Teaching as a profession most often responds to an inner desire to contribute to the lives of others through education: to inspire, engage, and to make the lives of children valuable, memorable and transformative. For the majority of teachers, this means they are responding to a calling, not just to a job or even a career; it is something they are called to do, want to do, and are committed to doing.
This is why teachers are one of our most valuable resources, and whose roles should be given greater respect and reward within our society.
Most of us can remember a positive pivotal moment in our lives when something a teacher said or did, changed the way we saw and behaved in the world, or inspired us to continue to do great things with our lives. These moments can be incidental or profound.
One of these moments for me was Mrs Coglan, when I was in years six and seven, when she acknowledged my efforts in my English classes. I’d never had a teacher show such a vote of confidence in my abilities, and I know now, looking back, that her acknowledgement gave me the confidence to engage more fully in writing, reading and grammar – aspects of my classes that I loved.
And then another teacher, when I was an adult studying English at night school, Mr Kelvin Edwards. He was engaging, funny, adventurous and passionate about writing, poetry, plays, language and literature. He made learning fun and interesting, and nurtured my love of learning, curiosity and humour, inspiring me to do and be my very best.
I doubt Mrs Coglan and Mr Edwards ever knew how much their words and behaviour shaped who I was to become, both as a writer and as a teacher.
Committed, caring and passionate teachers work long hours, overcome personal and professional challenges, adhere to rules they may not agree with but are required to follow, put up with bureaucracy, vote for change, and support their fellow teachers in whatever way possible.
They do all this because they care deeply about teaching, their students and the institution of learning. They go above and beyond the call of duty, day after day, year after year, and often decade after decade.
And as each year goes by it seems they are required to tick more boxes, deliver more material, comply with more rules and regulations and take on board new and different models and theories of learning and application.
All this can lead to burnout, to fatigue, and to feeling under-appreciated and over-stretched. Instead of thriving, teachers are languishing.
Just as we want our children to thrive, we also want our teachers to thrive, given the pivotal role they play in the futures of our children’s lives.
When teachers thrive, students thrive; and when students thrive, classrooms thrive. And when classrooms thrive, schools thrive.
If teachers are ‘called’ to teaching, then we must do what we can to enable them to thrive – and ultimately flourish.