Do Teachers Deserve Our Respect?

Teacher talking to students at chalkboard
Teacher talking to students at chalkboard

Like police officers or doctors, I think of teachers as professionals who used to command the utmost, unquestioned respect.

I grew up with the attitude instilled in me that these people were the backbone of society and as such, worthy of our unconditional admiration and trust.

Do you feel the same way? A recent survey shows the UK ranks 10th in the world for respecting teachers.

And while public scandals have dented our expectations of those in the police and medical profession, I still cling on to what many would consider a simplistic reverence for teachers – even when the odd one or two are reported to have sent pupils home for the most ridiculous of 'misdemeanours' or convicted of shocking crimes.

These rare occurrences do little to affect my unswerving belief that most teachers are hugely decent and dedicated individuals following a vocation who deserve our staunch support.

When my girls come home from school to tell me that they have been told off or (oh my goodness the shame) been given a detention, then whatever the reason, nine times out of ten, I feel duty bound to side with the teacher as opposed to my children.

Plenty of my friends take the opposite view, considering my toeing the line a rather naïve trait, a sign of meekness or even weakness, not wanting to stand up and fight my children's corner. But that isn't so, I want to teach my children that they do need to fit in with what's expected from them to get on in life. Respecting teachers is part of that. There have been times when I have questioned what has been said or challenged a reprimand – but that doesn't lessen my respect for the discipline being instilled.

Mum, stepmum and writer Rebecca Emin says: "This is something I feel very strongly about, I have a massive amount of respect for teachers as the thought of doing what they do is terrifying to me. It's easy for me to say this as all of the teachers (and staff) at the school my children go to are very, very good. Respect shouldn't be unconditional just because of a job title though."

My friend Nina adds: "I respect teachers enormously as the majority are among some of the hardest working individuals out there. Work doesn't stop at 3.30 when the children go home. They stay late and once home they are preparing lessons and marking work which also continues over weekends and holidays. There is more pressure and scrutiny on them than ever before and it's a never ending process. A great teacher is worth their weight in gold. Their passion and teaching shapes the lives of the next generation. They should be applauded."

There's plenty more praise for teachers from my friends and colleagues.

Blogger Tasha Goddard adds: "I have huge respect, especially as I ran an after-school club for a while and was a language assistant during my year abroad. Neither of those roles comes close to being an actual teacher and they were both very exhausting and hard (rewarding, too, though). All the teachers I know work very hard - and certainly nowhere near the 9-3.30 that people seem to assume they do. And we are fortunate to have some truly outstanding teachers (not just in Ofsted terms) at our school.

"But I definitely see evidence of a lack of respect toward teachers - not too much at our school, but in comments on social media and the like. Especially when they strike and get in the way of people's childcare plans - when I always stand up for them."

Perhaps a more sensible and grown-up approach is to take a more balanced view.

Writer and mum Jo Ind says: "I don't respect teachers per se. It's a very, very difficult job and one that I would hate to do myself but that doesn't mean that I respect the way that all of them go about things. Some of the teachers I had when I was at school were shockingly bad. I respect good teachers and when my child is lucky enough to have one, I am on my knees with gratitude."

She says: "It depends on the teacher. I recently went to a parents' evening and the majority were pretty impressive. But one truly astounded me by her lack of empathy, inspiration and imagination - I got the distinct impression she didn't really give a toss about my son or her subject. Maybe I caught her on a bad day but it didn't inspire confidence.

"And yes to what Jo says - I also had some truly ghastly teachers, including one who was a bullying sadist and a few who were, quite simply, inept. It's like all jobs, I suppose - there will be those who put their all into it, who are natural teachers and love their work and their pupils while others will be there for the pay cheque or simply don't have the sheer élan to teach well."

As a teacher and parent, Susanne Remic sees both sides.

"I have a lot of respect for teachers, being one myself, helps as I know the pressures they are under," she says.

"As a parent though I think I sometimes expect a lot more from teachers than the average parent as I know how I would handle situations etc. But I am still respectful and polite. It's important to keep communication open with teachers for the children's sakes."