A message for all those teacher-bashers out there

It's the season of goodwill to all – except, apparently, teachers. But, says Sarah Mullin, here are some things the knee-jerk critics might like to consider
16th December 2020, 12:14pm
Sarah Mullin


A message for all those teacher-bashers out there

Upset Teacher Stands In Front Of Blackboard With Her Hands In The Air, To Indicate "stop"

'Tis the season to be jolly. It's a time for loving and giving. And yet, once again, teachers face widespread criticism in the media. 

Our hearts sink as we return home exhausted and cold after a long day at work only to face more teacher-bashing, as politicians and journalists continue to view us with nothing short of contempt

You might have thought that 2020 would be the year that we learned to appreciate teachers as key workers. You might have thought that the pandemic would have taught us the importance of kindness and compassion. 

You might have thought that this year, with parents having to support children with their home-learning during the first lockdown, that people would have appreciated just how challenging it can be to inspire, engage and motivate children and young people every single day. 

Coronavirus: A difficult year for teachers everywhere

What have we done to deserve this? Honestly: nothing. Despite the negative ways that teachers are being represented in the media, we've just been doing what we do best: educating our pupils in order to increase their life choices. 

Although this has been a difficult year for educators everywhere - and while many people will reach the Christmas holidays with doubts about whether they can keep on going - we all know deep down that teaching is the best job in the world. 

So here are five things that I would like all those teacher-bashers out there to know, and to think about, before the next time they start telling the world what they think of us all.

1. We do the job because we care

While goodwill and kindheartedness won't exactly pay the mortgage, most teachers will agree that we didn't enter this profession for the money. We could have chosen to pursue a plethora of other careers with far less stressful conditions and far more lucrative salaries. 

But we didn't. We chose to become teachers because we truly believe in the transformational power of education. We are driven by giving each and every child the very best start in life.

2. The educational landscape has changed 

Of course, some adults may have had disappointing - or even bad - experiences of schooling themselves, and this may well have affected their perception of teachers. However, the educational landscape has changed considerably over the years. Nowadays, a child who's late to school has a conversation about wellbeing rather than a rap on the knuckles. 

Today's teachers are driven by doing the best they can for their pupils, often because they want to offer children opportunities that were not available when they were at school. 

Just as one bad experience with a GP doesn't mean that we should condemn the NHS as a failure, people should try to remember that one bad teacher doesn't mean that we're all no good. 

3. We are so much more than subject specialists

The role of teachers has expanded over the years. We have studied hard, gaining multiple degrees and professional qualifications to become subject specialists, so that we can share our knowledge and wisdom with our pupils. 

We are fully committed to growing and developing as research-informed educators, so that we can help pupils to make the most of their skills. We are dedicated to teaching children to be courteous, responsible and resilient global citizens, so that they can survive and thrive as young adults when they leave school. 

And, with the number of mental-health cases among children soaring, we are also helping our pupils to learn to cope with the stresses of life - and of life in 2020, in particular. 

4. We are adaptable

Teachers have remained calm in the face of adversity and have quickly responded to ever-changing, 11th-hour demands from the government

When teachers were faced with the problem of how to continue educating pupils who were self-isolating, we swiftly adapted to using video-conferencing software in order to minimise any disruption. 

When parents were no longer allowed to enter school premises, we put virtual parents' evenings in place. We even made sure that no parent missed out on seeing their children dropping baby Jesus in the nativity play, by offering pre-recorded adaptations. 

Teachers have worked tirelessly, under exceptionally difficult circumstances, even when many feared for our own health - and the health of our families - this year.

5. Schools are a fundamental part of our society 

As the country entered the first national lockdown, we soon realised that we may all be facing the same pandemic but we would all experience the associated challenges in different ways

For many children, school was the only place where they could be guaranteed a meal each day. So the primary concern for many headteachers was how they would manage to ensure that their children and young people would eat. And they rose to that challenge, even before Marcus Rashford stepped in.

The pandemic proved that schools - and teachers - are a vital part of society. Not only do we bring children together to learn and play but we also provide a safe space for children to disclose safeguarding concerns and access support when they need it.

It is such a great honour to be a teacher, to have the opportunity to play a small part in the lives of children and young people, and although it may be tough at times, there really is no job we would rather do.

So, please, if there's just one gift we could ask for this year, let it be the gift of compassion and respect for tired teachers everywhere.

Sarah Mullin is a deputy headteacher and doctor of education student. She is the curator of "What They Didn't Teach Me on My PGCE", and the founder of #EduTeacherTips, a YouTube channel for teachers, by teachers. She tweets @MrsSarahMullin

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