It seems at times that there is a lot of negative press about teaching, and a lot of this comes from teachers themselves who have simply had enough. Now I am not for a second saying that our job is not hard, and I too feel the ever-growing pressures to raise attainment, reduce the gap, ensure a high level of Wellbeing for all and put on a Christmas show at the same time. I get it. Honestly I do.
However, the point of this post is to focus solely on the positive. To reflect deeply on what it was that attracted me to the profession and what it is that continues to do so every day.
1. Helping people
Straight off the bat, and no matter how cheesy it seems, the fact that I am working in a job that helps people every day is immensely rewarding. Non-teachers (muggles) hate it when I say this because it sounds very self-righteous and arrogant. I don’t mean it to come across this way. I simply get a joy and pleasure out of helping children make progress in the learning. When I use ‘learning’ here, I include everything from Literacy and Numeracy all the way through to getting along with people and dealing with a difficult situation. My job is to help and I get a lot from that.
The creative element of teaching is hard to beat. Few other jobs give you so much autonomy to make the job your own. Creative approaches to teaching and learning are the cornerstone of education and it is creativity that will allow us to achieve the high expectations we set for our young people. It may be as simple as creating resources or display boards, but I also use it here to refer to the creativity needed to deescalate a potentially explosive situation with a child who struggles to self-regulate, or the creativity needed to be flexible enough to change your whole lesson plan because it started snowing outside and every child in the class has their nose on the window. It takes many forms but is ever-present. Creativity is the lifeblood of teaching and it is this that sets it apart from others jobs I have worked in.
This may seem a bit masochistic, however I love not knowing what the day is going to throw at me. You can be the most organised, planned and prepared teacher in the word (I’m not for the record), but if one child doesn’t sleep well, or if someone just managed to win a game of fortnite before leaving the house, your whole daily plan can go out the window and you find yourself facing new and unpredicted challenges. I love this. It means that no two days are the same and you never once keep an eye on the clock to count the minutes till home time. In fact when the end of day arrives you often have no idea where the day has gone.
I also put uncertainty here as I like the fact that the future of our young people is unclear. University is no longer the only accepted end goal, jobs don’t exist yet that our children will be employed in and technology is advancing so quickly that it is re-shaping the way we teach. All of this breeds uncertainty but also great levels of excitement for me. It means I have to be flexible, learning all the time and reflective.
I am passionate about learning. Both the process of how we learn, and how I can implement this understanding in my teaching, but also just learning new things myself. I will never stop in my pursuit for learning and I hope to pass on this attitude to those young people that I teach. Teaching not only encourages this, it is an obligatory part of being a teacher. You must evidence how you are developing and growing as a professional as part of Professional Review. I think this is fantastic. As a result of this there are so many opportunities for teachers to learn and grow professionally. Every year since becoming a teacher I have been fortunate enough to take part in a new and exciting learning opportunity either with the local authority or at University as well as in-house training sessions. This has been incredibly rewarding for me and I know it has had a significant impact on those learners I have taught.
Teaching affords us many different opportunities for how you want your career to progress. One of the points surrounding Scottish teacher’s dissatisfaction with Teaching at the moment is the lack of routes for promotion in the profession, and I understand this. Management should not be the only promotion route available for teachers. However, there are still a great number of opportunities available to teachers. Interesting secondments, curriculum development posts, working for a University on teacher training courses etc. You also have a lot of scope for becoming an expert in a specific area by joining council improvement parties focussing on a specific subject, like Maths or Digital Literacy. Opportunities for you to carve and shape your own career are bountiful if you are looking in the right places.
I know that it may not be popular to say it, and I know that there are counter arguments to what I am putting forward here. I think that it is important to be critical and challenge injustices in the profession, but we need to do this without losing sight of all the wonderful and exciting elements of what it means to be a teacher.
I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this, let me know what it is that you love about your job.