As the end of the summer holiday beckons, teachers across the country will be thinking about the attitudes that they want their students to exhibit over the coming year; for example, their approach to learning, each other and their community. They should also be thinking about their attitudes towards their colleagues and, indeed, the teaching community: but it is here that division is omnipresent.
How do I know? I’m no longer a teacher, and no longer witness the inner workings of the staffroom on a daily basis. Despite my absence from the cut and thrust, I recently discovered that teacher discord can be found in the strangest of places. On this occasion, dating apps.
Last week I was embroiled in quite a disturbing conversation with a teacher – a senior leader, no less – on one of the less than salubrious platforms. At first, his profile seemed nice: he was objectively attractive and he ticked some of my mother’s boxes. And then he told me that he hated Teach First, rejected all Teach First job applications and “destroyed Teach First” in a recent academic paper.
Folks, we have a problem.
I’m not going to take a side, that would be too obvious. I am, however, going to propound the notion that we need to quash this type of division within the profession.
Firstly, it is essential that we acknowledge that division exists – only once we’ve done that can we look at moving education forward.
During the conversation on my dating app, I was wondering why he harboured such resentment. I can’t think of another profession where cross-training programme vitriol might exist, or any rationale for it. I know that the branding of Teach First stirred debate initially, as well as the idea of parachuting "high-flying graduates" into classrooms after six weeks – but I had been under the impression that these issues have been resolved.
I want to be clear, also, that I don’t think there is a hierarchy or variance in the quality of routes into the profession. Some apply for Teach First, some don’t. All want to make a difference.
'Teachers all want to achieve the same thing'
And that’s the point. Everyone wants to achieve the same thing: deliver quality education, inspire young people and set them on the road to success, regardless of their background. The best way to get there: do it together.
Whether it’s challenging the government to increase school budgets, fighting for better pay, collaborating on resource creation or supporting the development of teachers, teachers must do it hand-in-hand no matter how their journey into the profession started. They must hire one another based on their commitment to achieving the best outcomes, and track record – and not discriminate on their entry route of choice.
The conversation I had caused frustration at first – this rivalry or condemnation must end – and then real interest. We must not automatically cast aside those with views that don't match our own. We must first seek to understand them. Within teaching, the barriers that might exist must be broken down in order to move the profession and the young people forward.
With this guy though, I don’t think it’s love, so I’ll just keep on swiping.
Oliver Beach is a former inner-city teacher, Teach First ambassador and star of the BBC show Tough Young Teachers. He tweets @olivermbeach