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☰ Just a Teacher

Head's Blog

Just a Teacher

Posted on March 30 2017


A four-letter word with many meanings. I recently found I have been using it inappropriately, as an adverb meaning only or merely. When asked what I do for a living, I often used to find myself introducing myself as “just a teacher.” I know I’m not the only teacher who does this. I used to feel insignificant. There are over 500,000 teachers in England and Wales, according to the Department for Education, so I am insignificant among many amazing individuals.

When I tell someone that I am an independent school teacher, I get the usual reply that this isn’t really teaching at all. The children want to learn and get the help and tutoring at home so hardly need us. I almost always receive the comment that it must make teaching easy. I cannot say that I find it any easier teaching in independent schools to that in a state school.

Teachers are simply not exalted in English culture, as they are elsewhere. Around the world, you will find higher pay, better benefits, greater professional development and an immediate reverence. When I tell a foreigner I’m a teacher, they immediately have lots of questions, positive feedback and reverence. It is not the same in England.

“Those who can do and those who can’t, teach,” right?

So, we are “just” teachers, according to many. They second guess what we teach, how we teach, if the “new” curriculum is appropriate or not, whether we are too strict or too lenient. Many who were students consider themselves experts on teaching. I am passionate about wine; however, this does not mean I would dare make a suggestion to a sommelier!

More than on an individual level, England agrees that we are just teachers. It is a mere 22nd in the EU education funding league list in 2012. It is even further down the scale when it comes to world funding for education and is 55th on the spending list worldwide. Countries such as; Estonia, Slovenia, Argentina, Tunisia, Iceland, Bolivia, Moldova and Ghana spend more as a percentage of their GDP on education than England. England ranks 12th in the OECD teacher salary rankings and, on average, teachers work 46 hours per week, 8 hours more than the global average. I will not continue with the sad statistics.

After all, we are just teachers.

Just a teacher who will pick up a child when they are hurt and care for them.

Just a teacher who will bring a smile to a child’s face when they are down.

Just a teacher willing to give a child a second chance.

Just a teacher who inspires a child to want to learn.

Just a teacher who guides a child in the right direction and picks them up when they fall.

Just a teacher who provides tutorials before school, after school, and during lunch — during our own personal time.

Just a teacher who will hold a child while they cry about what’s on their mind.

Just a teacher who helps a child grow in confidence.

Educators are anything but ordinary. We are extraordinary.

Saying “just” is a nasty habit that I’m working to break. After all, how can I expect others to hold me and my colleagues in high esteem if I don’t start with myself? I challenge all teachers to do the same. Our profession deserves respect, and it starts with us.

I am not “just” a teacher in any way, and neither are my colleagues. We go above and beyond to ensure that students receive equal opportunities as those around them in the least restrictive environment no matter what their situation might be. Each day is different. Each day is a challenge. And we would not have it any other way.

We are just. Adjective: guided by truth, reason, justice and fairness.

Nick Tucker

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