Our profession is in freefall

5th October 2007 at 01:00
The teaching profession is so negative, say the critics. They moan. They're cynical. They refuse to learn new tricks. Look into their souls there's nothing there but battle fatigue, just exhaustion and the resignation of those who struggle long and hard to little effect. Teachers are not doing enough to prop up our failing society. They are neglecting their remit. Would you want your child taught by one?

I read with interest the report (TESS, September 14) on Matthew MacIver's address to the Scottish Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society. The registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland is urging teachers to talk up their profession. He observed that the very people advising young people not to become teachers were often the teachers themselves.

Would I advise a young person to become a teacher? Yes, there is plenty of joie de vivre in my teaching life. I have constructive relationships with most of my pupils, my exam results are pretty good by any standard, my colleagues are very supportive and it still gives me pleasure to develop new ideas and increase my body of academic knowledge. My behaviour management is sound enough most days although, like everyone else, I have the occasional off-day when I just want to short-circuit everything by screaming loudly and plonking the miscreants anywhere just to get rid of them. Yet, I am lucky enough to experience high- level job satisfaction.

Why, then, was I relieved that my newly graduated daughter did not opt to become a teacher? There's still not enough recognition by the world at large that teachers are easy scapegoats for the failures of society. Mr MacIver is right to ask the question: "Where does the role of the teacher now lie in a world where the holistic view of the child is being seen as paramount?"

Parental power, too, increases and thunders loudly in its volume. It seems from anecdotal evidence, admittedly that we are at the mercy of cranky and overly demanding parents. Headteachers should have more authority to tell such people to back off, and local authorities should be much more pro-active in dismissing spurious complaints against teachers. I know of teachers whose lives have been blighted by the irrational behaviour of these carping fools. We need much more protection in this area, a filter to sieve the wheat from the chaff.

Politicians, who have the power to make changes, need to look at what they can do to distribute the burden shouldered by teachers. School, in the words of Mr MacIver, is "a fundamental institution in a free democratic society". Yet, how free is it when it is acceptable for some pupils to be out of control, for their parents not to be accountable, for the learning of others to be disrupted, for an ideology to take precedence over practicalities, and for a mainstream class to be hijacked by a hyperactive child with multiple behavioural problems?

So, Mr MacIver, why can I not recommend teaching as a career? Because teachers are falling through the sky without parachutes: society, by its collective failure to act, has disabled the teaching profession. I'd rather my daughter and her peers entered professions and jobs that are valued by society and therefore supported. The fact that I enjoy my job is of no consequence whatsoever in this debate.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy

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