Steve Downes' investigation into the state of teachers and teaching in the EDP, “Who'd want to be a teacher today”, confirms what everyone already knew. Teaching is tough and getting tougher.
A Yougov survey showed six out of ten teachers suffering from stress. I'm surprised it's so low. What are the other four doing? They were probably off sick the day the survey was taken.
A survey for Teachers' TV says half of all teachers have considered quitting because of stress. The other half must be downing prodigious quantities of Valium.
Teaching is stressful. I could have told them that and saved them the effort and money involved in taking a survey. This is not news. What Steve has brought to the table is some insights into why teachers may be stressed. Some of these bear closer inspection.
Quoting John Barnes of the ATL, Steve reminds us that society today is much different than it was when teachers who are in their 50's started their careers. Putting it another way, most people expect, as they reach the years approaching retirement, things will become “easier” at work. Their long experience of the job should lead to less stress and more in the way of financial rewards. With teaching it's the opposite. Those older teachers surveyed are reporting that the job is just getting harder. Leaving aside the government initiatives, it's society, in the shape of the raw materials provided (the kids) that is causing the stress.
Mr Barnes' take: “Parents have an attitude very often, which passes on to their children, that “you are paid to do this job and the pupil's job is to make it as difficult as possible for you”.
This is interesting. We are awash with signs in the hospital, doctor's surgery, post office, shops, supermarkets, pubs and other public places which inform the public that abusing staff will not be tolerated. You've all seen them.
Ever seen one in a school?
Mr Barnes goes on: “It's now automatically assumed that the child's rights are paramount. The assumption is that the child is always right and the teacher is always wrong.”.
The rest of the article is a litany of children swearing, being truculent or being downright violent towards their teachers. Little in the way of support from management is in evidence.
So, what is to be done? No-one has addressed solutions to teachers' problems for many a long year – and it would not be that difficult. It would be painful but not too difficult.
First. Insist that parents take responsibility for their children's actions. How? Install CCTV in every classroom. Then, instead of having meetings to discuss children's behaviour, just show the tape.
Second. Make parents' responsibilities truly extend to their children's education. Exclude the pupils who the teachers can't teach. All of them. No “ifs, ands or buts” . Remove them, now. The onus to get them back into school is now where it really belongs, with the parents. They can either educate them at home (and they better do it right – cause I'd be inspecting the devil out of them!!) or make sure they behave well enough to go to school. Simple. Sample scenario: teacher takes pupil to head teacher; informs head that pupil has sworn at them; head suspends pupil for that day; head informs parents to collect child; parents collect within an hour or the suspension becomes a week. Pupil returns from suspension and does it again. Same scenario repeats. Pupils and parents may begin to get message.
Third. Stop treating teachers as baby-sitters. Let them teach. Pupils who are violent towards their teachers (or other pupils) should be prosecuted by the police. Let the courts deal with them and their parents.
A sea change is needed in the way parents and pupils view education. Teachers, administrators and government must make it clear to parents that education is a privilege, not a right. If parents are not happy with what the teacher/school is doing – let then do it themselves.
I confidently predict things would improve.