Teachers get a bad rap from society, I am immune to that now after 20 years of teaching. I don’t feel respected as a professional or valued for my skills and knowledge except by my colleagues, family and friends who actually understand what it is like to live with or have a close association with a teacher. I laugh off the comments about having so many holidays and that teachers work school hours! Really, school hours?
Let’s face it, there are teachers who have been and still are in the system who don’t help with the reputation that teachers have today, but that can be in any industry. They may work ‘school hours’ and manage to fly by the seat of their pants, but I can tell you, they would not last too long at a school or they may perhaps be at the end of their career and need to retire.
I would like to think that teachers teach because they love what they do, they are passionate and want to make a difference. This is why I am still teaching, because I am passionate, I love working with my students and watching them grow during their educational journey. I know I am making a difference.
Yet this profession has changed over the years, certainly from when I started to now it has. Initially, the focus was more on the academics, what we were teaching in the actual curriculum, but this has become so much more crowded.
The accountability has always been there, but now there seems to be so much more associated with it today, almost doubling our paperwork. We are certainly more than a “teacher” teaching the curriculum, we are also finding ourselves raising some of these students and teaching them life skills, whereas years ago this predominately came from the home.
Family life for some students is far from easy and their one constant can quite often be their time at school. That one teacher who is there every day for them, who reminds them how good they are, that helps them with their studies, that listens to them and so much more. This is not taught through a university course, this is something that is developed over the years and can be extremely overwhelming for some teachers, let alone graduates.
Currently, if you have completed a three (3) year degree, you are able to complete a one year masters of teaching and then all of a sudden you are qualified to walk into a classroom and teach! Could this be why our profession is finding half of it’s new teachers aren’t making it past the 5 year mark? What did they think they were signing up for? Oh, that’s right, lots of holidays and ‘school hours’.
These types of courses grossly under prepare new graduates for the daily life in a classroom, they do not provide enough contact hours in a school setting nor do they teach them how to actually teach. This is, however covered in a four (4) year teaching degree. However, there are aspects of this job that a university degree cannot prepare you for, aspects that you can only learn on the job, building and refining your skill set throughout your career.
The topic of funding is always in the media and society is lead to believe that teachers are paid enough and that schools have enough resources and funding and to get on with teaching our kids.
Firstly, I never went into teaching for the money or the holidays and the fact I am still passionately teaching after 20 years proves that. Secondly, I challenge anyone to walk into my classroom or any other classroom for that matter and teach a group of students who are all unique, have different learning styles, behavioral issues, learning disabilities, chaotic home life or simply haven’t had breakfast, on their own and ensure each student has their individual needs catered for on a daily basis. If there was one thing I truly believed would make a difference in all classrooms, it would be having a teacher’s aide who could provide assistance and support for students with behavioral and learning disabilities. Currently, schools need to jump through hoops to apply for funding and somehow the government seem to move the goal posts, making it very difficult. If every classroom had an aide, that would be a huge step forward for our education system and our students. After all, they are the reason we teach!
So, given I have outlined just a few reasons why a lot of teachers are not hanging around for more than five (5) years (and I don’t think it is just because we have to pay for our own tea and coffee and don’t always get a lunch break), our government needs to pour more money into the education system itself. We need access to the resources in our classrooms, we need more teacher aides and we don’t need the government to continuously make the funding process so difficult given we have more students starting school with special needs.
If you are still contemplating being a teacher after reading this, then you might be one of those special teachers that will make a difference too! Trust me, it is a tough gig but so very, very rewarding!