Well of course there is the teaching. They inspire and engage our children to want to learn. Some of the topics in school curriculum plans are odd and could be very hard to make engaging. Good teachers find an angle to make it exciting or interesting to learn. A good teacher has an amazing skill of watching 30 children, with just the two eyes they have in their head, and yet ‘see’ each and every one of them. At parents evening, you know that the teacher knows your child because they are describing them as a person and not just a learner who sits somewhere in the range of abilities in their groupings. A good teacher knows that a child’s happiness at school is so strongly attached to their friendships and to what goes on with their peers. So a good teacher keeps a light touch eye on the friendships and the nature of the interactions that go on in their class. They actually deal with things as they arise so that they don’t regularly rise to the level of a big issue. Good teachers make your child feel listened to. Good teachers are fair. Good teachers make their hard job look easy. From my point of view, the good teachers seem to like my child and take an interest in them.
Don’t be fooled by the ignorant jibes about teachers and the long holidays. The long holidays just allow teachers to have a bit of flexi-time in their workload. Teachers work in the morning before school, all day during school, during a large chunk of their lunch hour, after school, in their evenings and for great big chunks of the weekend and the school holidays. How hard do you find it to look after your own children some days? How would you like to look after 30 whilst also having to teach them at the same time? Remember that this is all done whilst having the pressures of performance management, OFSTED, LEA and in-school observations and whatever government initiatives are foisted upon the school. And what if a child has big issues happening at home? Whether they are affected by divorce, sibling rivalry, bereavement, serious illness, medical conditions, mental health issues, financial problems, poor parenting, illness in the family or anything else that life can throw at a person, aspects of these issues arise in the classroom and playground are have to be dealt with by their teacher.
We are lucky at my daughters’ school that we have the option to take our children into their classrooms in the morning. I do of course think that my daughters are the most important children in any room but I’m aware that all the other parents think that their little Johnny or Jenny is too. Even so, neither I nor they take advantage of this invitation into the classroom. If I want a quick word with the teacher, I can do so; if I want a longer, more private word, I can arrange it with her for another time. If my daughter has talked about a piece of work at home, then I can ask her to show me, so that I can really appreciate what she was telling me about it. This open-door policy in the mornings is a school decision, which shows that in the school as a whole, parents are welcomed, included and not seen as an annoyance. The head teacher’s door is almost always open, and if it is, we are allowed to pop in and see her if we need or want to. The school includes us and allows us access. I am very appreciative of this. I appreciate that it isn’t easy to implement: the school has 600 children and and the business of teaching and learning to be getting on with. Some mornings I don’t go in. With my older daughter I almost never go in, but I can if I want to.
But I digress, because it is my daughter’s teacher who inspires me to write today. She is an approachable, friendly, caring, talented and engaging teacher. I am happy each and every morning to send my daughter in to her capable hands. Also, as I think of her I am inspired by the echoes of memories of other amazing teachers. My own memorable teachers: Miss Helen Ayckbourne, Mrs Barbara McClay, Mr Staunton, Miss Ita Mansfield. The amazing, talented, caring teachers I’ve worked with: Sian Leahy, Carolyn Murphy, Sue Bain, Pat Parlour, Ann Peters, Julie Reed, Rachel Carrick, Maureen McCarthy, Donika Patel, Stuart Draper and others that I’ll probably have to add to the post when I kick myself that I forgot them in this initial write. To the teachers of my daughters who have made me feel safe and happy leaving my girls in their immeasurably good care: Miss Solomon, Miss Raye Chandler, Mrs Emily Swanson, Miss Marshall, Miss Broby and Mrs Alex Kelleher. Other teachers I have liked, appreciated, been grateful for and been happy with too, but these teachers cared for the whole child and looked as if they were genuinely enjoying their time with the children. They skillfully managed the educational, social and psychological aspects of what went on in their classroom whilst looking calm, measured, capable and in control.
My children’s growing independence relies on them going through a process of separating from me. From co-sleeping and bf ending, from being able to spoon feed themselves, from me taking them to nursery and school, from being able to read to themselves, from friends coming over and them running off to play and do their own thing: the ways in which our children move towards independence and autonomy come by the dozen and come thick and fast. Part of this process is our children having other influential adults in their lives, with few more influential than a good teacher. In primary school, your child will spend one thousand hours in the company of their teachers each academic year, with 900 spent with their class teachers. 900 hours! A good teacher has 900 hours in which to play their part in teaching, coaching and shaping your child towards the adult that they will become.
And the teachers are educating our children for a world that is changing so fast that many of the jobs they will end up doing don’t even exist yet. But a good teacher gives them the tools, skills and experiences that teach them how to learn, and if you know how to learn, then you can be taught and you can learn whatever skills you find that you need in life. This is the most valuable resource that children take away from their school years. In the school years in which your child has an interested, engaged, skilled teacher who can communicate, teach, engage and sometimes inspire them, then that is a year in which they will flourish. This will strengthen the foundation that the positive parts of their education gift them with for life.
Thank you teachers for the job that you do.
Thank you brilliant teachers for the brilliant job that you do.
Thank you caring teachers for the compassionate, warm-hearted job that you do.
I feel safe, glad and happy to have your influence in my children’s lives.