‘What's the one thing that links all brilliant teachers? They don’t know they’re brilliant’

And as a result, these wizards of the classroom are going to spend their summer holidays worrying about what they could have done better

Colin Harris

News article image

One question that I am often asked is: "What is common in all good teachers?"

Of course, it’s easy to talk about putting the child first, making learning fun or seeking ways to ensure all children reach their potential.

The reality is different, however: the only thing that links every good teacher I know is that they just don't recognise they are one. They seem to live in this permanent haze of self-doubt.

They will therefore spend the first few days of the impending holiday, even the first few weeks, analysing and debating with themselves what they could have done better in the past year.

Without doubt, this is one thing that non-educationalists just do not appreciate about teachers. They just do not recognise the amount of time we spend critiquing ourselves, especially at the end of the year.

And so it is that we approach the holiday with a chance to recharge our batteries, and in part to reboot our educational thinking. Inevitably, this will mean we discuss with ourselves how we can "get it right" next year. Deep down, we all know this is a forlorn hope but one we must strive for.

We therefore need a strategy on how we can accept positively the experiences of the past year. This will involve us recognising what was important while dismissing the incidents that were irrelevant.

Firstly, we will appraise the hard facts of the year; perhaps the Ofsted inspection if we had one, a review of the results, the targets and the appraisals. Far too often we really over-analyse all these elements. We blame ourselves for things that have nothing to do with us, and seem to carry on our shoulders all of both the school's and the education systems' problems. Parts of these hard facts are important, of course, but there is more to consider.

'Think of those magical moments'

Instead, the best teachers should spend time contemplating what a difference they are making to so many lives. Why not relive the numerous times you have experienced magical moments with the children? That day when they got that concept, did something amazing or just made you giggle. What about the time you were the shoulder for that child to cry on? Or the time a colleague asked you to support them through their "mini-crisis"? You may think there were only a few of these magical moments, but actually there were many more than you realise.

That part you play in the school team is also essential. We know all good schools have a strong team ethic. How about considering the role you play in maintaining this? What about those little jokes or stories, silly traditions or dressing up days? Every laugh makes the staff room a better place.

What about all the parents who have showed you support? And the governors and the community? All too often we forget about this. And yet if we get one negative comment we ponder over it continually. Sometimes we need to get a balance to our thinking.

And lastly, we need to accept that there are elements of society that will never understand us. Namely the government will always be on our case, no matter who leads the Department for Education. We need to let it wash over us.

But...We all entered this profession to make a difference. And you have done so many times this year, more times than you realise.

You haven't quite comprehended this yet because you need a holiday.

Colin Harris is headteacher of Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire 

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.

Latest stories