Be positive about teaching

Be positive about teaching

Teachers should stop being so negative about their jobs, warned Sir Martyn Oliver, the new head of Ofsted.

In a speech to the headteachers’ union NAHT he urged that they talk more about the positives of the profession.

He added: “I’m not diminishing the very real issues in schools. But I do worry that, if a narrative of negativity becomes all-encompassing… we risk putting off a generation of brilliant and inspiring teachers.”

And I agree with him.

Teaching involves giving to others and there is a selfless aspect to it. It is not a profession for the self-centred – it is a vocation.

Children seeing their teachers speak so negatively about their chosen profession will hardly be inspired to take that route themselves.

We must remember how privileged teachers are in the Western world.

Many developing countries face much bigger challenges. I happen to visit a number of those countries in the charitable work I am involved with, and I always return being more grateful for what we have.

In some developing countries, I have seen classes of more than 70 children with hardly any resources other than a chalkboard and a few textbooks. Some children don’t even have anything to write with.

Every teacher could always do with more resources but let’s not forget that we have so much. We should not take it for granted.

Much of the reporting of the education sector is told with a narrative written by the unions. They exist to get more pay and less work for teachers and so they amplify the negatives to put pressure on governments.

My outlook is more positive, and I’d urge people to go into teaching.

I am so grateful for my training as a teacher because it taught me important life skills that have always stayed with me.

I learned about classroom management, the ability to communicate with children of different ages and the expertise to teach a subject well.

Becoming a teacher helps develop a person’s character and interpersonal skills.

Although teaching deserves to be well rewarded in terms of pay, there are many other types of work that do not pay as well as teaching.

If you compare teaching with the military or care work, then teaching becomes a well-paid profession with extra-long holidays.

Teachers have a very good pension scheme and there are prospects for promotion and higher pay for those who are ambitious.

I have been teaching for more than 35 years and there has always been paperwork, record keeping and marking to keep on top of.

This is one of the things that is hard to avoid. Obviously, if there is unnecessary paperwork, it should be simplified. Teachers should spend as much time teaching as possible and the bureaucratic burden ought to be lifted.

They should be trusted to teach.

It seems that teachers have more difficult parents to deal with these days and children seem to know their so-called ‘rights’ in a way they never did before.

These present new challenges, but strong headteachers can create environments in which these obstacles are diminished.

Teachers should also be telling their children that England has been going up the international PISA rankings.

Children should be taught that they are in an improving education system.

Going up the international PISA rankings is because of the teachers. This is a genuine positive and something we should all be shouting about.

Recruitment to the profession is difficult and to attract more of them the pay and conditions must be examined.

But it would also help if teachers spoke more positively about their profession, as Sir Martyn has requested.

Everyone remembers their most inspiring teachers and I am sure they were all enthusiastic, positive role models.