Saturday, 25 February 2017

Forget bad press, teaching is awesome

I may be a bit biased to this, being a relatively new teacher approaching his two years in service. I have my ups and downs in the profession but I know that the good outweighs the bad. I am aware of the common grievances that teachers have about the profession, the slandering of the profession in the media as well as other aspects of the role that often frustrate and drive excellent members of your team out of the door. If you add on top of this pressure the idea that some institutions can drive certain staff out of the door because their face doesn't fit, then you have a recipe for disaster.

I have been lucky in this respect, I work for a great organisation which values and cares about the students we work with day to day, I work in an excellent team lead by a supportive manager where we regularly discuss student needs and how to improve on our already excellent practice. I don't mean to brag, but I feel that we have to address issues that staff are facing within the profession in order to advance and progress as teachers in an ever-changing educational environment.

How do we adapt in a changing teaching environment? (Image courtesy of
Where we have changes to funding in which schools will need to make an overall saving of £3bn by 2020 (according to the BBC), it is no wonder that staff and management are feeling the pinch of the government's grasp on the current education system. Where our profession is at it's strength is supporting young people and helping them to gain an outlook into real life and what to expect within the working world. I think as lecturers and teachers, we do an excellent job at preparing students for their next steps, whether that is employment or further educational opportunities through our own experiences, stories and learning opportunities that we have faced, we were in their place once as well.

We have to remember why we became teachers, we want to help people. We have a lot of work to do in this respect and this is often lost within the data entry, success rates and marking which skew our idea of what being an educator is really about, we need to be excellent supporters of our students and advocate for their success. I think the "bad rap" that teachers receive in the UK won't change for a long time, it will take cultural shifts in how we view the education system. I ask of you if you are a teacher who is struggling, recall why you trained in the first place, you got here through your own motivations and achievements and for that you should always be proud. It is too easy to lose ourselves within workplace politics, grievances and heavy workloads so avoid this at all costs.

We didn't teach to be stuck behind computers, remember why you chose to teach (image courtesy of

We have set the bar high for education, many teachers report working a 54 hour work week including work from home (see this excellent TES article for reference to this idea) but we have to change the dynamic of what we do, we are too good and often once you are at your peak performance there is only one way to go. I believe this is why teachers who don't work insane hours at the weekend are ridiculed and often feel shamed enough to leave the profession, we aren't listened to and this in itself is frustrating for many teachers alike.

Teaching itself is a joy, I love the feeling that students get something and the lightbulbs come on across the room, that's what we fight for in our classes. I know my students and talk to them about their dreams and ambitions, even those that say they don't know what they want to do have passions and get excited by something that they want to do. Knowing your students on a personal level enables you to build rapport in the early stages of their lessons, further showing them that you do care and you work hard for them. One of my students the other week said to me "Thank you for putting up with the rubbish (not the word used) to teach us" your students value you, whether they show you or not is an entirely different matter. You aren't going to teach your students about being happy if you are unhappy yourselves, so relax, you're only human after all.

Technology has a big part to play in changes to education (Image courtesy of

So here's what I want us to think about, if we are going to complain, give a solution. If we are going to speak negatively of teaching, then consider how we can improve it. There is too much negative press on teachers and the profession as a whole but really we have an obligation and a duty to help our young people achieve, this doesn't mean we should sacrifice our own happiness for that of our students however. Let's learn alongside them, some of the best teachers I know (mainly in my current staff room) are always trying new things and adapting to changes. Let's adapt to the environment and consider how we move forward rather than pine for the days of old.

Teaching is changing, and you have to feel that change and want to be a part of it. Everyone talks about leaving, but let's consider how dynamic and refreshing the art of teaching actually is. I regularly tweet about these things (Twitter handle) and consider how we help teachers to love teaching again. Remind me when I go on a rant to read this again, and remember the feeling I have now, of loving teaching, education and the people I work with and for.

let's all come together to make teaching great again! (we could start #maketeachinggreatagain)

Enjoy your weekend, and thank you for supporting the FE Maths Guidebook. I will be going to #mathsconf9 in March, here is the schedule of workshops I will be attending so I hope to connect with a lot of you there, tweet your schedules at me if you are also attending and we can arrange a meet-up!

- Matt