Teaching today- Why all the vitriol?
To say the past week has been eventful in our little island would be an understatement. Amongst all the deluge of NPHET being undermined by ‘Love me’ Leo, a story caught my eye. Many were up in arms about the timing of the new checkpoints, and rightly so. Yet again it seemed those trying their best, in these the most trying of times, were being accosted the most.
Those in breach of regulations are more likely to do so at sporadic times, not as those still required to commute to work were, reasoned many. It was refreshing to see many united in their questioning of this bizarre methodology by An Garda Síochana. This was of course until one such objector began their tweet with the phrase I’m a teacher.
Suddenly the collective outcry against this policing method was replaced by sheer vitriol hurled in this person’s direction. Their offence? Being a teacher it seems. It got me thinking on my wonderful profession, and made me both enraged and distraught at the same time. Is there any other profession as fair game as, being a teacher.
My brothers are quite knowledgeable on the whole social media thing, says I betraying my age. I was shocked when they suggested removing the title teacher from my bio. I have to admit they are probably right, yet the stubborn mule in me won’t accede. After all, I am immensely proud to be a teacher. Where are we, that the phrase I’m a teacher can be a vulnerability?
An Important Task in an Important Age
I grew up in a time when our education sector was continually lauded. It was generally accepted we were high in international tables because of our excellent schools and teachers. Although I may be getting on, this was not so long ago. Yet it feels like a million years ago. What has changed?
Being on the other side of the fence, I can say things feel different than when I was sitting in my oversized uniform. Inside the class, not so much, teacher student bonds still run deep. We journey through texts together in the English classroom, united on a path of illumination and self discovery. Both enlightening and being enlightened.
Yet, it is outside the classroom that things feel different. Whilst one can’t gauge a national consciousness from social media comment sections and the like, it has been quite unsettling to see some of the remarks. Not only this though, radiowaves, and prominent newspapers all seem to enjoy a teachers do damn all narrative.
When schools closed and we taught remotely, it was an adjustment for us all. Somehow it was our fault they didn’t reopen swiftly (I don’t remember blaming chefs for restaurants being closed). The implication being that we were living the good life during the pandemic, enjoying an extended holiday, and wanted children to remain stuck at home. The public, for some reason, do not appear to realise that teachers, like many professionals, continued to work from home.
This has permeated into many a mind. Friends of myself and my partner were happy to expound when school reopened ”I’d say you/he got some shock after being off for six months’. Why is teaching remotely the only form of remote working not considered just that…work?
I hope schools do not close again, because schools being open is vital to society. They are the lungs of our world, for me. Teaching remotely is quite a challenge, teaching over zoom is just not the same. Also, I’m not sure my psyche could take more invalidating and dismissal of my endeavours. While, of course, my student’s opinions are the ones that really count, it clearly has affected me.
Full employment in an economy is listed at 4%, therefore it is an admission that there will always be an element of layaboutery. This is also true in any profession. I could say that in any job I have worked there have been a couple of bluffers who would sleep on the floor if there was work in the bed, can’t you?
Even thinking on heading to the local deli for a roll, you can spot the ones busy behind the counter deflecting tasks to all about them. Eschewing a picture of busy-ness was always a great distractor from doing damn all. I still remember fondly the three o’clock slump guy from the quick soup ads; ‘Gotta go, status report’.
Yet somehow teaching is supposed to be free from any such bluffer. A backhanded compliment? Do we eschew such flawless standards, that all of us are in this pure of heart? I doubt that’s the implication, yet it is the expectation. Realistically, I believe that those who get into teaching for the holidays burn out fast, the work needed during term time is a fair equaliser.
Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes
We all care deeply for our education system, yet many feel they know best, basing their entire opinion of education on their own experience in the classroom. Unfortunately, their opinion is also based on the teacher close to retirement, or the one phoning it in, not on the one who may have inspired them to be doing what they’re doing. My main aim as a teacher is simply to inspire some of our youth to follow something that gives them fire, that is all.
It is a task I take tremendously seriously, and as my fiancee says; ‘if you want to know how hard a teacher works, live with them.’ I am not saying this to complain that we have to work hard, we all do, such is life, and being an English teacher, moaning about corrections would show a lack of understanding of my duties.
I am merely looking to be left do my job, without being constantly belittled and dismissed at every juncture. I would never pretend to know the inner workings of another person’s job, and don’t think it’s too much to ask for the same. After all, if teaching is such an easy, lavish lifestyle, why aren’t all the keyboard experts at it?