What keeps me awake at night - I hate to be bossy but stop stereotyping us

7th June 2013 at 01:00

In the first lecture of my teacher training course, we were warned: "You'll know you've been a teacher for too long when friends come to dinner and you open the front door and tell them to come in quickly and sit down quietly."

I haven't done this - yet - but occasionally someone will say: "You sound just like a teacher." It happened recently when I was with a group of friends and it was taking an age to decide on a restaurant. I don't remember telling everyone to get into pairs and follow me but I did try to move things along. I was met with a disgruntled response and labelled impatient and bossy, "just like a teacher".

Doctors don't have this problem. If someone says you sound like a doctor, it is generally because you sound highly competent, professional and have an air of accomplishment. The positive stereotypes are reinforced. As a teacher, it seems the negative stereotypes are propagated instead.

These are driven by literature, media, film and television. Rarely are stories about teachers positive, showcasing the many excellent things we do. The stereotype is never that a teacher is accomplished, professional and inspirational. No, teachers are always seen as bossy, unreasonable and demanding.

It's getting worse. The media jump on any story that shows teachers in a bad light. Headlines shout: "Teachers insist on 20-hour week and fewer students" - what a demanding, lazy lot, they imply; "Teachers declare students should be taught, not just to 'know stuff'" - what dangerous subversives, and such limited vocabulary, an editorial says.

Among friends, being labelled as "sounding like a teacher" does little lasting damage and is simply banter. But the incidences do highlight a wider issue with negative stereotypes.

Surely we should be challenging these stereotypes in the media and elsewhere, highlighting why and how they are wrong? Teachers' jobs are hard enough as it is without having to overcome misguided and inaccurate prejudice as well.

The writer is a teacher in the South East of England.

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