Working in the Shadow of Disapproval


For thousands of years, the profession of the educator has been held in high esteem.  The job of instilling our children with knowledge while helping to teach them right from wrong is not only essential to the growth of our children intellectually and mentally but it is also essential to the growth of our economy.

However, in the last few years, a dark shadow has hung over some professions in the public sector. In the case of teachers, this shadow is comprised of questions such as: How much do you earn? How many hours a week do you work? Don’t you only work 15 hours a week, surely that isn’t worth what you get?

In general, questions are plucked from obscurity to interrogate the profession that is not only educating our children, but also educated us.

Some people realise – and unfortunately some people don’t – that our teachers didn’t just teach us our ABC and Pythagoras theorems, they inspired us to become what we are today. If you think back to your favourite class or subject in school (the subject that you are probably pursuing today in some shape or form), can you remember your teacher? Chances are you can, and that teacher may have been your favourite or close to it, because we do not enjoy learning despite the teacher, we enjoy it because of what the teacher adds to the equation.

From experience, there are two types of teacher that one remembers – those we loved and those we hated. Unfortunately, like any job, there are teachers who, for one reason or another, are remembered for bad reasons by students.  Thankfully, as in life generally, it is a rarity to come across too many of those.

Happily, as students we appreciated and liked most of our teachers. So why now are we targeting the very people who inspired us to become what we are today and who in turn will hopefully educate our children and inspire them?

The recession has made everything more difficult. The cost of living has gone up, wages have gone down, redundancies have been imposed and, through it all, taxes have been increased.  People are short of money for their mortgage, rent, and food. Nobody deserves to find themselves unable to provide for their family after years of service in a job or various jobs.

However, by targeting the public sector – made up of our teachers, our nurses, our friends and our families – we are not only fighting the Government, but we are also fighting each other.

People chide teachers for their shorter working day and longer holidays. But how many people really know what a typical secondary school teacher’s day is like?

School is from 9am-4pm and teachers get three months holidays as well as Easter and Christmas. Right? Well, no – wrong. School begins at 8.30am for most teachers and earlier in some cases. A teacher cannot simply walk into a class and start imparting knowledge willy-nilly. Careful preparation is required and delivery is key.

As well as teaching 3-8 classes per day, teachers are on a rota for lunch duty (which involves missing lunch break) and have to take care of other innumerable chores that present themselves in a busy school environment. After 4pm there are corrections to be done and material to be prepared for the following day’s classes.  Much of the holidays is spent reading around one’s subjects and getting to grips with ever-changing curricula.

It is easy to judge people when one doesn’t understand their circumstances, even though it might be thought rude and unnecessary to challenge people on their job and earnings. No one’s job is lesser than another’s. So why do people target teachers?

A person cannot know what goes on in someone else’s life and similarly, we do not know what it is like to work in a profession until we have worked in it. We must not assume that someone does less work than we do, or works shorter hours and deserves less pay. Especially when that person may be the one who taught us most of what we know.

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