Proud to inspire the next generation

29th April 2005 at 01:00
I read Geoff Brookes's Talkback, in which he said he wouldn't recommend teaching as a career to his children (TES, April 8), with great sadness, writes Mary Belchem. How can one feel guilty for inspiring another human being to want to open up the minds of young people? My parents were so proud when I told them I wanted to be a teacher. What has gone wrong?

Yes, there is a great deal of "stuff" involved in our job; yes it does, as Mr Brookes says, "twist your mind and world view"; yes, there is pain.

There are battles we will not win, days when we feel useless. But there are also those breathless, priceless, fleeting moments when we know we have made a difference. These highs might be rare, but teachers are forever seeking the next success, however small. It's what brings us in every day.

Teaching is a vocation and demands a range of skills and abilities that are unique to the profession. We are hybrids. We are un-quantifiable and indefinable, and the qualities that a true teacher possesses defy pigeon-holing.

Every day, in a challenging school, I see young people, not-so-young people and, indeed, older people using their imagination, wit and talent in the cause of learning and teaching. They care. They give me hope for the future. In a deprived area where possibilities seem few and aspirations have been squashed in the fight for survival, we need to fight the bleakness. If we do not give young people hope and inspire them to want to be part of something better, who will? They deserve the opportunity to learn.

The Government needs to value teachers. We need to value ourselves. It is our responsibility to go out and spread that message. Geoff Brookes is right; we do not need "brainless advertising campaigns". We need creative solutions to motivate people to want to be part of making a difference. We need to inspire that fervour, hope, humour, satisfaction, humility, resilience and joy that lifts teachers out of the ordinary. Whose parent would not want that for their child?

Too many qualified teachers are too quick to slander the profession without, it seems, any consideration for the thousands of students doing teacher training across the country, writes Emma Baillie.

I am not naive about classroom practice. As a third-year student at Edinburgh University, I know about the lows: late-nights marking and preparing for the next day, mounds of paperwork, disruptive pupils. But aren't we forgetting the reason we decided to come into this profession: the children, and the joy we can feel knowing we have changed someone's life? For me there is no better feeling.

As a student on placement, it's logical to assume teachers would try to make the experience as positive and beneficial as possible. Unfortunately, some seem to have a form of Tourette's syndrome; they can't stop themselves from being negative. If I wasn't so determined to succeed as a primary teacher, I would probably have left my course a long time ago, as many of my fellow students have done. It is a shame that in a time when teachers are so needed, qualified staff persuade them it's not a profession they should go into.

I am thrilled that my younger sister is about to embark on primary training. To me this is a job that requires a special kind of person.

Mary Belchem is head of Knowsley Hey comprehensive in Huyton, Merseyside.

Emma Baillie is a third-year primary education student at Edinburgh University

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