Don't let the critical voices drag you down

A few vocal critics don't speak for everyone – the silent majority appreciate all teachers' hard work, says Michael Tidd
22nd December 2020, 11:00am
Michael Tidd

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Don't let the critical voices drag you down

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/dont-let-critical-voices-drag-you-down
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Teachers across all sectors were rightly furious at the last-minute changes thrown at schools in the final week of term by the Department of Education. 

Yet, as soon as anyone raises a concern about the shocking treatment of schools and their staff, up pipes the very worst of commentators to criticise "lazy" teachers and their "months of holiday". 

But we shouldn't take these comments too easily to heart - not when we know what we know.

Almost every teacher has taught one of those classes that felt like hard work in every lesson. The sort of group where every instruction has to be repeated three times, the floor ends up littered with paper and abandoned pencils by the end of the lesson, and you spend your whole time tackling playground squabbles. 

At first it feels like the whole class group are the problem, but with time you soon start to pick out the bright spots.

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In truth, even in the most challenging of classes, it is often a small number of more challenging pupils who tip the balance. The same four or five individuals can have a real impact on the feel of a group - and the unexpected absence of one or two means the atmosphere changes completely. 

Teachers facing such groups do well to focus on the conscientious and thoughtful majority when feeling disheartened, for they are the ones who benefit the most from our focus.

Most importantly, when faced with such a group, it pays to remember that it's not about you as the teacher; it's simply a reflection of the few pupils who need tackling - or ignoring.

The same is true when it comes to parents. Some weeks you might feel you're facing a constant barrage of criticism from parents. This year, more than ever, we've sometimes had to make decisions and changes that will have upset a few parents. And some are more vocal than others. But don't let a few very vocal, very demanding cases persuade you that there's a constant battle to face with parents. 

When no news is good news

In truth, in many cases the old adage that "no news is good news" holds true. Parents who are happy with what is happening in school are unlikely to be in regular touch to remind us of that, just as we are far less likely to call home about the quietly-getting-on-with-it pupils. 

And while a small handful of disgruntled parents might repeatedly make themselves known, there is much to be said for remembering the quiet majority. Most parents appreciate what you are doing: they just don't make a song and dance about it.

Once you recognise those two things, you can apply the same logic to the occasional critical comments in the press or on social media.

Yes, one or two lazy journalists might choose to trot out clichés about teachers only working 9am to 3pm, or having been at home doing nothing all through the summer term, but their ignorance shouldn't make us think that everyone feels that way.

You only have to look at the regular surveys and polls that show teachers among the most trusted professions - and journalists and politicians at the other end of the scale - to know the truth in these circumstances. Whether it's politicians trying to cover their own backs, or tabloid columnists trying to get a few clicks on the website, it's pretty safe to say that we can chalk up their comments to the rantings of a vocal minority.

So, just like with a tricky class, we mustn't let the few bad eggs drag us down. The vast majority of people value the work of teachers, and will ignore the misguided criticisms of the negative few. We should do the same.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979

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