No Apologies

Day 255 - proud

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Rachel Titiriga 

Spending one day with teachers at a department training and the next day with a public gathering (CoCreateEdu), passionate about re-imagining education has me thinking…….

as teachers;

  • why are we apologetic for our career choice?
  • why do we feel guilty about wanting to be great?
  • why do we apologise for working hard or play down the effort we put into our work?
  • why is it hard to admit that our job is hard?

I truly believe this profession is one of the most honourable and selfless choices a person can make.

Not too many people would choose to take 28 five year olds to the zoo and ensure they all took learning away, made links to the curriculum and reflected on their experiences just for kicks!

Not too many people spend their free time making resources for their workplace, or attempt to hold the attention of a room full of teenagers for 50 minutes straight when in their hand they hold a device that has YouTube and Facebook with their 300+ online friends!

There is substantial qualitative research showing that teachers can shape the course of a young person’s future, both good and bad. You can probably think back on your own education and recognise a teacher who inspired you up or contributed to your perception of your abilities or talents.

Many factors contribute to a student’s academic performance, including
individual characteristics and family and neighbourhood experiences. But
research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most. 

Teachers Matter : Understanding Teachers’ Impact on Student Achievement

So if research shows that teachers are crucial and we know that it is a challenging and honourable profession, why is it teachers often apologise for the points above?

A doctor doesn’t apologise for being in the medical profession, an olympic athlete doesn’t deny they want to be great or that they work extremely hard, an author doesn’t spend hours fighting deadlines and deny it’s any effort, so why do teachers? Why is there still “teacher bashing” and why are our young, bright, dynamic people choosing other professions in preference?

Barack Obama acknowledged:

“The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the colour of their skin or where they come from. It’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is.”

Dylan Wiliam clarifies:

In the classrooms of the best teachers, students learn at twice the rate they do in the classrooms of average teachers—they learn in six months what students taught by the average teachers take a year to learn. And in the classrooms of the least effective teachers, the same learning will take two years. Moreover, in the classrooms of the most effective teachers, students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn just as much as those from advantaged backgrounds, and those with behavioural difficulties learn as much as those without.

So we know this to be true, we need great teachers in classrooms. We know that schools should be the building blocks for the future yet we have a profession that is less valued and more criticised than most. So how does this change?

in recent years it’s become a truism that attracting good quality and well-qualified people into teaching is accepted as the essential prerequisite to raising educational standards

One obvious way these countries have attracted the best and brightest into teaching is by paying them well. As I have established in my previous research, there is a demonstrable link between the level of teachers’ salaries in a country and their educational track record. But the influence of teacher status – the social and cultural forces that determine how much we respect teachers – are harder to measure

Governments that are serious about attracting the best people into teaching must look seriously at the status of teachers – alongside other factors such as their salaries.

Peter Dolton, The Guardian

I think this is only part of the problem, truthfully when I finished high school it wasn’t the pay that deterred me from choosing teaching, it was the lack of prestige. I am embarrassed to say it, but it is the truth and I bet their are many young people who have made the same choices to follow academic paths at University whom would have made amazing teachers.

We need more teachers willing to be loud and proud and share their achievements, be passionate about their choice to become a teacher,  admit they are striving to be great and that hard work is the only way to achieve this.

Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great ... Greatness is determined by service

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by BK


  1. Sam Boswell

    Hi Rhoni,
    I like the threads you’ve woven to counter some of the claims and assumptions about our heart-stirring enterprise. What is teaching if not a demanding, iterative ecosystem? We are continual learners encouraging others to develop their practice.
    As to pay vs prestige – I offer a third arm to the forced choice dilemma: value. If our roles are not valued in the community (and that is reflected in all contexts, from workplace to media/ system wide and global scale), then challenges are magnified.
    Thanks for sharing your passion

    • rhonimcfarlane

      I completely agree Sam, I assumed the inclusion of “value” inherit in “prestige” but really it cannot be. There is prestige associated with professions such as law and politics, but that does not necessarily mean they are valued. I could have included the many ways we as a profession do damage to ourselves, but I do believe there are plenty of examples available and they are all too often heard and shared. We need to keep sharing the best of what we do. Thanks for contributing.

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