This is another one for http://www.teachsecondary.com. Hit the link to subscribe. I mean, look at that face there. How could you not?
What’s the number one response when I tell people that I’m a teacher? (Apart from, ‘Are you sure? Really? With hair like that?). Well, it’s a variation on the phrase: ‘Wow, that must be so rewarding’ coupled with a look of pity or mistrust. Then they move away swiftly to go talk to one of my mates who’s a lawyer or recruiter or MMA fighter or something sensible like that.
I get it. It’s pretty difficult to conceptualise why someone would want to get into this game. A lot of the time it can be a right ache in the nethers and I’ve often wondered myself what the bloody hell I’m doing in a job that’s long on hours, short on recognition, fat on absurdity and heaving with stress (this is perhaps why I’m not allowed to write recruitment slogans). Even so, there’s something about that response, the use of ‘rewarding’, that never fails to nark me off no end.
What it comes down to is that I don’t want to be patronised or pitied by people when I tell them that I’m a teacher. I don’t want them to have to resort to the assumption that it’s ‘rewarding’ (but you know, not in the monetary sense, or the kudos sense, or any of that useless stuff) and that’s the only reason I do it, like I’m some sort of paladin with a whiteboard marker instead of a lance. Get out of it. Here’s the bottom line:
I teach because I get paid to do it. It’s my chosen profession. I don’t do it out of any sense of missionary zeal. I do it because it’s my job.
Crazy concept, I know.
Of course, it’s a job that has golden moments. The kids (when they’re not conspiring to make my life as miserable as an Eastenders omnibus but with more swearing) are kids, with all the inherent yet wonderful madness that comes with them. But when all’s said and done, golden moments don’t feed my children, pay my mortgage or keep me in Nutella (OK, not even Morrison’s own brand version of Nutella). Also, a lot of the time the kids can go do one (which, coincidentally, is the title of my upcoming book on education. It’s either that, Teaching. Meh. or 101 Ways to Eat Morrison’s Own Nutella in Class, I haven’t quite made up my mind just yet.)
What I truly long for is a time when I tell someone what I do and there’s no mention of the job being ‘rewarding’, no consolation in their eyes – just pure, unadulterated jealousy and then some desperate begging to hook them up with some training. Instead of being seen (both without and within) as uncomplaining saints, teachers should be revered. I’m talking free backstage passes for us and our entourage. I’m talking complimentary everything. I’m talking real Nutella. I’m talking RiRi levels of swag and other terminology that I’m not fully confident in using.
Because if teaching really is the most important job in the world, why aren’t those that do it treated like VIPs? Instead of ‘That must be soooo rewarding’ it should be ‘Wow! That is absolutely incredible! Sign this body part!’
With recruitment and retention being as it is at the moment, maybe we should start looking at the fact that people’s go-to response when you tell them that you’re a teacher is to assume that you’re doing it out of some sense of vocation, some intangible reward, rather than because it’s a good job. Because what does that say about the profession?
‘Only Saints Need Apply’ is also not a very good recruitment slogan.
I sometimes think we’re our own worst enemy. We have a tendency to revel in the hardship of it all. To signpost our sacrifices rather than negotiate our contracts. To shoulder burdens and carry on ‘for the kids’. Whatever the hell that means. Do you see RiRi shouldering anything but a diamond-encrusted Gucci handbag? No. You do not.
So the next time someone mentions your job being ‘rewarding’ just say ‘Yep. It is incredibly rewarding for people to have a chance to work with me. Then take a selfie, and bounce out of there, like the rockstar that you are. #teacherswag #iamthereward #realnutellabeeyatches
Thanks for reading.