Teacher morale is at rock bottom. There’s no denying that. Whether you read the mainstream media, social media or the blogosphere there are endless examples of teachers highlighting the follies inherent in current education policies, despairing at the impact this is having on the pupils they teach or reaching the sad and distressing conclusion that teaching is no longer for them.
The imposition of initiatives, whether broad in scope and deep in impact or comparatively minor in the level of disruption caused, can irritate, undermine and demoralise. When you’re in the job, actually doing the task of teaching young people to the best of your ability under often challenging circumstances, some policies can seem disturbing, if not bewildering.
Take the SPaG objectives in primary schools as an example. No-one is suggesting that children shouldn’t be taught to high and exacting standards, but few professionals can understand the purpose of the stress induced by the current situation. Regardless of the outcome of the row, it’s hard to find a teacher that isn’t either incensed by its handling or deeply concerned by the apparent lack of relevance to the young people affected by it. Fronted adverbial, determiners and conjunctions are causing many to ask why, why, WHY?
Then there is the talk of forcibly academising all schools. Despite fierce opposition to the idea, ministers appear to be marching ahead with commitment. As a policy it’s plagued with difficulties. Many teaching staff, too, have shared grave concerns. Working conditions for some are changing and improvements in standards are certainly not a foregone conclusion.
It’s little surprise, then, that teachers are expressing their extreme dislike of current education policy and other aspects of the job. For some, resignation is the only option, while others implore the powers that be to review policy and work with teachers to find a path forwards. There are discussions on social media of fight backs and of the need to return to the essence of schooling, stripping away everything that doesn’t add to raising standards and enjoyment in our schools.
With so much being written about education in articles, news reports, media releases, not to mention blogs by teachers themselves, it can be hard to keep up, but it can also be hard to switch off in the face of news and comment that might depress us. Opinions abound and while the force of an argument is no indicator of its quality, it can be hard to take a step back and remember why we entered the profession, what we love about it and why we spend so much of our lives devoted to it.
Because no matter how dark the news, how bitter the social media squabbling, how ill-informed the latest policy idea and how weary we are from it all, teaching remains a rewarding job if we remember why we’re here, and what it feels like when relationships are built and children learn. We need to remember the sense of achievement we get from progress being made, from aha moments, from skills being developed and from interests being forged. We need also to remember the career satisfaction to be derived from our continued professional and personal learning through great quality CPD and the boost to motivation that can ensue.
In addition to reflecting on what originally motivated us to teach, an attitude of gratitude can help us to navigate the gloom and boost motivation. Research has shown that writing down just three things we are grateful for each day can be beneficial. That has to be worth a try.
Have a fulfilling week!