Saturday, 14 November 2015

Perpetuating the Stereotype: Teachers

Who is devaluing the teaching profession? The government? The media? The public? Or teachers themselves?

Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see..." but many teachers are doing the opposite. They're living up to the stereotypes and allowing the labels put on them to become self-fulfilling prophecy. By acting unprofessionally they are perpetuating the negative views of the media, government and public.

This is perhaps seen most clearly on Facebook - the platform that gives us a voice within our own social sphere. On Facebook most of us tend to only be 'friends' with people we're actually friends with, creating a melting pot of employment backgrounds (as opposed to platforms like Twitter where we follow a 'tribe' of the more like-minded).

Facebook users have an impact on a personal level. People will form opinions based on who they know. What do our non-teacher friends see? A great deal of negativity. A lot of complaining. A lot of memes suggesting that we work longer hours than them, have a harder job than them, take more work home than them (we don't). Is looking down the nose creating a good impression? They see a lot of sharing of articles about teachers who have left teaching, often without any explanation as to why they are posting them. Non-teachers, no matter how friendly, can be left with the belief that all teachers are work-shy whinging wannabe martyrs.

Maybe we forget that on Facebook many of us (30 or over) are complaining directly in the face of the non-teachers who care about teaching the most: parents. They see a teacher complaining, think 'all teachers must be like this, including my little Jonny's teacher' and they worry. It's no wonder that the general public's perception of teachers is unhealthy. Take this one step further: people who are parents are influential in both media and government. It's also no wonder that something so close to their hearts as education is constantly being paraded through parliament and the papers. 

The negative posts on Facebook only attract interaction with other teachers. I've never seen a sympathetic comment from a non-teacher - negativity does not draw positivity from them. This negativity only ever seems to draw more negativity from other teachers, too. I suspect that the more shares these posts get, the wider the circle of discontent becomes as teachers wallow ever deeper in their own perceived miserableness, dragging others down with them as they cement their self-made position as a time-poor, worn-out minion.

Rarely have I seen posts of a positive nature being made on Facebook about teaching. The response of many teachers to any positivity is usually a sarcasm that seems to arise from an inability to see the job in a positive light (they're often in the form of 'jokey' comments which only thinly veil a teacher's true negative feelings). I am sure much of this is as a result of the largely-negative nature of the online social interactions teachers experience - some teachers just can't help themselves now; complaining is ingrained.

The negativity that appears to prevail, I regard as unprofessional. I know teachers who have worked and suffered in difficult schools under terrible management for years who have not once complained online. They remain quiet to maintain their own integrity, and that of the profession.

We are responsible at a grass roots level to have a positive impact on society's view of our profession. If each one of us, in our own sphere of influence, remains professional, we can bring about change. Stop the whining; no one will champion our cause as a result of it. Stop reposting the articles and memes. Be proactive about this; start to write positively about your job, even if it is in the context of the hard work we do and the pressures we are under. Start to think about the impact you could have on those outside of teaching if you behaved more positively (whilst still raising the necessary issues) and act accordingly.


  1. My non teaching partner is now fuming about this blog which seems to know nothing about teaching. While it appears to be sympathetic to teachers, it could have been written by David Cameron. It's basically telling teachers to suck it up and toe the line for the sake of their profession's public image. The public (not school staff) are generally split in how they see whats happened to education by who they vote for so it's not bad to say it as it is publicly. I think it's good to offload and share and to direct the issue back to the government in an honest manner or we run the risk of quietly accepting this unsustainable and damaging system...and don't even get me started on the, "we don't take home any more work than other professions". We work the highest unpaid hours of an profession end of...its not the offloading that's damaging, it's the governments data and test driven system. A system which is stopping teachers and pupils being the best they can be.

    1. I'm sorry to hear you and your partner feel this way about education.

      I hope that in the context of the rest of this blog, it is clear that I do not just tell teachers to suck it up - most of my other blog posts contain very practical advice for how the workload can be combated.

      My problem I suppose is that I don't think government officials even read all of the blogposts and articles, and they certainly won't be reading the twitter and facebook posts, so this is not directing issues back to the government.

      I have plenty of friends in other jobs, higher paid and lower paid, who work as many hours as teachers do. Some of them don't have job security, pension, many holidays etc either.

      I agree with you about the system of education we are currently working in - it is broken and the focus is wrong. But I think there are better things we can be doing about it than writing moan-y facebook posts and sharing the latest 'Why I've Left Teaching' post.

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