There are many myths about teachers. In this text we will try to debunk some of them.
Teaching is a tough job. Judging by the way some people talk, it’s a wonder that children learn anything at all. If you listen to what some people say, including politicians and the media, it seems that teachers are constantly being given notes for improvement, along with lists of things that they should be doing (but apparently are not), to ensure progress of the children they are responsible of. Oh, and of course, they finish work at 3.30 and have all those holidays! That must have been what tempted them into the profession in the first place!
The reality is much more complex and in this article I’m going to try to debunk some of those myths about teachers. Whilst not all teachers are as caring, committed and passionate as others, most are in the job to make a real difference. If they were motivated by money, they would have chosen one of many other jobs with fewer hours and far higher remuneration.
Teachers are motivated by watching children’s progress, by seeing that lightbulb moment after understanding a tricky concept, and by unpredictable and sometimes (!) wonderful things they say. It can be a job of high highs and low lows, but is certainly never dull and always dynamic. It is most definitely not babysitting, and whilst it might be tempting to think that teachers just play or paint all day, there is a fine art to using a number of activities and techniques to ensure the academic, social and all round development of children.
Remember that teachers are human beings too, and just like everybody else, they make mistakes due to personal problems that regularly distract us all during the working days. Good teachers always reflect on their work and constantly look for ways to improve their practice so they could make an even better use of available resources and come up with new ideas for that motivationally challenged child.
Myth #1: Their day finishes at 3.30 and they get all those holidays – they can’t be working that hard.
Teaching is a tough profession, and most of the hard work takes place outside the hours that your child is in their class. According to a government survey commissioned last year, an average teacher worked more than 50 hours a week. This seems to be a conservative estimate, since many teachers I know often work up to 60 hours a week. A lot of work goes into planning, resourcing, marking and assessing children; not only to provide them with a fun and engaging learning experience, but also to make sure that their learning experiences are suitably adapted to both support and challenge them. Being unpredictable creatures, children can blow the best laid plans in their teacher’s face, therefore it is very challenging to show flexibility when planning numerous eventualities and to re-evaluate the teaching approach to meet the constantly changing needs of the students.
Myth #2: Training days? Just an excuse for a day off!
Teachers have had their training, right? What can they possibly need with another training day? In fact, when doing surveys, teachers consistently emphasise the importance of lifelong professional development and career progression. It inspires teachers, updates them on new policies and provides them with the opportunity to develop new pedagogical techniques. Since teachers usually spend large portions of their days with children as their only company, professional development opportunities allow collaboration with colleagues and knowledge sharing. The Institute for Education in London claims investment in existing teachers is crucial “if we are serious about improving educational outcomes for young people”. Yes that’s right, your children benefit from their teacher’s continuous professional development.
Myth #3: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach
My heart breaks every time I hear this. Teaching is a real art and it aims to get a class full of, not necessarily cooperative, students to acquire skills and knowledge required to reach their potential. It is not enough to be an expert in a subject to be able to teach it well. Yes, teachers must have a good understanding of the subject matter, but it is much more important that they are passionate, inspiring, and doing more than just demonstrating their expert knowledge to the children in the class. They need to break down the skills and knowledge needed for children to learn for themselves. They don’t observe how much they know, they are instead focused on the progress of their students. They develop the next generation of leaders, innovators and teachers. As far as I’m concerned: those who can, teach.
Myth #4: Teachers are responsible for a child’s whole education.
I have heard parents lamenting their child’s education too many times; a gap in general knowledge, they can’t tie their shoelaces, they don’t know what is going on in the news, etc. Every adult who spends time with a child is involved in its education and whilst teachers spend a large portion of the day with the children, they can only fit in so much into the school day, which is already overloaded with a number of competing priorities. Other adults involved in a child’s life can give valuable support to what they do in the classroom, by providing them with learning opportunities at home. This could be as simple as measuring out the ingredients for the cake to support their numeracy skills, or helping them become confident to tie their shoelaces independently and quickly, in order to maximise their learning time at school. Just like the African proverb, it really does take a village to raise a child. A community of interested adults must work together and they are all responsible for their future.
Can you bust any myths about teaching? We would love to hear some.