Grow up and cut out the moaning

26th December 1997 at 00:00
I've had a bad week. Not my worst by any means - it's not as if I've filled the minibus with diesel instead of petrol, or herded 30 children on to the wrong boat for the dockyard trip. In fact it had nothing to do with school or children. It's you lot - teachers.

You see, last week, I saw at least three examples of the biggest problem afflicting teaching today - and it's none of the usual culprits. We all know the national curriculum is too big and our pay packets are too small. I understand there's too much paperwork and too little time. I accept there are too few Indians and too many Woodheads.

These problems are part and parcel of the job. But how should we deal with them? Should we acknowledge that no system is perfect and do the best we can, letting people know what works and what needs to be changed? Or do we sit around and whinge? Last week I saw so many teachers moaning that I despair.

I went on a training day for mentors. About a third of the delegates turned up between 10 and 40 minutes late. There was so much chatting, I couldn't hear the presentation. When I asked people to be a little quieter, I was verbally abused. My children wouldn't get away with showing such bad manners, but I had to suffer it from fellow teachers.

At another meeting, a new document on standards in teacher training. The rest of the time was wasted while people moaned about how late it was, how bad it was and how they couldn't possibly use it. No one had anything good to say and no one wanted to know about it. It was like watching a class full of disinterested, unmotivated children giving up on a task before they had started.

There were similar incidents - but this article is in danger of turning into just the sort of negative, cynical whinge I'm complaining about, so I'll stop. But there is an important point here - how can we hope to gain the public recognition and respect we strive for and deserve when so few people behave like professionals?

Professionals are, according to my dictionary, competent and conscientious. That does not mean treating INSET days as coffee mornings. And it does not mean pouring scorn on ideas without giving them a chance. That does not mean rejecting initiatives out of hand, ignoring possible benefits.

Everyone knows that teaching isn't perfect. But there's no reason why it shouldn't be. And until we start acting as professionals, it never will be.

Iain Gilmour is a primary teacher in Portsmouth

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