Teachers are the real superheroes of 2020
Throughout the Covid pandemic, you’ve been more like superheroes than teachers, which is why you were the only choice for the Tes person of the year award
The year 2020 is one that most of us will be happy to put behind us. No one remembers the first three months; it feels like the year started in March when Covid-19 hit. Nothing was the same after that. Lives were lost, livelihoods snatched away and everyday life changed beyond all recognition.
Yet amid that bleak fog of uncertainty, heroes emerged through the gloom, demonstrating superhuman efforts to try to make things better. People worked under huge pressure and drew on reserves that they didn’t even know they had. In education, we saw this day in, day out.
School staff wrestled government diktats, they grappled with all kinds of technology and they fought algorithms. They persisted through an onslaught of ever-changing government guidance issued at ridiculous times, they battled to make their schools as safe as possible, they became experts in deep cleaning, they protected the children who were vulnerable and they did everything they could to feed the hungry ones.
According to Superman, “there is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape”. In 2020, school staff donned that cape, sometimes hesitantly but always with a huge sense of responsibility.
No one thought about courage; they just did what they had to do. They took everything that the pandemic threw at them and delivered something amazing in response. Even when everything around them shut down, never did schools close their doors; they always remained open for the children of key workers. They may not have chosen to be superheroes but they are.
As Superman also said, “the ‘amazing’ can only be created by facing fear, risk and failure during the process”.
School staff: you’ve done all that and you’ve come through.
So, who else could we pick as our Tes person of the year? In 2020, it is you. It is awarded to every single one of you working in our schools.
This is the fourth year in which the senior editors at Tes have selected the 10 people they believe have really made an impact in education. This is the first year, however, when the overall winner was so obvious that no discussion was needed.
And it was a strong list: Marcus Rashford, the EYFS rebels, Musthag Kahin and her nursing apprentice colleagues, Tim Holden, Lavinya Stennett, Alana Pignatiello, the teachers of Oak National, Edudate and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. Congratulations to all of them. But please do take a moment now to look at your colleagues, and to look in the mirror, and to recognise that you have done something amazing this year. That you are incredible.
And while you take your well-deserved bow in the spotlight, I am bowing out and retreating to the wings.
It has been a privilege and a joy to serve this wonderful sector. You may not always be fully appreciated for all that you do or for the difference you make to children’s lives. But I have never doubted the contribution that you make or the debt that we all owe you, because you have taught me how precious education is and that none of us is ever too old to learn.
The year 2020 may be one that memory wishes to consign to oblivion, but that is a lesson I will never forget.
Seven years ago, I came into this role full of respect for what you do; today I leave in complete admiration.
This article originally appeared in the 18/25 December 2020 issue under the headline “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? In 2020, there’s no question – it’s you!”