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A teacher's toils

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Monika Pedersen

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—"


"—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

This well-known quotation from an iconic literary text studied around the world captures the lack of understanding many people have about the role of being a teacher. So often when with a group of people talking about their jobs, the comment has come that teachers have the easiest job, as they have so many weeks holiday each year. When younger, this comment would raise my hackles, and a sharp retort would come back. Now I smile graciously and wonder how the person would fair with twenty or so young people in a room with their individual ideas and issues and manage to impart knowledge to them along with everything else that must be covered.

The reality

Being a teacher is no ordinary job, and the training provided, though much improved since the earlier days, is the mere starting point. It takes a long time to be a skilled teacher, and then there is always scope to improve. It has to be a lifelong passion if a teacher is to survive!

A teacher needs to take a group of children on an academic and personal growth journey each year and secure a level of knowledge and understanding to ensure they can move along to the following year's level and deal with the next level of instruction. Already the timeline brings a certain pressure, as a school year is not particularly long. As children are all different and learn at varying speeds and in various ways, this is not an easy task, but one that needs to be achieved by one method or another.

A primary school teacher needs to teach a range of subjects such as reading and writing, math, science, art, history, sometimes religion, and pastoral education. These are the subjects on the school timetable. However, then there are the soft skills to be nurtured and taught, such as friendships, dealing with conflict, building a child's self-confidence, helping them take ownership for actions, broadening a child's horizons and appreciation of other cultures and ways of being, as well as helping to develop a sense of empathy, citizenship among other skills. In addition, there are sports days, trips, musical or drama performances, and special days etc to organize and celebrate. A classroom also needs to be organized and made into an appealing learning environment.

"A teacher is a person who needs to wear multiple hats each and every day."

A high school teacher might specialize in one subject or even two and has many pressures of following exact curriculum targets as set out by educational boards, and they need to bring students to a high level of competency so the class is ready to tackle gruelling exams that will have a major impact on their future course of study. In these changing times, there is also a plethora of issues, such as digital citizenship, bullying, social pressures, mental health, etc, to bear in mind. There is also a mountain of marking to complete, as well as detailed reports.

As mentioned, a teacher is responsible for writing the curriculum for each subject area, and there are, of course, guidelines and specific targets, but then there is the delivery of the subject. There will be different learning styles of learning, so the instruction will need to be modified in various ways to ensure each child can access the material. These individual plans take time. Where is there time for this in a full teaching schedule? After the actual contact time with children is over, so after school and time over the weekend and the holidays. The material needs to be interesting and engaging, so a child actually learns Again, time needs to be found to research and organize the programme.

After dealing with the students, there are parents to manage their questions and demands. This takes time and often a lot of diplomacy and energy. If there are issues greater than the school can handle, connections with outside agencies need to be formed and meetings organized to support a s child. Furthermore, teachers have weekly meetings at the teaching level, subject level, or whole school meetings to discuss and set out pathways for broader issues. And then, there is a need for a teacher to maintain their professional development with courses or workshops.

A teacher is a person who needs to wear multiple hats each and every day. One day is never the same as the next. A teacher needs to put on a smile and be the 'cheerleader' for their students. A teacher needs to be flexible, inventive, and a problem-solver, often on their feet.

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