What keeps me awake at night - Teaching's not as easy as all that

27th April 2012 at 01:00

A Professional is "someone with great skill", according to the dictionary. Think lawyer, doctor, teacher. Then think again. While I cannot wander into my local hospital and get on-the-job training to be a doctor, it is possible to do just that and become a teacher: simply wander into an independent school.

Of course, staff do have a degree and many take the Graduate Teacher Programme route after realising that, just because they are passionate about their subject, this doesn't mean they can engage a class of teenagers. Indeed, given the vast array of routes through initial teacher training, it seems hard to believe that there are people employed as teachers who technically are not qualified. Teach First, school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT), PGCE, BEd, MEd, Certificate of Education, NQT (newly qualified teacher) status: the list of possible entries is multifarious. You would assume that, at the end of the training, all teachers would have qualified teacher status (QTS). But not in an independent school.

Surely such a scandal would block any such person from rising through the educational ranks? Again, no. I know a deputy head who has just been appointed with no teaching qualifications whatsoever. They have taught for a few years, but only in one independent school - the same one in which they have been promoted. They have never produced a lesson plan and, when they saw one of mine, asked: "What's a learning objective?" They dismiss pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as "just very naughty children", pride themselves on never having looked at a pupil's individual education plan ("a waste of time"), make no resources and describe group work as "very Channel 4". When I asked how they differentiate, they said they "didn't bother" and looked blankly at me when I mentioned visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners. They have no professional membership. No experience of exam marking.

Their teaching "style" is to deliver a lecture for the duration of the lesson and expect the pupils to make notes. And no, they do not teach them how to make notes.

They view themselves as a "master", not a "teacher", as if they are a 1920s character out of a Just William story. Except that it is 2012. Would you allow them to teach your child? Would you pay to have them teach your child?

Such a person is going to be responsible for policy, strategy and safeguarding. They will have the authority to observe my practice and pass judgement on it. They will interview, recruit and promote other colleagues.

Michelangelo commented that the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. How low are our standards in order to be a "professional" teacher?

This is the stuff of dreams - bad dreams. And this is what keeps me awake at night.

The writer is a teacher (with a PGCE and QTS) in an independent secondary in London. To tell us what keeps you awake at night email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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