A non-partisan journal of the left.

Teachers' Low Morale

Fri 4th Jan 2013

The Unions tell us that teachers are suffering from seriously low morale. Apparently, the majority of teachers asked what Mr Gove's New Year resolution should be, have replied, "I should resign".

For the first time in my life, if a youngster were to ask me if s/he should become a teacher, I would find myself feeling intensely uncomfortable repeating the old mantra about teaching being an honourable profession, a caring profession... In fact, a vocation.

If you want a vocation, then seek the priesthood!

Teaching is a paid job like any other job - with one difference.

Teachers are now helpless.

They are helpless because they have no power to discipline wayward students. Helpless because their hands are tied when it comes to what and how students should learn. Helpless because their senior leaders have forgotten what it is like to be in a classroom and teach badly which they invariably did and that is why they were promoted out of their classrooms. Senior leaders, who ask for ridiculously detailed lesson plans, give teachers a non contact period meant for marking which they then invariably take away for cover, ask for data that is useless but looks good, take the student's side when s/he tells you to "f*ck off", spend enormous energy "rollicking" you off at every morning briefing, insist on you taking endless voluntary extracurricular activities with students who are barely interested, stupidly give students an afternoon off to watch sports... The list is without end.

Teachers are helpless because the Government changes its mind every five minutes about what education is and how examinations should be handled.

Teachers are helpless because a victimising, pompous and cruel organisation called OfSTED sends in pompous men and women who, invariably, have not taught for decades, to observe a teacher with thirty years behind him/her - for twenty minutes - and then pass judgement on their lifetime teaching skills.

Teachers are helpless because they have no say in the significant reductions being made in their pensions because the Government, in its wisdom, decided to end the final salary scheme and replace it by a lifetime average of their salaries.

Almost every day teachers are subject to incessant pressure from their Government, from virtually useless Local Authorities, from failed leadership and, finally, from ghastly and blind parents.

Aye! There's the rub. Parents. Teachers are having to be parents to children who come to school hungry and in need of breakfast. To little ones of school age who wear "pull-ups" - a dainty name for nappies. To teenage boys whose adoring single mums can never believe that their angel is anything like others see him being every day of his life. To children whose fathers have cleared off when they were nearly a six week old foetus because they couldn't care less - ah! Boys will be boys. To children who are bullied. To children who have seen more horrors in their few years of life than most Civil Servants even know could ever take place in our green and pleasant land. To children whose parents are utterly hooked on instant gratification. To children who never read. To children said to have no concentration span but can concentrate on a computer game for hours at a time. To children from whose homes the only conversation is on a television screen. To children whose mum has a mobile phone surgically attached to the side of her face and an endless line of 'fathers' who are too broke to take them swimming but can afford cigarettes every day...

The list is endless.

What is missing in this article?

Any mention of teaching so that children could learn. But then who has time to teach with all that is going on at school and all the directives that arrive daily from Tom, Dick or... Mike!

I am reminded of 1979 when a colleague phoned one night to say that the school will be closed if it snows. He phoned again to say that there was "promise of snow". We had a delightful few days off being snowed in at the end of which he phoned again to say that there was a "threat of a thaw". Ah! These were the days when Shirley Williams started the process of strangulating the teaching profession before Labour lost to Thatcher who brought in an endless array of self destructive developments for teachers who stupidly embraced them.

When, then, did teaching start to die? When the Comprehensive system was introduced with the ridiculous view that all our students could be lumped together and, to make it work, everything was dumbed down. But that is for another article to be written as soon as I retire from teaching at 68 or 70 or ... When? Ask Michael. I hope that he has had a good Christmas and is in a good mood.
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