THE BLOG

October 5 Is World Teachers' Day - Have You Said Thank You?

25/09/2014 13:16 BST | Updated 24/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Teachers are the unsung heroes of our society. They are often undervalued and unappreciated. They are the whipping boys, the scapegoats and the fall guys for what isn't working in our education system. Let's face it, teachers get a bad press. Almost without exception there is something negative mentioned about teachers in the media every day.

No matter who you are, what you do or how old you are, a teacher has at some time positively influenced your life. You take for granted that you can read this article, decipher the letters on the page and make sense of the message. You take for granted that you can buy a coffee, know how much £2.79 is, and calculate in your head the change you will get from a fiver. You take for granted that you can jot down your shopping list or write a thank you note. You take most things you do for granted, but the truth is, somewhere along the line a teacher has helped make this possible.

Now let's address the elephant in the room: teachers come in all shapes and sizes and yes, the good, the bad and the ugly show up. But for today, let's focus on the 'good'. In fact, let's focus on the great. Teachers are great; I dare to venture that they are amazing! Their raison d'être is to make a positive difference in the lives of our children, whether that is to help them learn to hold a pencil, calculate the square root of 64, or sprint like Usain Bolt!

Our society takes for granted what teachers do - it's their job after all. But where would you be if your life hadn't been touched by teachers? What would your community look like without teachers? Where would our young people go to develop, socialise and stretch themselves? Teachers are not A* machines. Teachers are the care-givers outside of the home, they are the guardians of hungry minds and the sentinels of young hearts. They are the gatekeepers of wisdom way beyond knowledge, carefully balancing encouragement, discipline and praise for each and every child they support.

I have had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most extraordinary teachers. Teachers who have gone above and beyond their job description: working with the kids that just don't 'get it'; that have just suffered a bereavement; or have been involved in a fight. I have seen hundreds of extra hours poured into new schemes of work, school productions, sports days, art exhibitions, classroom displays, and end of year assemblies...... The list goes on and on.

And yet there are some who bark "What's the fuss about? It's their job, we didn't ask them to be a teacher, they chose it." This is true. Teachers chose their vocation. They chose to study hard, become specialists in their field, understand the complexities of pedagogy and sign up to work with children, young people, young offenders or adults. They chose this. But they chose to teach, to inspire, to co-create with their learners. They did not choose to patrol corridors, police playgrounds, break up fights, supervise detention, inspect uniform, receive abuse from parents or monitor chewing gum.

Teachers are professionals who tirelessly serve our community, often putting their students' achievement before their wellbeing. I do not advocate teacher martyrdom in the name of student achievement, but I feel obliged to point out that suicide rates for teachers are approximately 40% higher than the national average (Health & Safety Executive).

So next time your child brings home an unidentifiable creation, a letter for a science trip, or a school report, pause for a moment and say a quiet thank you (regardless of the grades!).

Twenty years ago, UNESCO proclaimed the 5th October World Teachers' Day; a day devoted to appreciating educators. They recognised that the most central, vital professionals to society do not necessarily receive the respect they deserve. World Teachers' Day 'is a natural extension of UNESCO's all year round work of promoting teachers, ensuring that this profession, so vital to the healthy functioning of society, is itself "healthy".'

This is why I have organised a London celebration to honour, appreciate and congratulate every teacher in the UK. So whether you are a teacher, a parent or a student you are warmly invited to join us to revere, big up and cheer on teachers around the world. We will hear from some amazing speakers including student leaders from the London Borough of Sutton as to why they believe teachers are worth thanking. Click here for a free ticket to be part of the fun!

If you haven't already, thank a teacher today.

'Everyone can help by celebrating the profession... by ensuring that teacher respect is part of the natural order of things.'