This week, I have been emailing back and forth with a colleague I met at a conference recently. We are hoping to raise funding to fund a trip where we will work together to train teachers to support young learners with special needs. One of the questions I was asked was whether my husband and I were ‘mobile’, or if it was a short term trip in the first instance (context: my colleague is based in North America). I had to stop and think carefully- my answer was, “Potentially, depending on what we can find to keep the boy (my husband) of the mean streets of the City!” But then I read this article and really got to thinking.
What is fuelling this teacher-brain-drain?
From my perspective the answer is everything and nothing. The profession is often hailed as a vocation and a calling and I think a lot of the difficulty lies in that assumption: teachers do their jobs not for the salary but for the ‘greater good’. While this may be true in part, teachers are also humans who have rents/mortgages and bills to pay, who have lives and families. I fear that reducing teaching to a calling (I use the word deliberately) means that when teachers object to workload, or changes, or are expected to take on roles they don’t have training for: social worker; mental health professional (the list is endless and growing), they are more likely to be vilified. When a person- yes a person not a payroll number or just another teacher- is maligned or their profession targeted repeatedly, they start to question whether they are valued and whether it is ‘worth it’.
Just looking on the Guardian Education pages, there is a plethora of articles on why teachers are leaving the profession. Every reason is a reason and none of the reasons, in isolation, is a reason. But I think we need to look at the value placed on teachers and teaching. It may be a calling, but it also takes at 5 years’ training (in line with law, more than nursing), based on a 3 year degree, then 2 years of teacher training and work-based training.
I think that when wider society, starting with government realises and demonstrates that (and that not everyone who has been to school can or should teach), teachers’ views of their profession and the is-it-worth-it-factor may start to shift in the favour of remaining a teacher.