The area of education is always a highly contested and often controversial area – especially within the current UK political landscape in light of the general election of a new government. Education is always a huge source of debate and critique before, during and after general elections and, while I fundamentally disagree with the very nature of our young people’s futures being used a collateral, I accept that this is the way things are at the moment. Similarly, over recent years I have observed the teaching profession change in a way that I could not have predicted.
I started my formal training to become a teacher ten years ago, having decided years before that I wanted to work in education. My primary motivation for choosing this profession was that I felt called to the area of education (I made the decision at age seven). Other motivations arose during my teenage years – particularly the desire to fix some of the problems I encountered during my time in education as a child.
Upon entering the profession I had no illusion over the workload; I knew my holidays would not be my own and that I would have marking, planning and assessments to complete. I entered the profession at a time when we were inundated with documents, guidelines and policies such as the Primary National Strategies. However, I felt that the profession was valued. I wanted to be a teacher to make a difference and I felt like I was. I eventually went into senior leadership with an aim of helping to make a difference on a whole school level.
I have always been a huge advocate for classroom teachers. I really do believe that they do amazing things and are tasked with educating, inspiring and preparing our young people for the future: the young people who will be running our country one day. And teaching is such a challenging and demanding profession – it really is. This quote from NASA Astronaut Barbara Morgan really sums it up:
Most things in life don’t come easy. Most things in life take a lot of time and effort, and take some patience and perseverance. That’s what defines classroom teachers, that’s why classroom teachers can do their jobs so well. You don’t get instant gratification in the classroom. Barbara Morgan – NASA Educator Astronaut
Barbara was talking about her preparation for her mission to the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour – a mission that took 22 years of preparation on her part. She draws parallels with the teaching profession. Why? Because Barbara Morgan was a classroom teacher. From humble roots working as a teacher in Idaho, she decided that she wanted to inspire young people to learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In 1998, she was selected as the first ‘Educator Astronaut’ and in 2007 she flew to the International Space Station. Her passion for education meant that she returned to the classroom after retiring from NASA. Barbara’s story shows us that teachers really do great work and she is not alone. All around the world teachers are doing amazing things with their students to give them the very best and to inspire them to achieve their very best.
However, in recent years the teaching profession has become demonized in many ways and has been referred to (by people who should know better) in ways that I do not wish to acknowledge or publish on this blog. In the UK news this week, school leaders are now being targeted as the reason that standards are falling. The fact is, changes in curricular and national expectations means that teachers and school leaders are working tirelessly to provide the best education for our young people. They do this under remarkable circumstances of limited budgets, personnel, resources and, in some cases, support. Many are exhaused but believe that their schools exist to serve families, communities and children – and what they do is remarkable.