I’ve known this to be true for a while now. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a very short time when I believed that teaching wasn’t a career for me. It had been suggested that I’d make a good teacher and I ought to think about this as a career. I understood it was one of the most important jobs out there, but I wasn’t quite convinced it was for me, yet. A part of me feels that I had been conditioned to believe the false claim that, ‘those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ That took a lot of guts admitting that.
In the interim between school and university, I couldn’t quite see myself as a teacher, even though I knew I wanted to work with children. Perhaps this was immaturity, or an insecurity, or simply fear, because I knew it would be hard work. In hindsight, I think a lot of it was down to the fact that I lacked confidence in certain abilities. Academic abilities I thought you needed to become a good teacher. But maybe also it was because someone else suggested it? I hid behind the fact that I wanted to explore alternative options, that becoming a teacher was fairly predictable for someone like me. It was only after university that I was lucky enough to realise that teaching was for me. I began to focus on this career seriously. It appears I had done a full circle. The ironic thing is I genuinely thought what else could I actually do? So I got stuck in and started with my first job as a teaching assistant. I’ve never looked back. It’s safe to say, teaching is anything but predictable. The other ironic thing I came to realise is, the skills needed to teach are less about IQ and more about EQ.
Over the last year it has been clear that teachers (amongst many other professions) have gone above and beyond. It’s true, teachers have a responsibility, a duty of care but they really have done a miraculous job. I’m in awe of all my teaching friends and the teachers in my family. Proud doesn’t even begin to cover it. They managed to keep caring, keep teaching and keep inspiring in the most surreal and challenging times. Extraordinary really. It wasn’t long into the world of remote teaching, before we started to hear the murmurs of recognition and respect. It began slowly and then suddenly, it was all anyone could talk about. ‘Teaching is a lot harder than it looks.’ ‘I really take my hat off to these teachers, they have the patience of a saint.’ ‘I can’t even manage homeschooling one, how do they do this all day every day?’ I am thrilled that there are some positives to come out of this pandemic. I’m thrilled that parents and adults got a window into what we get up to, albeit not a true reflection. Homeschooling is nothing like the social interaction you have in the safety of your classroom. I am so pleased that we have been forced to stop and appreciate our teachers. Teaching really is one of the most important jobs out there, yet there still seems to be an ongoing crisis of teacher retention. We know it is a lot to do with feeling overworked and unpaid, and mostly undervalued. The sad truth is the pandemic won’t help those statistics in the slightest. At least the negative perception of being a teacher has changed and that choosing a teacher career is because of, not despite of your skills. Thanks to Covid, the harmful narrative no longer exists and the truth is out. Teachers really can do more.
As we head back into some normality I think we have a duty of care for our teachers. We need to continue to praise them, protect them and promote them. There is a lot of negative talk surrounding ‘closing the academic gap’ and playing ‘catch up’ which is going to do no favours for anyone. No one will win if we focus on academics in the short term. Parents, teachers and children are, and will be under enormous pressure. We know it’s been a rough ride. We know everyone’s mental health has suffered. We know everyone is going to be needing extra time, love and care. We need to pay close attention to the fragility of the situation. We need to look out for each other. Parents, teachers and children, especially our children. Of course, this sounds good on paper. I am fully aware how hard it is to manage this in reality. When you’re in it, you’re in it. The pressure is on. There are standards to maintain, expectations to meet and ongoing provision to provide. And time waits for no one.
If we really think about our children’s education and ask ourselves what’s it all about? What do we really want for our children? Then hopefully we can focus on what teaching is really all about. A holistic approach to a child’s progress and developments which sets them up for a healthy and fulfilled life. Children are at the centre of what we do, so much is about the duty of care, their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. Academic progress will come, however it will only come when children are physically and mentally healthy. We have to focus on reducing pressure. If we can reduce pressures, then there will be less stress, less angst and better physical and emotional and social health. If you need a little convincing, then take note that the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 report agrees with the emphasis on EQ not IQ. ‘Achievement at school also depends on a number of social and emotional skills.’ One of these being emotional stability. In some cases social and emotional skills are more important than cognitive skills in becoming responsible citizens. Healthy minds and hearts will lead to a healthy brain that is ready to learn.
As most teachers can vouch for, preparation is the key and almost half the battle to success. Preparation is going to be imperative over the next few months. Preparation for more of a holistic approach to children’s learning. This won’t be a time for the usual lessons, but for the more off script type of lessons. The lessons where you can be more flexible, more reactive. These will be the lessons that will need your patience, love, and honesty. The lessons that will rebuild confidence and self esteem. The kind of lessons that you can’t fully prepare for, but end up being the best time. Ultimately this will show the depth of what teachers can actually do. Yet another string to their bow. Some days will be better than others, but just being there, being present and turning up will mean your children know you care. That they can count on you. So really, what a time to be a teacher. A time when these children are going to need you more than ever. It’s a time to continue being their champions. So let’s focus on what we know to be true, ‘Those that know do. Those that understand, teach,’ and let’s keep caring, keep teaching and keep inspiring.
5 Ways To Appreciate Your Teacher
- A thank you note. A card, an email, or in person. If it’s on your mind then please share it. We don’t mind. So many people have good intentions, so many people will think about how lucky and how grateful they are that their child is in that class. Say it. We have no idea and a little thank you really does make all the difference. It can give you the motivation to keep going. It can also be nice to remind your children to thank your teachers at the end of each day.
- Send in a message with your child. Get your child to share what they love about school and why they love being in their class or thank them for teaching them something new. Ask them to think about their favourite activities. It’s actually really useful to know what activities the children like the most, so that they can continue doing them. Plus it’s a handy way to teach them about gratitude.
- Volunteer to help. This could be for anything. By making it known that you are keen to help with an event at school can actually be a great support. It could be hearing readers, joining a trip or helping with a bake sale. Brownie points there for sure. It always means so much to the school. Plus, children absolutely love it.
- Think about resources. If you are having a clear out, or getting rid of something please check whether your school could make use of it. Most teachers have a very low budget and any chance to reuse items will benefit the children. It doesn’t have to be fancy. One of the best things we were donated was some astro turf after someone had finished a project. You’d be surprise at what you can do with your ’rubbish.’
- Gifts. There I said it. Wine, flowers, candles & chocolates. Even homemade gifts. They really do go down well. They are not a form of bribery (although it certainly does help).