Here’s the problem with teachers-and what we can do about it

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Teachers have been scraping the bottom-of-the-barrel for so long now that they have, in most cases, become resigned to their fate.

Herein lies a most distressing problem.

Why is it that one of the most powerful professions on the planet has been reduced to one of such intense misunderstanding, criticism, and all too often, abuse? If you consider that teachers work with the minds of future generations, that teachers can transform self-worth and help young people realise their own potential in ways that few others can, you will understand the magnitude of the teaching profession.

The late Nelson Mandela understood the power of education when he famously noted that: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Teachers hold the power to change mindsets and open doors to imagination, creativity and a diversity of skills that are needed to move humanity forward. In fact, the power of a teacher is unprecedented and unmatched in influence and contribution to the continued expansion and growth of humanity.

And yet, teachers, new and experienced, are struggling, feeling disheartened and often disillusioned. Campaigns encourage teachers to leave the profession for greener pastures. Young people are being discouraged from choosing teaching as a career- why would anyone want to subject themselves to the challenges that teachers are facing, right? As a passionate teacher, I find this unacceptable- something HAS to change.

The challenges may seem insurmountable, yet the solutions are quite simple.

  1. Get the media involved in promoting the value of teachers. The influence of media, in all its forms, can help change perspectives of what teachers do and help build a healthy respect for the teaching profession. Imagine if teachers were acknowledged and thanked for their incredible service through the media! It is time to create a culture of gratitude and pride for the work that teachers do.
  2. Ease the pressure on teachers by simplifying the tools that they use to do their work. Teachers are bombarded by administrative tasks that take up their personal time and diminish their abilities to focus on why they became teachers in the first place. Simplify the processes and give teachers more time to teach creatively and intuitively.
  3. The daily abuse that many teachers suffer at the hands of some students and parents is simply unacceptable. People are encouraged to walk away from abusive relationships to protect their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Yet, too often, teachers who suffer abuse on a daily basis, are expected to cop-it-on-the-chin.  

Schools and the media need to actively campaign to encourage parents and students to respect teachers, as teachers are expected to respect those in their care. Respect is a two-way-street.

  • Teachers are human and make mistakes, like everyone else. There are many ‘experts’ who have never taught in a classroom but who feel it necessary to demoralize and shame teachers. Schools and the media need to discourage parents, students or anyone else from bashing teachers. Schools need to have solid problem-solving strategies in place that make people feel heard and acknowledged and ensure that teachers are protected from potential  abuse and unkind behaviours of others.  There is a positive solution for every problem. Bashing teachers is not one of them!
  • You can only give to others how you feel about yourself. Teachers who see and acknowledge their value will shine a light wherever they go. The media can help with this as well. Find ways to promote the teaching profession and help build a culture of healthy pride and respect for those who choose a career in working with the minds of the future.

I am a teacher and have been for many years. To every teacher, practicing, retired or otherwise, I take my hat off to you. Thank you for your service to your communities and, indeed, your country!