Tuesday 9 August 2016
There’s potential for this post to wind up being snarky. I can’t deny that, particularly as the post revolves around my opinion about a certain profession. Before I get stuck into it, it’s apt to mention that I don’t often write posts about my job, nor do I like telling people what I do for a job. I like to avoid writing and speaking too much about the job because people make snippy comments about it. They offer opinions on what we can do better, how sh!t we’re currently doing, how easy it is to do the job, and how it’s a slacker’s job because ‘you get so many holidays. It must be nice to have all that time off over summer. Let’s face it, you don’t really do very much at all.’
Oh, how those words stick. How they get on our nerves. How we have to bite back the snarky replies to the b!tchy comments. How we really want to say to you ‘If you’re such a genius, why the f*#k don’t you work in the profession?’ I’m talking about teaching.
Every day, every single day since I graduated from university with an Arts degree in Drama teaching, and a Bachelor of Education in Secondary Drama teaching, I’ve have to fend off the negative comments and naysayers who insist on disparaging the teaching profession. Well, let me tell you something – teaching is a bit like being part of a family: the only people allowed to pay out on your family is you. Anyone else disrespects your family and you go after them like a rabid dog. Now, technically speaking, as an educator with a fully paid up membership to the professional body aligned with education, I’m not allowed to pay out on the profession or the people involved with it if I want to stay registered. Luckily for me, that’s not at all what I intended to write this post about. Phew!
I will reiterate a previous remark though: if everyone could do it, they would.
There’s an old adage that goes something like ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. I call bullsh!t on that adage. Think about it just for a minute. How the hell do you expect to learn to do the things you want if not for someone teaching you? The adage doesn’t make sense. Sure, there are probably washed up, burnt out artists or actors who are teachers. Sure, there are likely to be people who couldn’t make it in an industry who now teach others the ins and outs of that field. However, don’t throw that adage at me and expect that I’ll placidly sit by and let you disrespect me or the people who educated me.
As with any other profession, there are good and bad teachers. Note the beginning of that sentence: As with any other profession. Good cops, bad cops. Proficient doctors, negligent doctors. Helpful sales assistants, useless sales assistants. I could go on, but I’m confident that you can follow my line of thought. It is naïve to believe that all teachers are lazy, uneducated, bad at their jobs because of the actions, or rather inaction, of a few who are.
As I was discussing with a colleague last week, teachers have been burdened and shackled by the changing trends in education. Trends that moved us away from a syllabus and curriculum based way of teaching, to a skills based way of teaching, back to a curriculum heavy theory of education. How we are required to perform is based on what society, and what business, wants us to do. If big business wants more skilled labour, education gets shoved towards churning out apprentice worthy students. If society wants to place value on intellect and academia, then education is shoved in that direction. Educators are expected to be on top of the latest educational theory, putting it into practise, and whipping out genius students left, right, and centre.
Before you decide to pay out on a teacher, remember that there are things that they are required by ‘the powers that be’ to ensure that any student in their class is being exposed to. There are set amounts of time per week that must be dedicated to literacy and numeracy, a set amount of time devoted to science, to technology and enterprise, to health, to social studies, civics, the arts. There’s a lot, a lot of subject matter that we must get through before the end of the year.
On top of the curriculum, we also look after your kids for six hours a day. We are not only teachers and educators, but we’re also expected to be psychologists, counsellors, lawyers, doctors, nurses, police, mediators, guardians, disciplinarians, experts, scientists, artists, carers. The list goes on. We’re not just teachers. Not to mention the fact that we attend parent-teacher interviews, are often abused and/or assaulted by both students and their parents. Just like you as parents, we have a lot that we’re expected to deal with. Believe me when I tell you that just like every other profession, the majority of us bust our humps on a daily basis to do the best that we can do.
And for a lot of teachers, busting our humps every day in the way that we do means that we burn out pretty quickly. I remember a lecturer at university saying that Drama teachers, for example, have about a five year burn out rate. In other words, after about five years, most Drama teachers are burnt out and operating on autopilot or looking for another job. For the record, I lasted about six years.
Touching briefly on the constant comment about how many holidays we get, I have only this to say: the majority of teachers I know take their work home with them. They haul their marking home. They write reports at home when they could, and should, be spending time with their own families and friends. They haul home with them the psychological, emotional, and medical well-being of the kids in their charge. I don’t know of any teacher who doesn’t go home at the end of a day not sparing a thought for the kids in their class who might be struggling emotionally or psychologically, or the kids who have been sick for a few days or longer. Sometimes that stuff keeps us up at night as we try to solve the problems of the kids in our classes, but when you really think about it, it’s not up to the teachers to solve these problems. It’s up to the parents, the doctors, the psychologists and counsellors, and that’s often done in conjunction with the school and the teachers. But it’s not the sole responsibility of the teacher, so please, stop putting that responsibility entirely on our shoulders. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.
My last, possibly inflammatory, statements are simple.
- If you think that everyone can do it, prove it. Go to university, become a teacher, and then go out into the education world and show us how it’s really done.
- If you don’t like how we do things, why not consider home schooling?
P.S. All of the above can be used in reference to our wonderful Education Assistants who, if you get a good one (and I’m lucky enough to work with some real diamonds), often give more than the teachers they work with.