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

20th July 2016 at 14:46
Teacher, class, students
And as a result, many educators spend their summer break worrying about what they could have done better 

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, even the first few weeks, of their summer break 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 between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next.

And so it is that the break is not only a  a chance to recharge our batteries, but also to reboot our educational thinking. Inevitably, this means 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 as we prepare for the next. This involves us recognising what was important while dismissing the incidents that were irrelevant.

Firstly, appraise the hard facts of the year; 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? 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. 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.

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

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