Today is teacher appreciation day and being a teacher myself and coming from a family of teachers, this day is an important one! Teaching is often a thankless job, it’s a job that has so many layers that often parents and society as a whole don’t realise what is involved. If I had a pound or possibly even a penny for every time I heard, “teaching is a 9-3 job,” or “you do get so many holidays” I’d be a millionaire!
This post isn’t going to spend time justifying why teachers deserve their holidays or why it definitely is NOT a 9-3 job, it is going to highlight the amazing job that teachers do. I have been so lucky throughout my life and career to have had, known and worked with some of the most inspiring teachers in the education system. I have always said that teaching is a vocation; if you don’t truly love the job then you wouldn’t do it. It’s not a job you can just put up with because you have the life and future of children in your hands and you owe it to them to be the best and do the best for them each and every day. That isn’t to say teachers are perfect and ‘outstanding’ every lesson day in day out, we are human and things go wrong, not least because we work with children and not robots so lessons can often take you down a different path to that of what you expected!
From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would go into my Grandparents room when they were staying and make them play schools with me – I would take the register and give them activities to do which I would mark! This must have been partly to do with the fact both mum and dad were teachers and I aspired to be like them because in my eyes they were super human. But as I grew older and went through Primary School, I was lucky enough to have some brilliant teachers who gave me the best education and allowed me to be a child who loved school. At Secondary School I also has amazing teachers – and some bloody terrible ones – and they too helped shape the person I am today. I was able to appreciate the effort and time they out into lessons and could clearly identify the ones who cared about me and my future and I loved the ones who did this alongside having a good laugh and got to know me as Hannah and not just a grade, some of which I am now great friends with.
Choosing my University degree wasn’t difficult for me, it was always going to be Primary Education. I did enjoy the course, I have to say I wasn’t very lucky with many of my lecturers but I lived for the school placements, that was what it was all about for me. Not the essays but the ‘in school’ part because that is what I had always wanted to do and where I felt most at home. I had some fab classes on my placements but my goodness did I develop a true understanding for what my teachers did for a living (see below a photo of me on the last day of my last teaching practice – fresh eyed, with hair and loving life…how things changed after ten years in the job haha!) The behind the scenes parts to being a teacher were harder than I could have every imagined, the hours and hours of planning, marking, preparation and sleepless nights worrying about observations and if you were meeting the needs of every single child or every ability – believe me, we work hard for those holidays! And then when the holidays do come round we (well most of us) work for some of them and spend time in school getting our rooms and corridors sorted, it isn’t little creative fairies that do that work you know!
When I qualified, I got a job at a school that I knew as soon as I entered the doors for my interview it was a special place. A school that was safe, inclusive and did everything for the children and with the children in mind. That school gave me the best mentor I could have wished for who taught me so much more than I could have hoped for in my NQT year but also saw me paired me with two teaching assistants who are two of the best people I have ever worked with, have ever known and have the pleasure to call two of my closest friends. It’s during the six years I spent there that I learnt how essential the role of a TA is. They aren’t and shouldn’t be an after thought, they are the people who allow us teachers to do our jobs as well as we do – they are a support not only for the children but for us – from lesson prep to displays, sorting out sore knees to cleaning up bodily fluids, remembering sick bags on trips to contributing their own endless talents to make our classrooms what they are. Teaching assistants should never be taken for granted, they should be involved and thanked and loved every day because in my eyes, they are the second teacher in the room, not just the supporting adult.
I then spent two years teaching in Dubai where I learnt even more about the importance of working as a team and appreciating the TAs. Having a fourteen form entry school is by no means easy but it was also great fun. In a school that size it’s easy to forget to be thankful but out Year 2 team did it internally with a buddy system where we secretly treated each other and it worked a treat. And I have to say, the support and encouragement I got from the parents of the classes I taught there exceeded any expectations I could ever or will ever have again. They were a very special group of families.
I have been very privileged to know so many special teachers and teaching assistants who have inspired me, taught me and supported me along the way over the years. Both in the UK and Dubai I have been part of teams that love what they do, know the importance of having a laugh and do everything with the children in mind and not just to boost the facts and figures. It’s so easy to forget that with the education system the way it is today, there is so much for teachers to try to cram in and get covered and sometimes it can be easy to forget that the children are what’s important. They learn when they have fun and are involved in creative lessons and need to be exposed to experiences that spark their imagination and trigger their passion for learning. That is something I have always tried to do, sometimes I stretch things a little too far like when I wanted to do an assembly based on the book, “There’s a Hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.’ I pictured it being an outside assembly where my TA would be dressed as a hippo and act out the story on the roof…and you know what? We only went and pulled it off and the children LOVED it! The number of children who came up to me after that assembly asking questions about the book and wanting to join story club just showed me that making that crazy idea come true, led to children being enthused about reading.
One of the best parts of teaching for me is getting to know the children and that includes their family as well. A child’s education doesn’t just lay on our doorsteps as often indicated by the press – I mean of COURSE teachers are to blame for every bad thing a child or teenager does because we taught them right?! Shaping a child into the adult they become happens through partnership – working together to help each other and support each other will ultimately benefit the child. Yes that is hard work but at the end of the day it works. Children spend much more time at home than they do at school with us so getting to know each other helps with the process. So a way of thanking us for all we do would be to show up to courses or events we put on, sign reading records and get involved on days we invite you in to read or take part in activities – we do it all for the children, it’s certainly not for our benefit…if teachers are being totally honest they’d rather be at home or doing something fun rather than waiting for the set of parents that don’t show on parents evening!
Yes, we love getting nice presents but you know what, for me I love getting something personal. Over the past ten years I’ve kept a box of special things I’ve been given and the most treasured are the few cards and hand written letters from parents and children I’ve taught. They mean the most because they are heartfelt, they are personal and time has been taken to think about what you have meant to them. Thanking a teacher doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, even taking time at the end of a day or term to just say thank you means more than you could know.
So if you have a child at school age, perhaps you could pop up to the school at the end of the day today and just say thanks to their teachers because I bet you that would make their day. And I will finish by saying to all my teacher friends – you are blimmin’ amazing, you may be exhausted after a bank holiday weekend but you’re all fab – not long until May half term – YOU CAN DO IT!
Happy Tuesday everyone,