Why we need to celebrate teachers' (non-exam) successes

When people talk about successful schools, they tend to be referring to exam results. But there is so much more to success than grades, says Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Teacher raising hand in cheer, in front of blackboard

This week, I have been asked to run a staff meeting on celebrating teachers’ achievements over the past year. 

This is not to celebrate the school's test results, or the recent Ofsted grading, but to praise the things that teachers do, day in and day out, that are seldom even mentioned. 

These are the skills that ultimately ensure children both want to learn and also enjoy doing so. And they are skills that are far too often ignored.

So why is it that we find it so hard in teaching to talk positively about the really important things teachers do? 

Celebrating individualities

Every successful class is based on the relationships created within it: relationships that recognise the personalities in the room. 

Celebrating the individualities within the room enables pupils to thrive and helps create the positive energy and aspiration needed to succeed. This in turn raises pupils’ self-esteem, leading to better learning. 

It sounds so easy, but in reality it is dependent on those skills a teacher possesses that are seldom recognised.

No one would argue with the fact that most people want schools to be a success. However, we debate endlessly what goes into creating a successful school

Surely a vital element is to ensure that the educators who form the backbone of all schools have their skills recognised for what they are, every single day? Sadly, this does not always happen.

All too often, the only time some senior staff visit classrooms is with clipboard in hand, to monitor or criticise. Working as we do in a test-driven environment, tangible aspects of success – like results or progress – can feel like the only ones deemed appropriate to talk about. 

So much more than educators

Where is the talk about that reluctant learner, the non-attender, or the child who didn't eat this morning? The child who is a carer, or whose parent is an alcoholic

Teachers are so much more than mere educators. Their skills in supporting pupils' wellbeing are second to none. But seldom do these elements get celebrated in the way they should.

Success and praise can be morale boosting for pupil and teacher alike. But, sadly, the lack of acknowledgement of what the teacher does can eat away at the teacher’s own self-belief. 

Add to this the all-too-familiar negativity about teachers from the media – and also from those parents who genuinely believe they could do better themselves – and we again undermine the teacher’s fragile confidence.

Yes, award ceremonies have their place in recognising success. Sometimes even Ofsted does it. 

However, it is vital that all teachers have all their skills recognised: what they do both socially and academically with pupils over the course of the year, and not just what their pupils achieve in a set of tests.

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

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