As a lot of you may know; when I’m not being a mummy to my fantastic girls I’m being a primary school teacher. I’ve been teaching for ten years this year and I love my job. Well, I love the teaching part; the getting up in front of an audience and performing and part; the watching a child finally “get” long division part; the reading aloud a story to a rapt audience and not getting laughed at when you cry at the sad bit in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe part; the giving a child who misses their mum a hug and making them feel better part. These reasons, to name but a few, are some of the reasons why I love my job and why I’m proud to tell people that I’m a teacher.
Unfortunately, for every one reason why being a teacher is great there are 100 reasons why it is not. I won’t list them all here; any teacher reading this will know them all and I don’t want to bore everyone else with jargon. Basically, I feel the core value of the profession is moving further and further away from the happiness and enjoyment that a child should get from education and is moving nearer and nearer to getting the children to do what the adults want for the adults sake. A good example: my six year old daughter who loves school and loves learning said something to me the other day that made my blood run cold. She said, “Mummy, I don’t like science. ”
“Why?” I asked her, trying to keep the panic out of my voice, my dreams of her becoming a doctor disappearing faster than a snowflake in hell.
“Because it’s boring. All we do is write things down. I want to make potions.” She replied.
I could’ve cried. In anger. Of course she should be making bloody potions, I seethed internally, she’s six, why on earth is she expected to write up full science investigation at the age of six?! Well reader, the reason she’s spending so much of her precious childhood days sitting behind a desk writing up a bloody science investigation instead of making potions and actually learning what happens when you mix x with y is because some bloody cretin who has never taught a child, or some middle management person who is obsessed with evidencing the child’s learning has decreed that the only way that a child can learn and to prove it is to make them write every-bloody-thing down. Now, all teachers know that many of these children who are expected to produce reams and reams of evidence barely know one end of a pencil from another (not because they’re stupid, but because they’re SIX and far more interested in Superman than pencils) and that, in order for these poor children to write the poxy science report they should basically copy down something the teacher has written and stick in a few words of their own here and there. This is not for the child’s benefit and enjoyment. This is not improving children’s learning and achievement. This is not inspiring teachers to stay in the profession.
“The teacher should come up with a new and exciting method with which to teach the child!” I hear you cry, dear reader. “In which the child can make the potion and write the full science investigation and feel enjoyment and fulfilment!”
“OK!” I reply enthusiastically. “I’d love to do that! I’ll just mark these 60 books (ensuring that each piece of work marked has a nice meaty comment that the child may not read or understand but the adult checking the book will), meet with a parent for 20 minutes to discuss poor Johnny’s reluctance to come to school in the morning (I wonder why!), plan every lesson that I teach next week in writing (even though I’ve taught the same lesson for the last ten years), write a script for next month’s class assembly, ring the museum and book the school trip, find Suzy’s lost cardigan (again), speak to my teaching assistant about what to do about Jack who must sit a literacy test tomorrow (even though his level of reading is far lower than that of the language of the test), look at a spider-graph detailing how every single one of my pupils is performing in every core area and how far behind the “aspirational” targets some of them are and come up with all the ways I can drag those poor children up to where they’re supposed be and then I’ll spend the next hour trying to make my science lesson tomorrow more enjoying and fulfilling. At some point I’d really like to go to the loo too, and maybe have a drink, some dinner, possibly spend time with my family?
Now, I’m not saying that all of the above can’t be done dear reader. It can be. But at what cost? And for whose benefit? The children’s? Or for the adult’s? I’m not going to answer those questions for you, I’m just “throwing them out there” for some consideration, especially in light of today’s strikes. You see, despite what the newspapers and television say, the strikes today (being held by a variety of public sector workers, not just teachers) are not just about our measly 1% pay rise (in comparison with 11% for MPs) or about having to work longer and to expect less pension. They’re also happening because teachers like me, like your children’s teachers, REALLY care about your children and their happiness and their education, but they are unable to do what THEY FEEL AND KNOW what’s best for your children.
So here I am, on my soapbox, with a very large placard in one hand which reads simply, “Give education back to the teachers.” In the other hand, I’ve got a very large glass of white wine and I’m raising a toast to ALL public sector worker who picketed in the rain today, who have ever picketed or lost a days pay but spent the day working at home anyway, and I say, “Here’s to you. Thanks for ALL your hard work.”