Respect for teachers

The following cartoon I think sums up the state of education in the UK at the moment.

Teacher Christmas wish

There are 2 issues identified here, one is the state of funding, which is widely recognised across the state funded sector as having gone down in real terms in recent years (despite the Government pretending that it has gone up!), but the issue I want to mention here, is the general lack of respect for teachers.

Education has always struggled with its position in society in terms of is it professional or non-professional? For someone to teach in a school, they should have passed through the respected rigour of a degree and a post graduate education course or equivalent, and as such they are and should be seen as professional. In FE it is less clear, but all people teaching should be adequately trained, and even if not should be professional in their behaviour, conduct and attitude, so again this should be straight forward.

However (and this is a big however), education itself is very good at behaving professionally when it suits them, but then behaving non-professionally when it suits them. For example if a member of staff is performing badly, and isn’t capable of doing their job properly (and young peoples’ futures are being damaged by this poor performance), then that teacher ought to be supported, given additional training, but if they are still not performing, then the professional thing to do would be to remove them, but in many cases the managers take the unprofessional approach of keeping them on, and ignoring the problem, or worse still promoting them out of the way.

Then to add to this, there are numerous Government driven agendas to standardise and in theory improve education, when really when unpicked they boil down to a lack of trust and respect for the teachers and head teachers, to do what is right, and the damage that this has, is it drives many good teachers out of the classroom, it increases the workloads of the remaining teachers, and ultimately weakens the education our younger generations need and deserve.

I cannot offer any magic solutions to this problem, some of it is rooted historically, and some is too heavily politicised to change – but as an individual, and as a parent, I have a lot of respect for teachers, as I know that teachers will be working flat out until the end of term, and many will be working over the Christmas break with marking, preparation, and many other things – when really a true profession would allow them the time off that they need and deserve to do their jobs effectively.

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Ask staff what they want their VLE to be able to do

Yesterday I was running a series of training sessions for a college starting to use Moodle as their VLE. At the end of the day I set up a very simple activity (using the Database activity) where I asked the staff to identify “Wouldn’t it be great if Moodle could….?”. I asked them to try and think outside of the box – e.g. what would make a huge difference to their teaching, but you don’t think Moodle can do.
wishing tree
I then quickly went through all the suggestions (8 in total) and explained which were or were not possible. Of the 8 suggestions, 6 of them were possible – this had a wow factor with the staff, most of whom had suggested things they didn’t think could be done. I then tried to reinforce the idea that you start with identifying what you want to do, rather than what you know how to do.

Of the suggestions, one of the ‘not possible’ ones, was taking the dogs for a walk. From the 6 possibles – ideas were things like:

  • Ability to set up a blog for them to carry out reflective practice (achievable with the OU blog plugin).
  • Ability for students to store files on the system (achievable with the Private files function).
  • Include an online video meeting space (achievable in various ways with a web conferencing tool).

This is the first time I had tried this activity. I set it up expecting some of the suggestions to be possible – I wasn’t expecting 75% of them to be possible. I will certainly be repeating this activity in the future.


Phote source: https://flic.kr/p/8ouCLT