people who pick up their trash bins stop by once a week, probably while you are at work. The policeman is only known to those who are often on the wrong side. For most of us, even the NHS employees who we dutifully clap every week are only occasional hospital visits or appointments with the family doctor.
But we teachers, we are different. Good or bad, we are the ones everyone can have an opinion on because everyone is an expert in what we do all day. Why? Because we were all there five, ten, thirty or fifty years ago, we all watched teachers spend their day.
And what do we do all day? It’s easy, isn’t it? We teach lessons, and to be honest, how you feel about it now probably depends largely on how your memory remembers the feelings you had at the time you were in those lessons. Is it easy to give lessons? Well, it seemed a lot easier then to be a student in them. But then you were a child at that time, with the thoughts and feelings of a child and the selective memories of an adult reminding you of events that may have happened in the distant past.
We teachers are the ones who tormented them with memories for some daily – probably unintentionally, but it still felt like a rebuke – that they weren’t the smart kid. The one who arrested her in 1992 when it wasn’t her fault. The one who threw that rubber on them in 1970 (I heard that this happened earlier, but who really knows? I wasn’t there). We are the ones who have the remaining hostility to the profession due to the childhood trauma of an entire population. It always seems the bad thing we remember. Even I, someone who loved school so much that it returned and stayed there as an adult, remember the stories more vividly than the heaps of praise I received.
But even if you loved school and your teachers inspired you, changed your life, and made you feel respected, cared for, and important, chances are that you still thought that the teacher spent most of the time has to make contacts in the staff room that you were not allowed in and that spent more time on vacation than ever before. I have family members who said the shock that I wouldn’t turn off at 3:30 p.m. and head home to spend a relaxing evening with Netflix because teachers don’t have to do homework, do I? This is only for the students.
What people forget is when they don’t Really Do you know one of us very well, and by that I mean that you are one of us (we are numerous) or have a close family member or a close partner who can experience our daily life in and outside of school up close. They only really see us through the eyes of the child they were when they last sat at this desk in front of us.
Friends of mine who are not teachers are sure that they know what I am doing. Unlike some of the more offensive parts of the British media, they don’t think I’m lazy or that I only care about my long vacations and hell with my students, but they think they know what I’m doing. I seem to be working hard to tag and plan lessons, and that’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole truth. After fourteen years in the job, I now spend more time on administrative tasks and meetings with colleagues, parents and other professionals than on planning and marking. In the evening, in addition to my usual duties, I also do a postgraduate course related to my special role in school. I am also currently trying to do all this, like many other teachers in the current climate, while I am a single parent to a five year old who, I would add, has not done homeschooling, a fact that I am shamefully forced to give up two weeks from telling his teacher to call him to check that he was fine, that he was being looked after and hadn’t completely lost the plot because I was too busy doing my own full-time teaching job for my own students take care of.
Now my experience is only one of thousands and I cannot speak for all teachers. I do not claim to know whether my workload is greater or less than that in other professions because I only know the apprenticeship. I also believe that teaching, because it is a calling for many in its ranks, is suitable for a certain perfectionism. There is a culture that I have seen of brilliant teachers working their way into the ground because we can never do too much for the students and being less than perfect means letting down those whose future is up to us depends. This is an attitude that I have never found helpful to teachers or their students, but I understand how this can be done, and I also understand that people outside the profession can perceive it as individuals or collectively “Whingeing. ” Never more than when those who are listening are still convinced that we leave every day at 3.30 p.m. and sunbathe on the beach for six weeks every summer.
So my last message is: I have nothing to say to the Daily Mail. That would require a completely different blog post. But I want to tell everyone else. You don’t really know teachers. If you are not one or live with one, you probably don’t know exactly what we do all day, and that’s fine. I have a vague idea of what it could be like to be a garbage collector, nurse, or investment banker (OK, maybe not the latter. What are they doing?), But it’s not the whole story and I’m not going to be on Twitter beat up because they forgot to empty my trash can or gave me an injection that hurt or caused the entire banking system to crash. I’m just asking you to get over this imprisonment, remember that you were only nine years old at the time, and frankly, quite emotionally immature, and let us do our job, OK?
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