Proud to be a teacher

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Advice for seasoned practitioners

What do you think your staffroom is for? Is it a private place where teachers can "let off steam"? I ask because that particular phrase - "let off steam" - was used quite a lot in a recent exchange on the TES website chatroom* . The topic under discussion was how a member of the senior team should handle an overheard insulting tirade directed at the head (who wasn't there, of course).

The "private sanctuary" idea used to be very common. Taken to its extreme, you get what I found in the long-ago demolished Tilton Road primary in Birmingham. There the handful of men on the staff, tired of mixing with the women, had built themselves a private male staffroom by boxing in the landing on top of a fire escape with reclaimed chipboard, and equipping it with the kind of second-hand furniture favoured by grumpy old men. Here they could smoke cheap cigarettes, reminisce about a lost golden age and whinge away to their hearts' content. Down the corridor the women were, presumably, doing much the same, but in rather more civilised surroundings.

Things are different now, though. The staffroom can't be a private den - too many people have access to it. A few weeks ago I spent an hour sitting in the staffroom of a primary. During that time, a steady stream of people popped in and out. All of them spoke to me. Not one of them, so far as I could tell, was a teacher. There were administrators, teaching assistants, parent volunteers, lunchtime supervisors. Schools are like that now. It's increasingly unlikely that teachers will even constitute an overall majority of the workforce.

What's certainly true though - and experienced colleagues must set the pace here - is that the teachers are, by definition and by qualification, the leading professionals in the school. It is to them that the others look for leadership - which includes how to behave professionally in the staffroom.

And this excludes making unwise broadcast judgements about individual parents, children or colleagues.

I think I've used the phrase "proudly a teacher" before. I make no apology, because the words resonate with me. They were used by a headteacher friend to describe, at a funeral, a dear colleague who died, far too early, in harness.

And "proudly a teacher", for me, implies behaving like one.


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