I’ve got a theory that no politician ever had a good teacher. If politicians had good teachers then surely they would have grown up to respect teachers and they would continue to listen to them about things teachers know about, like how not to screw up the education system.
The main problem with my theory is there aren’t enough bad teachers to match the number of politicians who seem to be ignoring them. Teachers, on the whole, are really good at what they do. In fact, I think teachers are freakin’ awesome.
Teachers are awesome for a whole lot of reasons but their awesomeness begins simply by virtue of them turning up to teach.
Have you ever been put in charge of a bunch of kids? Have you ever had to guide children or teenagers through a curriculum and have them come out the other end with the required knowledge still intact in their distractable heads?
I haven’t and it’s something I am excited about never having to do.
Lesson planning is a lot of work, let alone doing it really well. Let alone delivering the lessons in ways that engage the whole spectrum of physical, emotional and intellectual needs in a busy classroom.
Let alone dealing with other people’s kids. Have you ever stepped into a classroom for any reason, then stepped out again and gone “Whew!”?
Teachers have to double as administration gurus, board members, grief counsellors, child psychologists, special needs experts and social workers. They also need to be sports coaches, project managers, art directors, multimedia wizards, medical practitioners and nutrition advisors.
In the classroom they have to appear happy and totally together every day, even if their wife just left them or they ran over the family cat on the way to work. They are confronted with unruly armies of other people’s children on a daily basis, plus the expectations of demanding, needy or worried parents and the various reporting requirements of the Ministry of Education.
In this light even the rare bad teacher seems kind of admirable. Some people poo-poo the long holidays that teachers enjoy but I poo-poo that straight back. I think teachers are gobsmackingly heroic. They stagger into those holiday breaks. To borrow the parlance of students, teachers are wicked, they’re sick, they’re epic.
No one goes into teaching for the money or the fame or the prestige. Some might do it because they can’t think of anything else; they probably don’t last. Most do it because they want to teach.
Let’s say that again: they want to teach. These people, crazy as it seems, want to teach our children. They want to impart knowledge. They want to steer little lives (and taller, smellier lives) in positive directions.
These are not people we should ever take for granted. We should value them, we should high five them in the streets, we should probably even make sure they get paid on time.
We certainly should seek their expertise when it comes to revamping the education system. Teachers know what works and they know what doesn’t. Theirs is exactly the professional opinion we must heed when the government wants to increase class sizes or link teacher pay to student results. Both are dangerous paths, warns the education sector. Who is a non educator to disagree?
When it comes to shaping the future of New Zealand schooling I vote that the policy makers listen to the people who know what they’re talking about. That would be the people who work with our nation’s children.
Give it up for teachers. They’re amazeballs.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 25 April 2013. Reproduced with permission.