Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach

We’ve all heard it. That (not so) sly dig at the teaching profession, supported by the opinion that to choose teaching, is to choose a ‘cushy’ way of making a living. I mean, how hard can it be? Aren’t teachers ALWAYS on holiday? I’m not a teacher, but working in an environment with them has taught me that it is not for the faint-hearted, and if it is something one chooses to do, the job as well as the responsibilities that go along with it, need to be taken damn seriously.

Unexpected, back to school blues

A few weeks ago, as the summer holidays were drawing to a close, I had a conversation with my 11 year old nephew about how he was feeling about going back to school. For the first time ever, he wasn’t excited. He was to have a different teacher this year, and by his recollection, she did nothing but shout, all day, every damn day. She only ever had negative things to say about the classwork they produced, which I could tell had knocked his confidence. This was hard to hear from a kid who had always been so eager for the start of a new school term. He loves to learn, and all reports from teachers so far have been glowing.
I thought to myself, what kind of teacher spends large portions of the day shouting at children and belittling their work? By the sounds of it, one that doesn’t want to be there, and quite frankly, one that shouldn’t be there.

The teachers that ‘make’ or ‘break’ you

Being a teacher means you essentially have the power to make or break how someone feels about education. I’m sure if we all think back, we can identify the teachers that made certain subjects ‘click’ for us, as well as the ones that gave the impression that they’d rather be anywhere else but the classroom. If you were lucky, the engaging teacher who saw your potential and helped you to reach it cancelled out the negative experiences. But if you were not, how that one awful teacher made you feel about yourself and about learning, stuck with you.

It’s never too early to ruin it

Some are of the opinion that primary school isn’t that important, and that none of the real work starts until kids get on the road to their GCSEs. But I beg to differ. It all matters. Those earlier years are when a lot of children get lost in the shuffle of things, and when it takes the right kind of teacher to make a conscious effort to make sure no child gets left behind. I went to primary school with bright students with bags of potential, but somewhere along the way, they fell through the cracks and this didn’t carry through to high school.

But what went wrong? How do kids that show lots of promise, end up taking a u-turn and becoming disengaged? My guess is that it probably doesn’t take much, especially for the younger ones. Even as adults we can be put off things pretty quickly if an experience leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It’s heartbreaking to think that there may have been a point along the way that shifted things for these kids, and that the detour from their path to fulfilling their potential perhaps could have been avoided.

It starts at home

Although teachers do play a huge part in shaping the adults of tomorrow, it’s not all up to them. They cannot single handedly wreck it. Those of us who have children in our family have a responsibility too. So luckily, even though my nephew may not be too thrilled about his teacher this year, he’s surrounded by family that do believe in him and will push him to achieve what he is capable of. This is even more important now that he is in his final year of primary school. But I feel sad for the kids that don’t have the support system to counteract what might be going on at school.

So before you decide to take on teaching….

As yourself – do you see yourself as the kind of teacher YOU would have liked? Ask yourself if you’re doing it for the right reasons. If the thought of having 6 weeks off in the summer is what has attracted you, or you think that it will be an easy ride, please consider going into something else. However, if you’re patient, passionate about shaping young minds, and get a genuine thrill from helping children and young people to learn, you may just be the person for the job.
I get that not all teachers will have the same style or methods. I also completely understand that sometimes, bad days happen. Nobody can be all sunshine and glitter 24/7. But like nursing, I think teaching is something you really should not do if your heart isn’t it in.

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