POSTED ORIGINALLY IN APRIL 2015
What a treat to read such a positive post on teaching this week!
And then how interesting that the responses to the post fell into two categories: those who lavished praise that finally someone had written something positive about the profession and reflected the views of those ‘who love their jobs’ and those who felt indignant about being told how to feel.
Summing up my response in 150 characters is somewhat constraining so here goes in a shorter blog post.
I love teaching. I love my school, the staff I work with and the students I teach. I am committed to my school, the staff and the students for some time to come because I believe that our investment in it/in our students is going to have a profound effect on the future of our academy and the students within it. I love teaching grammar – watching students grapple with elements of language that have previously remained untouched and deconstructing sentences in ways that they never thought possible. I love teaching literature – seeing students reactions to characters and key events and the joy in a shared journey. I love the challenge of learning something new and teaching something for the first time but I also love teaching units that I have taught a number of times and know work. I love seeing our students excel in all areas, including English but also in subjects such as the arts. I love seeing the improvements that we have made to the faculty (in the near approaching two years that I have been there). I love working with our principal, vice principal and SLE who support, challenge and push me to be better. I love the collegiate approach of staff and the fact we like each other enough to socialise with each other and enjoy each other’s company on a Friday.
In essence I love my job.
However, the fact of the matter is that I would be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t also admit that at times it is hard, exhausting and deeply frustrating. I am happy to stand up and admit that there are times when I want to give up. There are times this year where I have cried because I have been utterly exhausted. There are times when I have felt so frustrated by the constraints and accountability process I have wanted to scream. This doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t ‘love my job’. In fact, I think that recognising the difficulties of the job makes you a teacher more at ease with yourself and more equipped to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that is the education profession. What other career do you experience the highs of success and the lows of failure, the moments of sheer joy versus the moments of sheer terror all in the space of the day? In order to cope with this rollercoaster, teachers need to be able to talk freely without judgement and many do, turning to Twitter for support. In doing so, there is the shared space in which you never truly feel alone in tackling this rollercoaster. Someone said the other day that ‘on Twitter you know you will find someone who has been through the same experience as you, and that is a relief.’ It is a relief for so many people who have reached out in times of need and found the support that has helped them regain their confidence, joy, love, passion for what they do. A joy, love, passion all teachers have inside them but, at times, find difficult to find.
Those who are able to recognise and articulate when work becomes difficult also make better leaders. FACT. A leader who is endlessly positive and avoids dealing with the stresses of the job and being open about those stresses seeks to alienate their team. Who would go to a Head of Faculty who never admits that they feel the stresses associated with the profession or is seemingly excelling in all facets of their role? It does not create an image of a leader that one could talk to, find support from and seek comfort from. Instead, in acknowledging and admitting the difficulties one can find themselves in, one appears to one’s team as human – and, in turn, a space in which the team feel safe to share their worries and stresses is created so that problems can be worked through together. It is a well-known fact that schools who are struggling often have the friendliest staffrooms because everyone pulls together to support and help each other.
In addition, with some naivety ‘the corner of moaners’ in the staffroom is referenced – a corner which I have seen in the staffrooms I have worked in and have come to realise contain the wisest of all our professions. I wonder if the writer of this post considered that these ‘moaners’ are typically the ones who have been round the block a few times and have seen every ‘fad’ and ‘strategy’ introduced, dissolved and then re-introduced with the same amount of success each time. They have also seen many keen, enthusiastic and career-focused professionals come and go, racing through the school, creating a tornado of improvement and then leave, often with the school in no better position. More often than not, when I have spoken with these ‘moaners’, I have realised that they are not ‘moaners’ but, actually, hidden in those darkest depths are some of the most passionate members of the profession who have identified what works and feel no need to sign up to the barrage of new strategies schools seem to introduce on a weekly basis because they know, even before SLT, the probability of the strategy being a success.
Of course, the article rightly differentiates between offloading and moaning. Long term moaners can be detrimental to individuals and to teams. Having worked with a few, I can honestly say that the ability to suck the life out of someone is the power of a moaner, especially when you are working to counter-act their negativity. However, avoiding these types of moaners is useful or dealing with the level of negativity head on helps. Encouraging teams to reflect on positive moments during the week at meetings can be a lovely energiser to start a meeting and one in which everyone has to offer something positive, even if it is only for five minutes! On Twitter, the power of the mute button can also silence the people who just like to moan and offer very little else.
So rather than saying ‘We have the best job in the world, stop the moaning’, instead let us be more honest and say sometimes our job is bloody amazing but it is also bloody tough and when it is tough know that Twitter and those wonderful people on Twitter will be there to support you, strengthen you and reboot you, if you so want them to be. I know I will.