The teaching profession in many countries is in crisis, with record numbers of experienced teachers leaving the classroom each year.
In the UK, there are 5 BIG reasons why ..
1. Teachers’ Voices no Longer Matter
The maddest thing about the way education has evolved since I qualified as a teacher, is the extent to which the voice of teachers charged with actually delivering learning is ignored in many schools.
I don’t know another industry that offers so little opportunity for discussion, or healthy debate about the challenges it faces – and the best way forward.
What happens instead is that the ‘scientists’ who lead education, identify something which works in a specific context and then try to duplicate that across as many classrooms and schools as possible ..
.. in the hope that this will improve results in arbitrary tests.
This is followed up with a relentless implementation strategy designed to force teachers to conform to the one-size-fits-all approach, decided on their behalf.
This system is not only ineffective in many cases – it’s insulting.
2. The Job of a Teacher in Many Schools is Broken
Many teachers have spent years improving their practise, and have a very well developed ability to create relationships with ‘difficult’ students – and produce lessons which are tailored to each group and individual they teach.
Many teachers whose skills are holding together the schools they work at, are leaving the classroom because they don’t feel that management trust their judgement .. or that the education they are forced into delivering meets their students needs.
As a result we have a profession where teachers arrive with big dreams ..
.. realise that there isn’t much space for the job they wanted to do within the confines of a very restrictive system ..
.. and leave when they find something else, or have children and realise they want to be a parent, more than a 24/7 teacher.
Instead of experienced talented staff, positively infusing the profession with years of experience and imagination .. what we have instead is a system which needs regular injections of enthusiastic young people to function at all.
If this isn’t a broken system, I don’t know what is!
Until schools starts to trust teachers again, many more talented staff members will find reasons to leave teaching.
For those currently considering doing so, this post discusses alternatives to your classroom job.
3. Many Students Are Damaged by Their ‘Education’
But the saddest aspect of our ‘modern’ system, is the impact it has on many of the young people it professes to help.
Many of my students leave school believing they can’t learn, because of the narrow academic targets they are asked to hit to demonstrate their ability.
Where are all our artists, musicians, creative professionals, or entrepreneurs going to come from – without a flexible curriculum which promotes creative thinking?
Are we as a society so intent on the ‘improvement’ of academic results, that we are prepared to sacrifice the life chances and confidence of many of our young learners as a direct result?
I now believe one of my most important classroom jobs is to help students stressed out by the pressure to constantly improve – realise that actually life is about SO MUCH MORE than this!
I had one crying 13 year old tell me last term that she wasn’t managing very well, because of the pressure she is under .. and she wasn’t sure that she could meet her targets.
This poor child was honestly worried about the effect that this would have on the rest of her life.
I had a tear in my own eye as I explained to her that being a caring daughter, partner, mother or friend – and finding things she loved to do – were so much more important than what she achieved in any year in school.
If this is the reaction of one of my best students, I am not at all surprised by the detachment shown by some of my worst – who simply don’t see education as relevant to their lives at all.
Where are the opportunities for learning to just be ‘fun’?
4. The Most Effective Solutions Are Out of Reach of Teachers
It is generally accepted that student behaviour and attitude to learning is deteriorating in many schools.
The BEST solution to most of these classroom problems, is to teach what children actually want to learn.
But a rigid curriculum and prescribed focus on academic skills, denies most teachers the opportunity to be creative – to help children develop a love of learning, or give them a reason to behave in our lessons.
In most cases, teachers know what works. But our voice no longer seems to matter.
Instead we roll on with endless ‘improvements’ and imposed top-down policies .. which, without the foundation of a curriculum the children actually WANT to learn – will fail many students.
5. The Classroom Teacher is Our Last Hope ..
So how do we improve our schools in this hostile environment?
Management doesn’t listen in many cases – and responds aggressively in others.
Inspectors and government are too focused on the idea that ‘we are falling behind other countries’ and must catch up.
It is up to teachers.
Who else is there?
Somehow teachers need to take our profession back from the box tickers, data managers and privately educated politicians.
How should we begin?
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