OK so if you aren’t a teacher, you may disagree with the title of this post. You’re welcome to. I write my thoughts, you don’t have to agree with them. But, if you’ll indulge the idea for just a few minutes, perhaps I can outline a few key reasons why teaching today is the greatest profession in the world, and why people should join the ranks.
1. Teachers have never been more qualified
If you’re all about the letters after the name, teachers today are required to go through more training and ongoing professional learning than ever before. We may not have to go through as much as other professions – medical practitioners for example – but then again we don’t get paid at the same rate as our brothers and sister professionals in firms or practices. Despite this, most teachers today will be encouraged to gain additional postgraduate qualifications as soon as possible, once they are settled in the sector. This is both healthy for the individual and the profession as the whole, as new knowledge and new perspectives are constantly drawn into the ongoing conversation about how to cultivate the best environment for learning.
2. Teachers are, and have always been, extremely committed
Teaching is more than just a job. Teachers make daily connections with their students. Truly great teachers, some of whom I am lucky to know through teachmeets, Twitter and within the schools I have worked, are the ones who stay up late thinking up new ways to present their lessons. They participate in activities outside the 9-3 school day, those hours which ofcourse anyone in the game knows is not reflective of our actual school days. Teaching is a vocation, a life choice, a personal commitment to contributing to society. Anyone can start an edcuational resource business or app or consulting firm (and there are many valuable, excellent ones out there) but to be anchored to a school and to have young minds and hearts in your hands is an extraordinary responsibility.
3. Teachers are creative, intelligent and passionate
Three very different, but interconnected aspects to a teacher’s persona. Creativity allows us to develop new ideas for our classroom and beyond. It helps us fashion a story out of a curriculum document and challenging tasks from syllabus outcomes. Intelligence helps us set standards, pushes us to understand our subjects, our craft and the people in our schools more deeply. Passion is the generator which propels us ever forwards to new heights.
4. Teachers are more connected than ever before
This is possibly the one thing that technology has actually, measurably, helped teachers do more effectively: connect. We have our associations, our social groups, our personal connections. But, now, with social media in particular, teachers are able to branch out their Personal Learning Network – breaking down national borders, system barriers and even those surrounding the profession itself. I enjoy interacting online with people outside the profession and having them peek in at what we do and how we do it, rather than them only seeing what the media present. Which, let’s be honest, is not always a flattering or accurate portrayal of what teachers do.
5. Teachers have the power to change the world
Thanks to @mcgrath_chris who suggested through Twitter that “teachers have the power to change the world, one person at a time.” I would go further than that, and say that teachers in fact have the power to change whole groups at the same time. Every person should, hopefully, have had a teacher at some point that truly inspired them. I was lucky to have a few. Some weren’t even my classroom teacher, but took an interest in my growth anyway. Teachers do indeed have the power to change the world.
6. Teachers aren’t in it for the money
By the time I finished my bachelor degree in history, literature and education at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, many of my classmates were working or about to launch into a glittering career. Some were qualified builders or had another trade, having left school earlier than me, and some were now applying to or snapped up by big firms offering big potential earnings. Teachers, generally, don’t make that much money – especially if you divide our salary into the actual number of hours we work. If you are in education for the cash, you won’t last too long. The best financiers can make millions a year. Instead, the best teachers make a difference.
Many people are seeking to reform education in various countries around the world. Many of those people leading the charge are not educators. We must always be wary when non-educators seek a mandate for change without consulting their key stakeholders: educators and those in their care. All of society has a stake in education, but that doesn’t mean all of society should lead change within its domain.
Teachers, your time has come. There are many avenues for us to individually and collectively support positive change and sustain excellence in our profession. The time for exporting or delegating that responsibility to higher authorities has gone. Teachers have a powerful, articulate and diverse voice that can positively affect the lives of those around us. Don’t be afraid to show the world just how great we can be.