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What keeps me awake at night: 'Teachers' open complaints are damaging the profession'

One school teacher explains why the continuous flow of open letters to the education secretary bemoaning the profession are keeping him awake

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One school teacher explains why the continuous flow of open letters to the education secretary bemoaning the profession are keeping him awake

As a teacher, sometimes, I feel like I am all on my own; a lonely voice in the wilderness calling out. But why? Simple – I love my job.

Maybe I still see the world with rose-tinted spectacles, but after eight years of teaching I am as passionate about teaching as I was as an NQT.

So, what’s the problem? Well, while I still enjoy what I do, it seems as though every other teacher is falling around me. Every time I read the paper or look at Facebook, I see another teacher writing an open letter to David Cameron or Nicky Morgan complaining about lack of respect for teachers, too much work, not enough pay and – the big killer – the fact that we have to work in our holidays.

What upsets me about these open complaints is the damage that they are doing to the profession. We want teaching to be respected, but we do not respect ourselves or the profession. As a teacher, I have always taught my children that respect is multidimensional and has to be earned. If you want respect, you have to show respect; for yourselves and for those around you. 

If, as teachers, we don’t respect ourselves or those who make the decisions, how can we expect parents, pupils, governments and the general public to respect us as professionals? We must first and foremost act as professionals and this will mean not airing our complaints in forums that are not appropriate.

Judging by a lot of the complaints that are made, we, as teachers, feel that we are the only profession that works hard. I read it time and again about how we work into the evening and on weekends. While all this is true, can we honestly say that others do not work just as hard – or harder? What about the nurse who has to stay on shift because they are in the process of dealing with a patient who has taken a turn for the worse. Or the police officer who has had to stay late because they have made an arrest just prior to the shift ending? Or even the single parent who has to work two jobs just to ensure that their children have food on the table? We all work hard: that’s what happens when you get a job.

All people in all occupations have some stresses and frustrations. The type of stress and level of stress may differ from person to person and job to job. It is how we deal with it that is important. Do we always let it get to us or do we try and overcome it and do the best that we can? 

We teach our children to be resilient in the face of pressure and difficulty; should we not practise what we teach? What keeps me going is the knowledge that, somewhere, I have helped a child to grow and succeed. To know that a child has felt supported, challenged and valued through being in my class makes me feel incredibly grateful to be doing the job I do.

And yes, I do have 13 weeks a year holiday. OK, I do work through some of that and through some of my evenings, but I have 13 weeks of the year that I can spend with my own children. What other job gives you that much leave? We could choose to not do anything in those holidays; no one forces us to work. I am not saying that teaching is an easy job, neither am I saying that there is no truth in some of the things that teachers are concerned about. However, we need to be careful about how much complaining we do.

I am in a job that I love and I am sure that my views will not make me popular among my peers, but I truly believe that if we want teaching to be seen as a high-level profession, it has to start with our attitude towards it and towards those who are responsible for making the rules. Let us stop making excuses and blaming everyone around us and focus on making the profession great for the benefit of the young people that we teach.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous​.

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