'Stop moaning on Twitter - we need to sell teaching'

Teaching is a wonderful job that needs recruits – don't put people off with negativity on Twitter, says Mike Harrowell

Teachers' negativity about the profession risks putting people off a wonderful profession, writes Mike Harrowell

Last year I came back to edu-Twitter after a couple of years away. I came back because I missed reading about, and contributing to, pedagogical discussions. I missed challenging my own pedagogical views and reflecting on why I believed certain things. 

I am really enjoying being back on edu-Twitter, but there is one thing that really ruins it for me: people constantly moaning about working in education.

Having worked in UK education for nine years, and now internationally for three years, I get that there is a lot to moan about in the UK system. I remember working incredibly long hours for very little recognition. I remember teaching lessons with high levels of disruption and lethargy. I remember how emotionally draining it can all be. But, all that said, I can also remember how truly rewarding it can be and how supportive staff were of each other.

'Teaching is a noble profession'

Teaching is a noble profession. It’s up there with nurses, doctors, police officers, judges and firefighters, in terms of impact on society. Very few people get a second chance at receiving an education, so it’s really important that we get it right for them the first time round.

The biggest significant factor in our ability to create the best education system for the students we teach is not the leadership of our schools or the buildings they are taught in. It’s the teachers. Teachers make learning come to life; they fill their students (even the difficult ones) with passion, and show them how their learning can be used in the real world.

This is why people moaning about our profession on Twitter upsets me so much. Twitter is not a closed forum. The tweets we send can be retweeted around the world and their reach can be vast. 

Venting frustrations

I understand that it’s really important to have a place to vent frustrations and find other professionals sharing similar experiences. This can be a cathartic process, which does support teacher wellbeing (some of the mental health support offered by education tweeters such as @MrsHumanities is refreshing and no doubt has a positive impact on everyone), and I wouldn’t want to stop teaching professionals reaching out for support on any platform, as this would have negative consequences for everyone involved. 

What I can’t abide is people knocking the profession they are part of in such a public forum. Everyone involved in education has a responsibility to sell it. Teaching is a wonderful job, in which you can have more impact on those around you than in most other careers. We need to encourage more people to qualify as teachers, not put them off before they’ve even experienced it for themselves. 

Selling the profession

In 2016-17 9.9 per cent of teachers left the workforce. Only 67 per cent of teachers now stay in the profession for more than five years (according to the National Foundation for Educational Research). The need to encourage people to join the profession is at an all-time high.

Of course, it’s important that new teachers understand the pressures of the job and the political climate in which they are joining a public-sector career. My key message is that, if we don’t make people understand what an amazing job teaching can be, then we are doing the students in our care an injustice by stopping great teachers before they’ve even begun training. 

I love teaching. Of course, I’ve had my moments when I’ve wanted to quit and I’ve had to rely on support networks to pick me up again. But I love teaching, and I wouldn’t want to do any other job.

It is our responsibility to sell our profession.

Mike Harrowell is the assistant headteacher of secondary at Regents International School in Pattaya, Thailand

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