'Teachers having a normal life outside school is just too much for many pupils to take'

12th September 2017 at 15:59
The idea that all teachers live at school is one of the teacher myths we should enjoy, writes one union leader

Over the past year or so we have seen Ofsted striving to tackle a range of myths that have burgeoned around school inspection.

It strikes me that it’s not just our inspectorate that has an issue when it comes to common misconceptions – there are also some wonderful myths that surround teaching and teachers themselves.

Most teachers will come across many such myths during their career and everyone will have their own personal favourite.

My personal top three (in reverse order) are:

3. The best teachers teach the oldest children

For some reason, there often seems to be an assumption that the more skilled you are, the older the children you are asked to teach.

I distinctly recall being congratulated on my "promotion" the year I was moved from Year 3 to Year 6. I was also once asked whether I hoped one day to be asked to teach in a senior school (no chuckling, please, secondary colleagues).

The irony, as we all know, is that early years specialists are some of the most knowledgeable and skilled teachers we have.

2. A teacher’s day is over by 3.30pm

This is an old and enduring classic. Most teachers will have heard from friends about how lucky they are to have a job where you get to finish by late afternoon. It is also the one that tends to get your average teacher’s back up the most.

The reality, as we know, is just ever so slightly different.

Not only are most teachers in school into the early evening running clubs, attending staff meetings, planning and marking; many also then find themselves working into the night when they get home, too. Speak to the partner or spouse of any teacher and they will nearly always tell you how shocked they are by the amount of work a teacher is expected to get through in an average week.

This is, of course, closely aligned to another related myth: namely "the problem with you teachers is that you are always on holiday". 

I have found that rather than try to debate this point, the best approach is to embrace it and suggest that they come and join you in your lovely holiday panacea – things usually go pretty quiet after that. 

1. Teachers live at school

This is my favourite and a common myth amongst many children.

For proof that children believe their teachers live in school, just watch the puzzled reaction of a pupil who spots you in the supermarket at the weekend. The sight of their teacher in jeans walking down the fruit and vegetable aisle is enough to cause most children to stop dead in their tracks and stare in awe.

The idea that you may have an existence, and even a normal life, outside of school is simply too much to take for many.

There is a wonderful upside to this myth: it allows teachers to experience for a fleeting moment what it must feel like to be a celebrity, as little Jo tugs at her parent’s arm and whispers "Look, look, it’s Miss…" before carrying out a quick stocktake of the contents of your shopping trolley.

Whilst some myths are definitely ones we would do well to bust, I can’t help but feel there is some fun in hanging on to just a few.

James Bowen is director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge. He tweets @JamesJkbowen

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