Teachers are the ultimate influencers, new research suggests – more so than YouTubers with millions of Instagram followers or ubiquitous global celebrities such as the Kardashian family.
Two-fifths (40 per cent) of Scottish adults surveyed said that, excluding family and friends, teachers have the greatest opportunity to inspire and shape future minds, with 21 per cent saying social media influencers and only 7 per cent citing celebrities.
Nearly two-thirds of the 1,007 Scottish adults surveyed (62 per cent) said that between one and five teachers helped to positively influence them or inspired them to become the person they are today. While the majority (68 per cent) said they could still remember the name of their favourite teacher.
The online survey was commissioned by the Scottish government, in partnership with YouGov, as part of its Teaching Makes People campaign. It aims to encourage more people to consider a career in teaching by highlighting the profession as one where you can genuinely make a difference.
Teachers 'change people's lives'
The Scottish government was forced to launch the drive due to the teacher recruitment crisis, with schools struggling to find staff, particularly in more remote and rural areas and in certain subject areas such as maths.
Teachers report that some schools are taking subjects such as home economics off the timetable because they simply cannot get the teachers to deliver them.
Overall, 83 per cent of respondents agreed that teaching was one of the most influential professions and helped to shape people’s lives.
Maxine McNeill, who is 29, qualified in 2014 and has been teaching at Bell Baxter High School in Fife for four years. She said that one of the reasons she decided to teach in the first place was to make a positive impact on the lives of her pupils.
She said: “I love my job and realise what an important role I’m in because I can really make a difference to young people’s lives."
She added: “No two days are ever the same. It’s hard work but I thrive on the challenge that working with such a diverse range of pupils of different ages, backgrounds and abilities brings."
Education secretary John Swinney said: “These findings show the important role that teachers continue to play in our society and the opportunity they have to make a real difference to future generations.
"In a culture where the influence of social media and celebrities can sometimes put a lot of pressure on young people, it’s reassuring to see that the nation still recognise the long-term impact and influence teachers can have."
Mr Swinney added: “By choosing a career in teaching, you can make a big difference to a young person’s life."