Warning: This is a provocation piece. I have written it to make you think about the way some of the public perceive our profession.
Last year I read a really interesting post on Kevin Mc laughlin’s blog.
Read that first to get the context, below is my updated response, putting another point of view.
Today the Guardian published findings of a report by the NUT into teacher morale: The long and short of that report is that most teachers are sad because the profession does not approve of the direction taken by Michael Gove.
Read the rest of this blog in light of the following statement:
I am proud to be a teacher and a member of the profession. My most fervent wish is that we were a perfect profession. We are not, we make it possible for this response to teachers to be made:
The state education system exists to serve the needs of the state. It is paid for by taxation, distributed by the elected politicians of the day according to the agenda agreed by the people at the last election. Who are you to sit in judgement as to the validity of that agenda? The system is there to create the human capital of the future, that view stretches back to Elizabethan times. You are an expert in your comfort zone, a prodigy at self indulgence. Where is your altruism, your notion of public service?
If you feel so strongly that policy should change, then don’t appoint yourselves to a Round Table with a six point plan entirely focussed on improving the quality of life of teachers. Stick your heads above the parapet of your ivory tower and form a single issue political party, stand for election, give up your safe, sizeable salaries and become accountable at the ballot box. If your ideology is so compelling, you will be a force in politics for the good of all young people. Are you brave enough?
You have come up against your nemesis. Michael Gove has an understanding of media and politics such that he has reinforced the negative image of the profession and has systematically reinforced the image of many of your kind as incompetent, whining buffoons. he is very cleverly implying that the narrow curriculum and focus on exams in schools is a consequence of your cowardice, not policy.
The electorate and the media are buying it. You are toxic.
You have worked in a system that has haemorrhaged money for the past 12 years. Billions of pounds have been invested for minimal return, your therapeutic, holistic view of education has delivered a minimal rise in standards and arguably a reduction in young people’s desire to work hard and contribute….you have been complicit in making children believe the world exists to gratify them.
Some of your kind are outstanding people, leaders and pied pipers. Too many of your kind are poor leaders, teachers who view the Christmas play as important enough to abandon learning from the start of December. Your kind have been complicit in turning SATs from a random week of tests into the focus of a year. This comes from your cowardice, you lacked the courage not to teach to the test.
You are a public SERVANT.
Your kind walked out of school to protest at being asked to work a couple of years longer and make a bigger personal contribution to your pension, yet claim that every teacher is working tirelessly to ensure every child succeeds. You are a member of a profession sufficiently well paid to be able to afford to strike for one day and not really feel the lost earnings. In a vote on industrial action this year, less than 20% of your profession could even be bothered to vote for any form of action. You are a member of a profession who will never embark on a sustained course of painful industrial action, unlike the miners in the 8Os. You are a member of a ‘profession’ where far too many have grown wishbones instead of backbones. Your kind has resisted and failed to take pride in your own professional body. Too many of your kind view parents as the enemy; treat other professionals with disdain; attend trade shows with the explicit intention of pilfering as much ‘free’ merchandise as possible; continue to be caught being unprofessional in public. Too many of your kind lack the ability to realise why you are ridiculed in public. You are deluded if you consider yourselves role models. The first question to Michael Gove at the London Festival of Education this year was about Teacher’s pay and conditions, 1000 educators in the room could not even muster a coherent boo as Gove entered the auditorium.
You can’t strike properly, you can’t boo properly, how on earth are you fit to shape the minds of children?
Your enhanced sense of moral outrage has made you the arbiters of a twisted liberal morality in schools, to think its ok to criticise a 5 year old boy, who has the wisdom to see through the crocodile tears of his peers, for lacking empathy. You have turned the emancipation of women into the social emasculation of men.
You act without thought or wisdom, jump on bandwagons (brain gym), adopt theories(visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) without bothering to read them. You implement change and never evaluate the impact (wake and shake – when it’s five minutes of half hearted jiggling to a pop song is it really having an impact). Your kind bought cameras because they were blue, chose floor robots tarted up as bees because you lack the skills to engage children with lesscute but more appropriate technology. You buy cute and flimsy over functional and robust – you lack any real understanding of best value. Your kind are poor custodians of the taxpayer’s investment. You sank millions into Interactive Whiteboards and refuse to use them as anything other than overhead projectors. The future prosperity of our country is in your hands, that burden does not weigh heavily enough with you. Too many of you accepted the shoddy deal for free laptops and landed your school with huge finance bills, few of those of you who were taken in had the dignity to resign.
When was the last time you left for work wondering if your wages would be paid? Or the gates of your workplace would actually be open? You have a comfortable existence, with your 12 weeks paid leave and your still big fat pension. Look at the infographic below:
An M6 Teacher is only paid less that the purple and blue areas. You are paid very well. In fact your salary dwarfs that of most of the UK population. You damn well should be working hard!
How dare you even begin to think the way you are perceived is down to the press? You did all this to yourselves.
The truth for SOME of the profession :
- You feel overworked because you are not clinical enough in the way you prioritise. You value Busyness over business.
- Most of the children who behave badly for you, do so because you are tedious and not interesting.
- You dug your own pit over GCSEs, SATs and league tables because you are cowards and cheats.
- You are not taken seriously as a profession because you are not actually professional in your outlook.
- You have been heavily invested in, you have not delivered on that investment, in any other sphere you would not have jobs, you would be sacked.
- You do not have sufficient command of the written word and Mathematics.
- You are unmanageable – working with you is like herding cats.
- You are fragile, peevish prima donnas who bully colleagues showing spark or talent, who turn viciously and emotionally on anyone who would criticise you.
- You are ill-informed and complacent, your eye is taken by fluff and window dressing whilst the fundamentals remain neglected.
- You dismiss analysis and statistics of pupil performance as red tape and bureaucracy.
- You manage by checking what has been done, not by monitoring learning, you clog up the system with blind managerialism.
I look forward to your responses……but be a grown up: Have I mentioned anything that isn’t happening somewhere?
When will we focus our efforts on rejecting the small number of our kind who make this response possible, rather than complaining at the people making the legitimate criticism our kind have made possible?
Stop railing against change. As a profession we need to face the possibility that the majority of people living in the UK see school as being about qualifications. They do not buy into the holistic ideology we expound. Perhaps we stop making the same plaintive plea for more time for niceness and get on with delivering what many people, including those with a mandate, want. Most of all WAKE UP! we keep providing ammunition for Gove to twist back upon us. STOP, be coherent and dignified, and remember you are competing against a Master.