How to stay positive at work – we must resist the urge to get pulled into a downward spiral
Happy education stories don’t win votes for politicians, but schools are doing amazing things in massively challenging circumstances
I was asked to write about something that had been bugging me to do with education. Let’s be honest, there is plenty I could have written about. It seems there is a lot to get us down, a lot to annoy us and a lot to concern us. In many corners of the sector there is a collective funk of worry, cynicism, fear about the future and, above all, exhaustion. The ‘getting back to normal’ narrative is, at best, a distraction, and at worst plain dangerous. It creates a misguided view of schools and education for the wider population and an expectation that some organisations are in no position to meet. But I’m not going to write about that.
Here’s the thing. At the moment, I think we are getting too bogged down in what is bugging us and I am as guilty of this as anyone. We must resist the urge to get pulled into a downward spiral. It is time to think differently, to be proud, and to recognise all the good we do and the difference we make.
Go back to the start. Why do you do what you do? What made you want to step into the classroom in the first place? The answer is undeniable. Even those among you who might give a wry smile and say ‘holidays’ are not being entirely honest. The battle-weary who might claim they can’t remember are deceiving themselves. We all did it for the same reason.
To make a difference, to help, to inspire, to change lives and to give children the knowledge they will carry for a lifetime. That’s why we do it. That’s why the best part of the job is the bit that happens between 9am and 3:30pm.
In my career so far, I’ve never met a teacher who told me they preferred devising to delivering, laminating to leading learners, or marking to making children better versions of themselves. We do those things to enable the best bit –working with pupils and making them better than sometimes they ever thought they could be.
This is why we must be proud of everything we have done and will continue to do, despite the struggles of the last two years and those that are still to come.
Schools are doing amazing things in massively challenging circumstances, but that is never reported, and I don’t think it ever will be – happy education stories don’t win votes for politicians.
I often tweet ‘headlines we’ll never see’. The cynic in me sees the mainstream media’s consistent takedown of schools as a wider agenda to fracture the education system. Take the ‘catch-up’ conversation; media stories weren’t about how schools had worked to make the gaps as small as possible, but how big they were. The return to school was overtaken by conversations about whether kids should be vaccinated and forced to test, rather than schools making the whole process smooth and effective. Don’t even get me started on the awful, untrue, and libellous comments from actual government officials.
Teaching is hard. It has always been hard, and it certainly isn’t getting any easier, but at the bottom of it we are still making a huge difference to every child we come into contact with.
Those things that bug us can seem huge and at times insurmountable, but what we do every day and what we give the pupils in our care can put those bugbears into perspective. Every now and again, we have to re-centre ourselves in our ‘why’ because it’s easy as a teacher to feel like you are drowning in work and having little impact. But if you only do one thing today, please remember that:
Every day you help.
Every day you inspire.
Every day you do more than you’ll ever know.
Every day you make a difference.
And while you might hear it rarely, every day hundreds of children and adults are so pleased you did.
The writer is a headteacher in England. Follow them on Twitter @secretHT1