Remember the old saying'"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but harsh words never hurt me?" Well in long years of teaching I often had cause to recall those words and although long retired, they still apply today.
Whenever I read yet another tirade blaming teachers I get angry - unnecessarily so now that I am no longer involved. But I get angry for those who are.
For years I was a Head of Department in a large Comprehensive School. I had a staff of around eight to ten working in my department and I can honestly say - hand on heart - that in all those years I never had a single teacher who was not totally committed to his/her job; not a single one who did not pull his/her weight; not a single one who did not meet the task with cheerfulness most of the time.
I do agree that there are some idle teachers, some who are not committed, some who are - frankly - pretty useless at the job. But isn't that so in every profession? But I do get angry when teachers en masse are blamed for all the ills of education.
Today there is a letter in the Times, suggesting that if the teaching unions did away with their annual "angerfests" as the writer calls them, the image of teachers would improve. If teaching is anything like when I was in it (and I suspect it is much worse in these days of sticking to a curriculum in such detail), then - believe me - only a fool would be without Union backing at all times. It is not a profession without numerous hazards every day. And getting together with other Union members once a year does give one a feeling of solidarity, a feeling that at least someone else understands the problems.
I have seen teachers reduced to tears on many occasions - by bad behaviour, by parents' comments, and - not least - by the fact that every thing one tries fails to work with some children.
The area of my expertise - Compensatory education - i.e. the teaching of English as a Second Language to children from the Punjab who had come into the country with no English; the teaching of reading skills to children who had come up from Primary School unable to read to anything like their actual age (and before anyone says this is the "fault" of the Primary School - just remember that many of these children would have come into Primary school having never seen or held a book or a pencil and with very poor language skills) -meant that every teacher in my Department had to try as many different methods as he or she could until one was found which touched a nerve in the child. Often it happened and the child raced away - to the delight of everyone. Sometimes it didn't work and we would spend long hours - after school and in that last week of the holidays when most of us would be in school planning the next term's work - working out another strategy.
I go to the supermarket and I pass mums with their toddlers - the toddlers are sitting in pushchairs, their mums are on their mobiles - rarely in the supermarket itself do I see a mum involving the child in the shopping. When I do it is a delight to watch. I saw one the other day -
"Find me a jar of coffee - no not that one, the one next to it." The child found it and put it in the trolley and the mum said, "Well done!" Then they went off to look for biscuits. That's the way to do it! Early language skills are not developed from watching the television or playing with toys, they are developed from talking with mum and dad, looking at things as you go along in your push chair, singing nursery rhymes together.
Sorry about that but the letter in the Times touched a still-raw nerve in me and I needed to get it off my chest. Enjoy your day unless you are swimming in water. Here for a moment the rain stopped and a weak sun came out. It has just disappeared again.