In the words of Eric Cartman: Respect my authority!

Are teachers respected in the UK? Would my mum be proud of me if I decided to become a teacher? Spoiler alert… my Mum would be proud of whatever I do, as long as I’m the best I can be. Barber- be the best; plumber- be the best; bank robber- be the best… You get the picture I’m sure. I’m very lucky with my parents in that, whatever idea I’ve had got my career or life plans, when I’ve explained the ‘logic’ behind my sometimes outlandish or out-of-the-box ideas they support me. As does my long-suffering husband. Teaching did form part of that odd pathway I carved forwards. When I decided to train, I was recovering from depression and anxiety so Mum was worried, but it was the right call. I am now still teaching but doing lots of other bits too and I’m very happy with those choices.

I am proud to be a teacher.

I am lucky to say that I’m in a setting where I am very well respected by colleagues and kids alike. In my last job, the school community was fab and I was lucky to have an amazing team with me too. Not everyone has that. I have seen schools and friends who have had awful experiences and been ridden rough-shod over by their institutions, kids and/or parents. That should not be the case.

Respect and achievement?

We often hear of how well kids do educationally in countries such as China or Malaysia. We often hear of how good the attainment of young people in these same places is among the best in the PISA rankings. There are also countries where teachers are less well-respected and kids’ progress/attainment is not as good. For me, this is not rocket science at all. If teachers’ authority is undermined, and they are not back up institutionally and structurally (at national level) then how on earth can they convince kids who may be utterly disenfranchised with education, to be bothered

with French on a Friday afternoon. I know that I’d not bother listening; RE and history were my nemeses! But my teachers had my respect and they were both lovely people. I just didn’t like the subjects. I also knew that if I didn’t respect them, I’d be answering to Mummy and Daddy Newton and that was not a good thing. My parents instilled respect for teachers (and others in general) so I mostly was OK at school. I had my moments like everyone does, but I toed the line!

I think that respect for anyone starts at the top. Where governments value and respect their teachers and demonstrate this through supportive legislation and guidelines, then it should filter down to the classroom. If a discourse of ‘teachers are important, skilled professionals’ is there from the government, teachers are empowered to do their jobs well. If a discourse of ‘anyone can teach’ flows out from Whitehall (see proportion of unqualified teachers both nationally and locally) and Unions are branded impossible, there is systematic denigration of teachers. Compound this with the idea that teachers should have an extra ‘induction’ year to increase professionality without active justification of what they’d do and the aims/objectives of the year, it is no wonder that teachers in the UK do not feel respected, and that achievement is lower in the UK than in areas where teachers have respect.

The sad thing is that teachers and parents largely want the same thing: well-rounded kids who leave school happy and able to function well in their adult lives. But we need to respect each other for that to happen, and respect for teachers needs to start at the top.

As the noble Eric Cartman once said, “Respect my authority”. Then the rest will fall into place.

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