Every year Teacher’s day comes and goes with its range of soppy wishes, bright eyed optimism, wearied cynicism and then come the stragglers with their stories of good and bad teachers. Those who made us, and those who broke us.
What none of us deny is that these teachers mattered.
What teachers deny is that they matter.
And there in lies a problem.
If teachers believe that they don’t matter, that their efforts go unrecognised, that they are just a cog in the wheel and that their actions have no influence, let alone consequence – then they stop caring about what they do in class. They stop caring about their teaching, about their students, about their subject.
Worse, if they feel that they don’t matter, then it is natural to feel lost. It is not something one acknowledges except in therapy – but when is that going to happen for teachers. A lost person is on a quest. And if their work does not offer it to them, then they must seek it in their role. The role of the person who stands powerfully in front of a class. To seek self importance, relevance and validation becomes a personal necessity. And so we have the teacher who will not listen, who will only do things their way. Different teachers handle this in different ways – some seek relevance in rescuing children lost in their classes, others by validating and growing the smart ones. Some by doing things in a particular way (“in my class you only have to copy the notes and write them in the exam”). Some by asserting their position by their presence – and others by their absence. Teacher absenteeism is a symptom of the very same disease.
Yet, we all know they do. We know of children who don’t want to go to school because a teacher will be there asserting their power. We know of children who learn to step up to bullying because the teacher shows them how. We know of students who learn to become bullies and worse, because they are shown its power, and no more. We know of students who suddenly love one subject because of a good teacher, and the opposite too. We know of children who are suddenly wiser, because their teacher tells them stories. We have seen students begin to become organised just because a teacher inspires them. Teachers matter, but they often do not see how they matter. They matter in ways that do not show up in their measurement sheets or learning outcomes. Teachers matter in ways that marks cannot always show.
It is stil up to the teachers. This is the catch here. Children and students need to be shown how to care and show that they appreciate their teachers. Caring and empathy in the classroom is what we have lost – students lose in the present and teachers in the future. If for this selfish reason, teachers need to build more caring classrooms. We need to see much more kindness, much more care, support and sharing in our classrooms if we are to see learning outcomes improve. We know that competition is killing learning, even if it is pushing marks upwards. We know that children learn better socially – peer learning has been adopted by many countries. We know that softer learning approaches help those who are being left behind. And we know that teachers who were firm but genuinely caring are never ever forgotten. I wish we all remembered that.
So for this teacher’s day just gone past, and for every teaching day I have three wishes. One, that we wish our teachers as we do on teacher’s day so that they know they matter. Two, that each teacher discovers their true self and joy. And Three – that each teacher could speak to the hopes and fears of each child that came their way.
I lie.. I have many more wishes…
#IWishEachTeacher spoke to every child for learning, not just that they were ‘taught’.
#IWishEachTeacher used the power of care.
#IWishEachTeacher took a little time to reflect, to think about each moment and how it could have been in the classroom
#IWishEachTeacher was the reason for the shine in each student’s eyes
#IWishEachTeacher respected themselves enough never to lower their standards
#IWishEachTeacher saw each child for the future they would create. Give them nurture, they’ll nurture the future.
#IWishEachTeacher knew how much each student watches them, copies them.
#IWishEachTeacher told stories. Told stories of silly numbers adding up so often that multiplication was born…or of mountains and stars…
#IWishEachTeacher would try something new
#IWishEachTeacher showed us to value each person for what they can do, not the labels they carry.
but wishes will never end, and we can add our own…so finally,
#IWishEachTeacher knew how much they matter.
For TOi Blogs, Sep 5, 2016