Hayley Ryan: `The College of Teaching has the potential to unite teachers' voices and give us an alternative to the unions'

1st January 2015 at 00:00
Hayley Ryan, an FE teacher in the south of England, writes:

Do we need a College of Teaching? Most definitely.At this moment in time, a career in teaching feels flooded with voices of negativity: "The workload is unsustainable", "Lesson observations are designed to catch you out and manoeuvre you straight into capability procedures", "Teachers are leaving the profession in droves". And yet, I love it. I am proud to be a teacher and I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. I believe that a College of Teaching offers an opportunity to shout a loud affirmation of our profession and our craft and thereby help to unite us positively, constructively and with optimism.

Undoubtedly, we teachers currently experience an odd dichotomy every day. We are held responsible for all that goes on in our classrooms and learning environment, which may imply that we are in control of them. But this couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, what goes on in our classrooms is predominantly the result of government decisions on what young people should learn, when they should be learning it and how they should be assessed so that we know that they have learnt it. We are dealt directives, which sometimes change as swiftly as they are given and this can make us feel weak and powerless.

One consequence of the feeling of helplessness is the power of the teachers' unions. Unions have seen an opportunity and leapt on it - they have identified a group of unhappy people (teachers) who feel helpless, given them the opportunity to find strength in numbers (be part of the union) and fed bitterness against those who they feel are to blame for their discontent (the Department for Education, Ofsted, school and college management.).

I am tired of the unions. They do not represent my views; instead they take a standpoint that they tell me every other teacher agrees with and expects me to stand united with these teachers and join the mob, hence perpetuating the vista they have created. And if I do not do this, then I am made to feel that I am letting the side down.

So how do we fight this pessimism within and of our profession and claim back some of the idealism that led us into the profession in the first place? We stand together with one voice; a voice that celebrates the beautiful craft of teaching and learning, motivates us to remain committed to the profession and encapsulates the research and innovation to allow teachers the credibility to be the navigators of education.

A College of Teaching has the potential to unite teachers' voices, away from the unions and so away from a focus only on ourselves, our working conditions and our bitterness towards those we currently feel powerless against. Instead, we could talk meaningfully and positively about teaching, thus enabling a long overdue professional voice. This voice can then take the lead in deciding what is best for the children and young people we spend each working day with and care so deeply about, because we will be the trained experts who both know and can be heard.

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