teaching with 'p' plates on

Posts Tagged ‘education

Since signing my life away to the teaching profession, I’ve become an avid reader of the Education Guardian‘s weekly Secret Teacher blog (I did a week’s work experience there when I was 16…oh, the irony!). Normally, I just observe what everyone else has to say on the topic being discussed (admittedly, for fear of saying the wrong thing and being shot down!), but I couldn’t help responding to the latest post written by a PGCE student whose inspiring article was about why they would ensure they didn’t become another drop out statistic – the latest figures are that two in five new teachers leave in their first five years. As an NQT, I could relate to her positive thoughts and feelings on starting life in the classroom, but I found myself being wound up by what I could only describe as the teaching world’s answer to ‘trolls’ (defined as people who start arguments or essentially, ‘bully’ others over the internet).

Despite this girl openly discussing her brush with death as a result of cervical cancer and how this second chance at life spurred her on to make the career change she had simply contemplated before, keyboard warriors didn’t hold back in their attempts to crush her spirit; I was honestly horrified at how vile people could be towards any new teacher, let alone someone who hasn’t had an easy ride to get to this point in their training. Comments like, “I’m going to show this to my Year 11s to show what naive writing looks like” and “Come back in five years and let us know how you feel about teaching then” wound me up so bloody much. How dare you! I’m sure everyone – no matter how long ago they joined the profession – had the same drive and determination to ‘make a difference’ and ‘do it for the kids’ when they started, but just because years of abuse from the government and the relentless nature of the job may have turned some sour, it doesn’t give them the right to bring the newcomers down with them. As teachers, one of our many roles is to ensure bullying doesn’t take place in our schools, so why is it okay to do it on the internet? I spy hypocrisy at its finest!

I have been extremely lucky throughout my training and NQT year to be surrounded by people who have nurtured, supported and driven me to be the best I can be, so I really hope these trolls aren’t anywhere near new teachers because their toxic comments will act as poison. Whilst I could be narrow-minded about the whole thing and address the issue by saying, ‘Well if you hate teaching so much, why don’t you just leave?’ I’m all too aware that it is rarely that simple. However, what annoys me the most about the members of the pessimistic parade is them branding new teachers as ‘naive’. Of course, anyone will approach anything new with a certain degree of naivety – thanks for telling me something I didn’t know already – but our rose-tinted spectacles do still allow many of us to see the wood from the trees. After all, it is difficult to get a teacher training place these days without proving you have spent time in a school, whether it’s through support work or observing. Yes, you may not have experienced first-hand the same pressures and workload of a teacher, but anyone with half a brain who has been back to the classroom before applying for their PGCE will know what the job entails. On that note, I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but I spent my entire training year having teacher standards shoved down my throat: new teachers are definitely well prepared to deal with the current pressures of the job and besides, we don’t know anything different so we don’t need reminding of what was. It’s like when your parents laugh at jokes in re-runs of old programmes on Dave – you don’t get the relevance so it makes no difference to your life! Potential PGCE students also need to research the latest issues in education – they might not really understand the context, but flicking through headlines from teaching publications shows the education world is pretty colourful at the moment!

So I say to those who feel the need to attack the ones bringing sunshine to the storm the education system is becoming, please don’t treat us like we’re stupid: it’s not our fault that we don’t yet understand what can be the true trials and tribulations of our chosen careers. I doubt you did when you started either and think, would this level of negativity help or hinder you? Besides, if people like me and any new teachers are happy to join the profession in the current circumstances, then let us be! I understand that some people may mean well with these comments and want to bring new teachers who seemingly have their head in the clouds back down to Earth (and of course, I appreciate the advice and guidance of my more experienced colleagues!), but there is a way of saying something nicely and this is one situation when harsh opinions need to be kept to the confines of your own staff room support group. Let’s put this into context for a second – we would never crush a kid’s enthusiasm and passion for a subject or activity, regardless of whether you think they can truly succeed at it, so why treat student teachers in the same way?

Whilst it may be saddening that two in five new teachers drop out in the first few years, three in five of us stay! Why must we focus on the negatives?