First-class teachers are rarely showstoppers

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
In our inspection Jim was described as "unspectacular." Poor Jim. After all these years. You know what you get with Jim. He is quiet, calm and organised. The kids love him. They see in him a committed teacher who really cares.

He turns up every day. The kids in his class get a good deal and most of them know more at the end of the lesson than they did at the beginning. But he is still unspectacular.

Jim has never sought promotion, indeed he has positively avoided it. His priorities are clear. He will serve the school with an unswerving sense of duty. The community respects him. The kids and their parents are always pleased to see him in town and, when they have left, they come back to see him. Parents are pleased when they know he is teaching their children. He is the one you would choose to teach your own.

He has never considered moving schools. He has his life worked out. Why upset a routine that has served him and his family well for so many years.

But, of course, he is unspectacular.

When you consider Jim, you realise he is the backbone of the profession.

Without teachers like Jim, schools would fall apart.

When I started teaching, there were two Second World War RAF veterans on the staff. They were the fabric of the school. They didn't want to do anything other than the job they were doing - a job they did extremely well. They were proper teachers who commanded both respect and affection from staff and students alike.

But such teachers are not the shooting stars of the profession - those who move across our firmament in a blaze of light. For they are unspectacular.

And to be unspectacular is clearly not enough.

You may manage their performance. You may set them targets. You may enrich their lives with brand new management speak. But remember that the stellar light glimmers for an instant and then it is dark once more.

It is time we praised the ordinary teacher, and we must ensure they do not become an endangered species.

These days, lessons need to be experiences, multimedia entertainment, energy explosions - full of sound and fury that signifies nothing.

Apart from anything else, it is not possible to do this sort of thing five times a day. And nobody can take this constant stimulation, not even our most committed Asbo hoodie with ADHD.

But, of course, this is what you must do if you don't want to be labelled unspectacular.

Ian Roe is a deputy headteacher in North Wales

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