I have been meaning to write this post for some time now, but – teachers, you may find this hard to believe – I just haven’t had ten minutes spare to sit down and do it. So, here it is.
Life in schools at the moment is pretty crap. In the 16 years I have been teaching, morale has never been so low. I don’t mean in my school in particular, I mean nationally. I have friends who are teachers, I have many Twitter associates who are teachers, and no one is happy. I could use my time to write a long, ranting post about how crap teaching is, but I’m not going to. There are three reasons for this:
1). I am armed with my opinions, not all the facts, and so I would never write a post full of half-correct ideas;
2). Ranting isn’t my style, and
3). Why would I waste my rare few spare minutes of peace and quiet getting myself all riled up and angry, putting me in a bad mood for the rest of the day?
I thank those amazing educators and bloggers out there who do have all the facts: they are the people you should turn to if you want to find out why we are all miserable.
Instead, I want to spend my time trying to be positive, because that is what I do.
Yesterday, I spent a few minutes completing a survey set up by Emma Kell, looking at teacher wellbeing. One of her questions asked why I had gone into teaching. So far, she has surveyed almost 1000 teachers. I’d like to bet that not many of them chose “because it suits my lifestyle” or “for the holidays”. I’d like to think that the majority chose “to make a difference in society” or “I like spending time with young people” as their answer. In these trying, frustrating, exhausting, infuriating times, that is what we have to remember. We are in this job for the young people we teach. Yes, the government may be failing them, yes, our education system is in complete turmoil at the moment, but we have to remember those children we are there to teach. As part of my NPQSL course, I have been reading a lot about creating a positive culture. Positivity is infectious, and it is necessary to help children to succeed. Equally, negativity is infectious too. The children pick up on it. The negativity that so many teachers are feeling at the moment is completely understandable, but we can’t allow it to permeate our teaching and our classrooms. We need to make the best of what is a dire situation, in order to help our children to succeed – whether that be academically, socially or just to help them to be good people. Yes, we have to teach boring lessons about modal verbs and identifying the past progressive and using fronted adverbials, but we can at least try to make school fun by teaching with a smile, even if inside we are crying about the subject material. The children we are teaching will be shaped by the education they receive – on paper, that may not be the education we want to give them, so we have to do all that we can to ensure they enjoy their time in school – we need to still make sure we give them the educational visits and the fun days and the amazing experiences that they remember for far longer than their standardised score and the random letters that are assigned to show their English and Maths ability.
We need to give each other a break. We are all in this up to our necks together. No-one really knows where they stand in school at the moment – it seems every day, another new and crazy, work-creating change is being introduced. Yes, we’re fed up with it. Yes, we are constantly on the back foot as we never know what’s going to happen next. And yes, we need to have a point of blame for all of this; someone to direct our anger and frustrations at. But we need to stop and think about whom we are directing this anger at. I know a fair few Headteachers, and I know that none of them woke up one morning and thought: “ I know. What I’ll do is: I’ll get rid of the curriculum that everyone is familiar with. I’ll scrap the assessments they all know. I’ll invent some crazy assessment system that no-one really gets, and I’ll make it up as I go along, but I won’t tell anyone what I’m doing. I’ll take away all the fun lessons and fill the timetables with loads more writing and maths. I’ll give them some stupid grammar stuff to memorise, and, while I’m at it, I’ll change the names of stuff like calling “Data Handling” “Statistics”, we’ll change “SPaG” to “GPS” and change subject names like “ICT” to “Computing”. That’ll be a laugh.” I’m pretty sure that’s not what happened. The Headteachers don’t like what’s going on any more than we do, yet they’re the ones who have had to enforce the changes, knowing it would make their staff unhappy. They are feeling the pressure too – even more than we are, as the buck stops with them.
These are trying times, and not everyone will come out of the other side still working in education. That is guaranteed. But, while we are there, we have to do the only things we can do: stay positive, through all of the $*”! that gets thrown at us, talk to each other, be open and honest if it all gets too much, and support each other. I have a suspicious feeling things may get considerably worse before they get better, so we need to help each other get to get through this.
Some frogs from my youth put it beautifully, so I’ll leave the final word with them…
“We all stand together…” – Turn the volume up and sing along – how can you not feel just a tiny bit happier after that?