Wednesday, April 03, 2013

If ...

This first week of the Easter break has been intriguing.

The final week of term and the seemingly incessant stream of I don't know what that streams from the Union's annual conferences in its crude form and in the, ahem, refined, sensationalist manner that is typified by the popular - and, indeed, unpopular - press has irked.

The irking is largely, apparently, of my own doing.

At least it is if the press are to be believed.

Teachers have featured quite heavily in various articles launching themselves off the back of, in particular, the NUT Annual Conference, with which I have little* (* read "nothing") to do.

I was, until relatively recently, a member of said union but their rhetoric has been standing more and more at odds with my own beliefs and so it is I moved elsewhere. And yet still I am, in the popular conscience, tarred with the same brush as my more militant peers.  People - by which I mean the general public, they whose taxes pay our salaries - will see the word "teacher" and think that that means all of us.

I don't know how many delegates there are at the NUT and NASUWT conferences but whatever they're saying or voting on isn't what I think and I don't think it's what a lot of my colleagues think either. I think many of the headline's are daft - and probably apocryphal - and the hot air could be better used winning parents over to our side, as outlined by Peter Wilby here.

If parents were to march on Gove Towers demanding that he stop assessing their toddlers and children and just let them be just that then he might listen. Our duty as teachers is to educate and not just the children in our classes but their parents and carers; teach them, tell them about where our concerns really lie.

I think that the draft National Curriculum is over-stuffed with boredom.  I think that the creativity and enjoyment of learning is being squeezed out by perpetual assessment and unreasonable expectations.  I think that parents are as guilty as government in their excess of said expectations: Level 4 in English and Maths is no longer good enough; we want some to be achieving level 6.  I think there is a lot that we can learn from other countries but I think the mantra of "learn less better" should hold.

I also happen to think that we're paid a perfectly reasonable salary.  I didn't enter the profession for the pension nor for the holidays.  I didn't enter it through some misguided desire to change the world.  I became a teacher because I wanted to teach.  I've done numerous things before this and it is, without doubt, the most absorbing and engaging thing I've ever done.  Sure it has its frustrations but what doesn't.  I'm sure we'd all love to neither mark nor assess nor do the 101 other things that we do because we care.  Juggling the roles of teacher, phase leader, PE Co-ordinator, Teacher Governor, husband, colleague, friend, sibling, son, etc was never going to be easy but, guess what, I knew that, yet still I manage.

I don't think I'm alone in this and I think parents have a right to understand if and why we grumble.  Pension based grumblings hold little water in a community where work is casual and pensions generally non-existent.  Grumbling about marking, planning, assessing and the umpteen other things that we as teachers are contracted to do ... erm, it's part of what we do.  Grumbling about a curriculum that steals children's childhoods and defines a child as failing when they're 4 years old, that's worth a grumble I'd have thought.

You may well be asking yourself, "Why the peculiar title?" Well, as I was gathering my thoughts I toyed with tweaking Kipling's classic but upon reminding myself of its words I realised that I didn't need to; everything I wanted to say, he's already said.

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