This is going to be a difficult post for me to write as its' subject matter lies close to my heart, but here goes.
This morning, I woke to read another set of warnings in the mainstream media about the state of teacher shortages in England. Now, in 2017, the number of teachers working in the core subject areas is at a "crisis point", and with no clear strategy as to how to address this by government, the situation is looking truly critical. This is the morning headline, across the educational sector.
It's deeply upsetting that this state of affairs continues, but I'm not that surprised.
Teaching (core subjects or otherwise) is a true skill. The ability to teach is so much more than just knowing your subject area. It's a skill of it's own to be able to communicate your knowledge to the minds of others.
My personal feeling is that those who can do this with our youngest children are truly the most adept. Those who can communicate knowledge in an effective way are to be nurtured, treasured and encouraged. Sadly, this isn't the case.
Everyone remembers their favourite teacher, because good teaching is something that absolutely shapes our formative years. That's why it is so important to find, train, support and encourage those of us who have the skill and desire to educate young minds.The fact that this isn't happening is an absolute disgrace. Teacher burnout in the UK is almost as shocking as the shortages - but again, somewhat unsurprising.
I am a trained primary teacher with a specialism in Modern Foreign Languages (another subject under hideous strain). Reading this news used to make me feel empathy. Relief, to a degree, that I'd somehow escaped that life. But now it really fills me with concern. My teaching life hadn't been an easy one. I won't bore you with the details, but workload, internal pressures and a crippling exhaustion compounded the overwhelming sense of stress I felt at the beginning and end of each day.
The difficulty with entering the teaching profession is the disparity between the real-time mechanics and hierarchy of the workplace and the belief you have in yourself that you're meeting your calling. People who teach are driven by the desire to help others learn. What happens when you're told repeatedly that you're not doing that, because the pupil hasn't scored what they 'should have' on a test?
What happens to you, when you can actively see that a child is learning, that the penny has dropped - but because it's not been documented in their neatest handwriting on a test paper that will be stored in a cupboard for about five years after they've left school - that it doesn't count?
To feel that what you're doing each day for your pupils 'doesn't count' is arguably one of the most devastating things that a teacher has to carry home with them at night. Far heavier than the 60 literacy and numeracy books you've rammed into your bags for life that evening, and its a weight that cripples you with each passing day.
See, I believe that the workload, the pressures, the daily grind and all the rest of it, would be a million times more bearable for teachers were we just made to feel like we were valued.
That's the key to both recruiting and retaining a high quality teaching workforce in this country. Addressing pay and conditions are absolutely crucial, yes, but ultimately if a teacher feels that their contribution to young minds is not valued - that they are of no value to their establishment - well, what's the bloody point?
That drive to help kids learn, to provide educational value to their lives is the true motivation of a teacher, and when that is squashed under the microscope of scrutiny rather than support...that's when teachers quit and are left at a loss for what to do next.
What concerns me most is how this situation can be remedied. According to today's news, there's no plan in place for how to keep teachers. Recruitment is all well and good but why would anyone stay in a profession that is now so poorly underpinned? Something needs to be done for the sake of our children. The population is growing and many of us will already see the strain schools are under with class sizes increasing.
It's no good training up a nation of test-takers. Life isn't a paper exercise. If we want to truly ignite change in our educational profession, we need to move forwards, not back. To keep talented and inspiring teachers, there has to be greater support and encouragement for them in all subject areas. Teachers need to feel that they are trusted by the powers that be, not being watched with a suspicious eye.
The only way to tackle this shortage issue is to have a wide-scale strategy of positive support, shared resourcing and a more streamlined, holistic approach to the teaching of learning. Never had I felt more isolated in my life than I did when I felt that I had the sole responsibility for 30+ children to pass a test with certain scores. That's just not how it should be.
My daughter has just started nursery and loves it. I'm worried by what's currently happening, but I hope she continues to love the education she receives. I'll do my utmost to support the teaching she gets in school with what I can offer her at home, and I'll make sure to support her teachers too.
I loved being a teacher. I still love being a teacher when I do my workshops. But I fell out of love with modern-day 'teaching' very quickly, and that's a real shame.
I know I'm not the only one.
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