I am in a very privileged position, in that I genuinely love my job. I have flexibility because of the different things I do around my classroom-based time and I am eternally grateful for that. I realise that there are significant numbers of people who are not in that position. There are people for whom a Monday morning alarm casts a shadow of panic and anxiety.
I go to work to teach, to work with young people and help brighten their day, equip them for life, support them through friendship wobbles, talk through their weekends, to be that regular presence in their lives when home is wobbly…
There is a myriad of reasons why I go to work and why I am able to say that I love my job.
I do not go to work to get hit, abused, or be threatened with violence. Noone should have to.
In recent headlines, teachers in a school in Scotland have taken industrial action which involves them not working with certain students in their school, due to violence. The local council has subsequently removed them from teaching entirely. While I do feel that taking such industrial action is extreme and a last resort, I also respect that it probably was the last resort. The council has a responsibility to these students to provide adequate education- it appears that they have not been appropriately supported- and also to their employees’ health and safety at work.
When medical professionals, Job Centre employees and other ‘front line’ workers are fully supported by their employers when faced with violence and/or threatening behaviour, why are teachers and educational professionals expected to ‘put up and shut up’? What example does this set for the other kids, those who are not violent, those who do not threaten? What message does it give to staff? Well, teachers are voting with their feet and leaving in their droves at present.
Significantly, what message does it send to those young people who are violent? If they have no apparent consequence for threats of violence, actual violence and verbal abuse, how can we ever equip them to become happy and functional members of wider society? Schools need to take a strong stance to support their staff, and enforce appropriate consequences for young people who do abuse staff so that those young people know what is acceptable in the wider world.
Not to do so is doubly failing them.