You know who gets a bum deal in the upbringing of your children? It’s certainly not you – yeah, poor fucking you with your lack of sex, no more lie-ins, free time, disposable income, oh boo-hoo, you’re so worse off since having kids; oh do fuck off.
It’s not your kids, no matter what they say to you in a fit of anger.
No, it’s your child’s teacher.
Teachers do a remarkable job in the face some considerable adversity, and they get precious little back from it. What little they get, they really hold on to. I cannot believe the fucking arseholes who bitch about teachers. OK, not every teacher is perfect. Some do a lousy job of teaching. Some are cynical and bitter about the job, and pour their resentment into the classroom. Some teachers can be bastards to kids. Some don’t do the reputation of teachers any favours at all.
But most are dedicated, caring, hard-working professionals who are loyal to their charges, and they deserve your respect. Here’s a list of reasons why:
- They work hard. Unless you’re on a 12-hour shift in a uranium mine, you probably don’t work as hard as a primary school teacher. I’m sure your job has its rough moments, but it doesn’t compare to being a teacher.If you work in emergency services, or if you work in back-breaking environments for no money, then OK, I’m sure being a primary school teacher sounds pretty sweet as jobs go. In which case, I’m not aiming this at you. You can bask in the glory of working hard in pretty horrid circumstances.I’m guessing you don’t do that, though. I’m guessing you work in an office, or in retail, or something that involves mostly sitting down. If you do, you can shut the fuck up about everything from here on in.
- Primary school teachers can work up to 70 hours a week. You don’t (probably). Sure, there are more difficult and dangerous jobs than being a primary school teacher, but in terms of sheer slog, coupled with stress, aggravation and pressure from above, below, and sideways, I don’t think many jobs compare. Worst of all, your kids’ teacher has to put up with you and your horrible child, which is a burden none of us should bear.
- Imagine a job that gets you up and into work before most of us have finished our cornflakes. From the moment the doors of the job are open, there are people screaming at you for attention all day. You have to impart some incredibly important wisdom onto your clients, and the thanks you get is minimal. It’s a job that requires constant attention to detail. You are required to be forever patient, calm, friendly, authoritative, knowledgeable, with boundless energy and enthusiasm. You eat your lunch at your desk, and then more shouting ensues. Your job is soundtracked by dozens of squeaky voices. It’s like working in a Gannet colony where you have to teach the Gannets to eat soup with a spoon. No wonder teachers crave silence.
You have to attend to 30 different individuals, all with specific requirements and needs, some with behavioural issues, some with issues of social interaction (bullying, lack of friends, falling out with friends, sharing things, massive inarticulate differences in opinion), some who are perfectly intelligent but struggling with one crucial aspect of their task… and you have to be there for them BUT SIMULTANEOUSLY be aware of all the needs of all the people in the room. The breaks you have are few, and in those breaks you still have to run around preparing for the next hour or so. You have to be firm, you have to have a superb ability to impart discipline, you have to be in control, and yet you have to measure your tone, control any anger, be calm in the face of multiple personal crises (yours and theirs), and be constantly welcoming and available. And that applies to dealing with parents as well as their kids.
- I’m guessing that unless you’re a policeman, tax collector, bailiff, traffic warden, or professional wrestler, you do not get the hostility a teacher gets on a daily basis. If you’re a politician, you probably deserve it. I realise that in the thick of a gun battle, a soldier is aware that it is a hostile working environment, but even soldiers aren’t expected to fight for their lives every single working day. Some soldiers never see battle. A teacher is constantly in a war zone. For one thing, the kids in the class… not all of them are going to like the teacher, so there’s a constant battle of wills between teacher and troublemaker. All kids have the potential to be violent, and the shins of primary school teachers are testament to this. All kids have the potential to display the foulest manners, the most vulgar habits, the coarsest language. They don’t learn these things from the teacher – unless the teacher is a danger to the kids, and that is almost cosmically rare – they learn this shit from YOU (or the telly. Yeah, let’s blame telly, eh?).
And that’s just dealing with the kids. If a teacher reprimands a kid, that teacher can expect an angry shouting from that kids’ parents, as if said kid should be excluded from the concept of discipline. If a teacher ignores a kid, fails to pour attention onto a kid, snaps irritably at a kid in a moment of frustration, can’t find a kids’ lost item, or fails to recognise a kids’ supposed genius, then a teacher can also expect a furious parent storming into their classroom at the end of a working day.
Fucking parents. They complain about everything. Nothing is ever good enough for them. The list is endless and contradictory: Not enough communication from school, too much communication from school, not enough homework, too much homework, not enough attention from the teacher, too much… etc.
Go into any primary school at the end of the school day. See the queues of interfering parents. Listen to them be condescending, rude, patronising, thoughtless, inconsiderate, demanding, whining, hectoring, whinging, and sometimes threatening. I guarantee that you will almost never hear a parent thank a teacher for the job they do. I promise you that 95% of all the correspondence a teacher gets from parents is hostile or negative, or an attempt to absolve themselves of any responsibility. And I absolutely assure you that the teacher is told over and over again, from people with no professional experience of working in education (parents, press, politicians), that they’re doing a rubbish job.
And that’s just parents. Add to that a culture of constant demands and interference from senior management. Add to that a press corps that demands the best from all teachers, all the time, every day, without fail. And above all that, add in a government department with responsibility for education, who actively briefs the press against all teachers.
And then add in all the songs whining on about the misery of being in school.
And those adverts on TV that still insist on portraying teachers as fuddy-duddy authoritarian figures in gowns and mortar boards.
And then films, drama series, plays, sitcoms… Jesus, you don’t get that much stick from the nation’s cultural output if you’re working in IT, or as a receptionist, or in HR, do you?
If you did a job where your client thinks you’re incompetent, where your clients’ parents tells you you’re incompetent, your boss treats you as though you’re potentially capable of being incompetent, where the press tells the nation your industry is riddled with incompetence, where society berates your job as being the foundation of all the world’s incompetence, where adverts/television programmes/books/films/pop songs all bang on about how incompetent you and your colleagues are, and the minister in charge of the department responsible for your job actively seeks out every possible way in which you are potentially incompetent… you’d quit.
And yet, I’ve never heard a teacher say “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WILL YOU SHUT YOUR FOUL FUCKING MOUTH AND PISS OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE TO DO MY JOB PROPERLY, YOU SHOWER OF CUNTS!” to a class full of kids, to any parent, any meeting of senior management, any government inspector, or to any journalist, even if that would be considered a totally reasonable outburst under the circumstances. I’ve never heard it. And neither have you.
So tomorrow, walk into a room of 30-or-so angry, thick midgets, where anywhere up to 100% of the people in the room hate you and could, at any moment, launch an attack on your person. Have these people shout at you, swear at you, threaten you, ignore you, refuse to follow your instructions, and then, at the end of the day, the midgets sworn protectors barge in and complain about you to your face. At night, you’re left to monitor and correct the midgets’ work, and put up with a string of communiqués from those in senior positions above you telling you to do your job better. And then tomorrow you repeat the cycle.
You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t have the guts to do that. Leave the teacher alone.
- You don’t know your kid, your teacher does.Oh, that surprises you, does it? Well you don’t know your kid. Not like your teacher does. Look, you know your kid as “your kid”. You see them being selfish and violent. You see them being demanding and whining and sulky. You also get cuddles and kisses, and they crawl into your bed and they want stories and films, and they need their bottoms wiped, and their owwys kissed. A teacher gets all of that (except the kisses, cuddles and snuggling in bed together, unless they’re a really wrong sort of teacher who shouldn’t be teaching or left alone with children ever), but a teacher gets more. You might know your kid, but a teacher knows your kid as a person. Your child’s teacher knows the method by which your child learns, how they read, how they work, how they get along with other people.You might know some or all of those things, but it’s presented through the filter of you being their parent. Your child’s teacher doesn’t have that filter, so they can dispassionately assess your child as a person, and has a much better handle on how your child will eventually interact with the real world.
Let’s twist this for a second. Do you know your parents as people? Of course you don’t, you know them as parents. You might have an idea of what they were like at work or in the pub, but you don’t really know for sure, because your Dad is always your Dad. Was your Dad a hard-worker, admired by his colleagues? Or was he a bit of a wastrel? Did he lack discipline as a child? Was he a creep to other women before he met your Mum? Was he one of those guys with lots of friends, or was he a bit socially inept? You’ll never know what he was like through other peoples’ eyes, because… well… he was Dad.
He’s not Bob or Dave, or Keith, or Simon to you, unless you have those post-war-progressive kinds of parents and you’re on first-name terms with them. You have to fill in the gaps. Sometimes you don’t know what your Dad was like as a colleague or a friend until you hear a eulogy from their former colleagues and friends at your Dad’s funeral.
So, in summary then, don’t accuse your child’s teacher of not knowing your child. You are prejudiced due to having that spawn fight its way out of your (or your partner’s) innards. Not having that experience might allow someone to view your child fairly and dispassionately as a person in their own right.
- Teachers get paid a Goddamn pittance compared to other professions. Not everyone needs a solicitor, or an architect, or a consultant (whatever a ‘consultant’ is… I assume they’re there to be consulted by people and charge an exorbitant fee for the privilege of being consulted). EVERYONE needs a teacher in their lives… unless you’re home ed’ing, in which case this entire article is a waste of your time. In other countries, teachers are paid a decent wage. In this country they’re paid only a little bit more than fuck all, and all in order to put up with you and your child’s incessant bullshit.
- It’s nothing personal. Your child’s teacher doesn’t want your child to fail. Your child’s teacher doesn’t have it in for your kid. It isn’t a ‘clash of personalities’. Your child’s teacher doesn’t pick on your child specifically. However, plenty of parents take any form of criticism of their child by a teacher deeply personally. Why? Is the child an extension of your personal esteem? Do you believe your child reflects you and your entire life? Are you so bound up in your child that you cannot consider all aspects of their development dispassionately? Does your child personally represent you and all your insecurities? Do you live vicariously through your child? (yes, you probably do)If you want your child to have specific 1-to-1 teaching where your child is the centre of attention and is the sole recipient of their teacher’s time and knowledge, then fine, get a private tutor and stop bitching. Your child’s teacher has 29 other kids, all with their own issues, needs, learning styles, requirements and specifications to consider at the same time as considering your child’s needs etc.Why do parents treat any form of discipline on their child as a personal attack? How do you know your child wasn’t being a monumental arsehole? Oh, your child isn’t capable of being an arsehole? Well, I can assure you that they can be.
Of course there are going to be moments where your child’s teacher has to administer a bollocking. If you could see how your child was behaving, you’d probably give them a bollocking too. And if you can’t see that, well…
Look. Your child’s teacher doesn’t just teach. A teacher:
- protects your child
- advises your child
- gives medical attention to your child
- praises your child
- disciplines your child
- corrects your child when they’re wrong
- rewards your child when they’re right
- guides your child to figure things out for themselves
- insists that your child displays good manners and courtesy towards other people
- encourages your child’s talents
- dissuades your child from acting rashly or foolishly
- introduces radical concepts to your child
- encourages discussion and conversation for your child
- gives your child hours of attention every day
- instils creativity in your child
- gives your child new insights
- gives your child freedom to imagine
- provides an environment where your child can explore and express new ideas
- challenges your child
- gives your child puzzles and problems for them to solve
- encourages your child to be sociable
- constantly monitors your child’s happiness and safety
- administers medicine to your child
- argues on behalf of your child
- acts as a diplomat between your child and others
- engages with your child on matters of religion and spirituality and allows freedom of religion
- tries every method to get your child to communicate with others coherently
- improves your child’s reading and writing
- allows your child to engage with abstract concepts
- has specific knowledge of your child’s individual emotional and educational needs
- explains the nature of the world to your child
- provides your child with a clear understanding of what is right or wrong and sometimes in between
- unabashedly informs your child about sex
- broaches mature and controversial subjects concerning crime, violence, drugs and domestic abuse
- reads to your child
- plays with your child
- does their damn best to make your child and their friends laugh and be happy and enjoy their time together
- attempts to make every moment as fun and engaging as possible for your child
gives your child a safe environment where they can freely express themselves
- fearlessly tackles all the most difficult questions your child can ask
All of this, despite having spent hours preparing for each day, often all of these issues occur without warning, and the your child’s teacher does the same work SIMULTANEOUSLY for around 29 other children as well, for many hours of every working day.
Did you do all of that for your child today? Like fuck you did.
So here are some new guidelines for parents:
- Your child’s success or failure is not linked to your own feelings of inadequacy. If I have to ask your kid to work harder or do better, or just not behave so badly, don’t then come in and complain about me doing so. It’s not a personal attack on you.
- Your kid has probably not got ADHD, dyslexia, or any special educational needs, and you’re not a medical professional, so don’t self-diagnose. Your kid might just be stupid; but most likely your child will be merely average. Stop making excuses for them. They’ll do all right, one way or another.
- Your kid might be developing some pretty abhorrent opinions and views that they have probably got from you. Why else would an 8-year old suddenly make a comment about immigration in the middle of a lesson, for no reason? It’s one thing to bring your kid up with your own set of values, it’s another to teach them to be the kind of person who grows up to vote UKIP.
- You want to talk about bad behaviour at school? Watch the way the parents behave, gossip, plot, jostle for position, compete, and form bullying cliques at the school gate. That’s where it needs sorting, because sometimes it is despicable the way parents behave on the school run.
- If you want your kid to do well, you need to encourage them to do the work necessary. If you don’t care, don’t bother. Don’t not bother to encourage them, and then blame the teacher for your kids’ failure to be brilliant. 90% of a kids’ excellence at (for example) sport/reading/drama/music/art is done outside of the classroom on their own initiative, based on their enthusiasm for the subject.
- Don’t bully your child’s teacher into liking your child, or force the teacher to teach your kid differently in any way that would give them an unfair advantage over the rest of the class. Why should any teacher put special effort into a child who doesn’t need it? The teacher already makes a ton of effort as it is. Your child is no more deserving than any other of attention. Does it occur to you that your child is embarrassed by your meddling? Your regular pitch invasions of the classroom do not endear you to the teacher, and it is less – not more – likely to result in your kid getting any favourable treatment. And if you phone up your kids’ teacher at home, that’s bordering on harassment. Let the kid figure stuff out for themselves, or at least engage with their learning in a positive way, and if they’re a mediocre academic, you’re just gonna have to live with that.
- Grades are, in the end, just letters and numbers that are the same as a high-score on an arcade game. In the big, bad, real world, academic achievement accounts for sweet FA if your kid lacks confidence, a good work ethic, the ability to show initiative, the capacity to improvise, and the willingness to work cohesively with other people, and form loving relationships – and they need to learn a lot of that stuff from you, not your child’s teacher. If they’ve got ten A*s at GCSE, but only 3 friends and a reputation for being a bit of an arse, they’re unlikely to succeed at life.
Here’s the thing. Alice recently had the SAT exams every 7-year-old is expected to do in the UK. We didn’t ask her to revise, we didn’t badger her about them in the weeks leading up to them, we just trusted she would do them and she’d get the results that reflect her work in school. It’s all you can do. In fact, we barely mentioned SATs to her.
Then, the other day, Alice piped up with: “I am quite disappointed that SATs are over.”
Sarah and I looked at each other.
“Oh, are you?”, said Sarah. “What is an SAT, Alice?”
“It’s a fun quiz!”
A fun quiz. That’s what her teacher told her they were doing. Brilliant, really. We bought her teacher a present. We got a lovely ‘Thank You’ card in return.
You know what? Buy your kids’ teacher a present at the end of this term. Write them a note, appreciating what they do. Offer them your gratitude. You didn’t spend the whole year teaching your child, they did, and they did their best. Give them the appreciation and acclaim they deserve, and ask your kid to acknowledge all the help they’ve been given. Because that’s really why a teacher would teach. It’s not the money – it sure isn’t for the fucking money! – and it isn’t for the holidays, no matter what the Daily Mail tells you.
They do it for the feeling they get from your thanks, and from your kids achievements. Those are the rewards. It makes it all worthwhile for teachers. Take it away from them, and the job becomes increasingly bleak. According to the National Union for Teachers, in 2014, as many as 50,000 teachers left the profession in one year. They need more than just a long summer break.
Support your local teacher.