Who’d be a teacher? Given the predominantly negative media coverage of the teacher’s lot – curriculum and exam changes, funding shortfalls and pay freezes, the difficulties of finding a work-life balance – you could be forgiven for being surprised that anyone wants the job. And that’s before you factor in spending your working days dealing with a classroom full of children or teenagers!
In fact, for many of us spending time with young people, stimulating their learning and development, is precisely what brought us into teaching in the first place. Yet it can be difficult to hang on to this clear, simple understanding. Teaching is an exceptionally rewarding activity but it is also demanding and occasionally exhausting, with frustrations from within as well as those from without to fend off.
From within there are at times dispiriting responses of children to our best laid and well-intentioned plans – but hey, they are children! From without there are the distracting messages of matters beyond our control as teachers: funding, changing national priorities for schooling, various political agendas competing for our support, and those using education as a tool in their own arguments.
Accepting that children will be children – with all the frustrations as well as the joys this brings – and focusing on working on what we can control rather than what we cannot, helps teachers to remember why they entered the classroom in the first place. When we do this the challenges and tiredness associated with teaching fade. A recent ‘TeachMeet’ event, hosted at Bristol Grammar School, saw teachers from Bristol and the surrounding area come together at the end of the school day to share ideas and inspiration with colleagues. It was heartening to see the innovation, enthusiasm and excitement that so clearly persists within our profession.
Everyone has the occasional bad day at the office. For those of us lucky enough to be teachers, we simply have to look at the young people around us and remember what joy is to be found in sharing learning and growth with our charges. It is right that we have discussions about the challenges and issues that exist in education but it is also important to celebrate the positive. Focusing our thoughts on ‘how to’ and thinking positively about what adventure we and our students can engage with next will lead to fulfilling and joyous school days for children and staff alike.
Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School