Whenever teachers end up in the news, I find myself bracing for the onslaught of comments that’ll head our way. The comments about the holidays, the bashing of our effectiveness, the failure of the education system, the attribution of strikes to being all about pay, saying that all we do is moan and we’re nothing but glorified babysitters. The message that we’re not good enough. And even when we do get support, it's the sentiments of “oh poor teachers, it must be tough.”
I can only speak for myself here but I don’t appreciate being treated like I’m a failure and I don’t want to be pitied. Pitied is being in a hole and someone walking past, pointing at you and saying “you’re in a hole” and walking off.
Like I explored in my blog Secondary School Teachers Should Spend a Day in Primary, I don’t believe that anything good comes out of trying to prove how hard we have it compared to other professions. The fact of the matter is that every job has things that suck about it and we’re not the only ones who face challenges on the daily. I know that I’ve tried to push this narrative in the past, but all it seems to do is paint me as a complainer. Adding to that reputation.
So we need to try something else.
A couple of months ago I listened to a podcast on Emily’s Staffroom Stories. In her interview with Adam Voigt, they discussed the way teachers are portrayed by the media and then explored this idea of elevating the teaching profession by showcasing all of the incredible things going on in our schools. And I reckon it's pretty brilliant.
Instead of building a narrative of struggling burnt-out teachers, folding under the weight of paperwork and overwhelmed with student behaviour, we promote the incredible work that we do every day and give a powerful voice to teachers as authority figures. As trained professionals who know what they are doing, who are competent, confident and doing a damn great job at teaching our tamariki.
Get the stories out that make us shine.
A perfect little example of how a school could do this is through the school newsletter. If one of the narratives that people in our communities believe is that teachers are just glorified babysitters, then filling our newsletter with notes about “bringing swimming togs” “labelling uniforms” and “bringing hats” is going to reinforce this idea. Yes, obviously we need to send these messages home, BUT could we also use this form of correspondence to highlight the quality teaching that went on at the school that week. This is different to the normal celebrations and photos of trips and fundraisers; this is a deliberate opportunity to show teacher competence and success to the community.
I want to elevate our profession. I want people on the street, in the media, those dropping off their kids at school to have confidence in me. To trust me and my teaching. I don’t have all the answers for how to get there yet, but I’m going to do my damndest to make it happen.
Be purposeful teachers
Who are in control
And know they’ve done enough.