Updated: May 21, 2020
I don’t think it’s just me. Has anyone else noticed that it seems to be open season on teachers at the moment? From criticism of online learning provision, demands for summer opening, the question of what teachers are doing all day on full pay to the recent suggestion that unions or other dark forces are about to sabotage plans to reopen schools.
At a time when most key workers have been rightly celebrated, teachers, and to some extent the police, have been criticised. As teachers we have developed pretty thick skins to the standard jibes about holidays and short working days. Yet there is something about the recent wave of criticisms that hurts. These criticisms have been patiently and robustly answered on social media.
The criticisms are mostly unfair but where is this all coming from and why now?
1. Following the motive and the money
As a result of several years teaching the now defunct A level Critical Thinking, I know that a very important question to ask when any claim is made is ‘Who benefits from this? Who has a vested interest in persuading people that this is the case? As a country we are keen to get the economy going and parents may be under pressure to get back to work. It is no surprise then when big business leaders and editors of struggling newspapers start to push a certain agenda. They are losing money. Similarly for some areas of government - if you wanted to create a story to distract people from your own shortcomings it would be very tempting to allow a group to be thrown under the bus - it may just cause people to look elsewhere whilst you hide your mess
2. The Emotional Fog
Yet the blaming or bashing of schools and their teachers is not always deliberate. We are in the middle of probably the biggest event and change to our way of life that any of us can remember. We are all having good days and bad days and our emotions are all over the place. One image that I am very fond of when I think about navigating change is the Kubler-Ross change curve which explains how we process bereavement or other trauma
It is not uncommon once we have got over the initial shock to unconsciously look for someone to blame. Whilst parents attempt to work from home and help with school work, or find their children are getting under their feet, teachers on full pay ’sitting at home’ are a target in the same way that the cat might have become a target for your frustration after a bad day at the office
3. Ignorance is bliss
Finally one significant factor that seems true of many of our critics is that they are by and large reasonably far removed from the education system. Ignorance of the complexity of schools and colleges is widespread yet unfortunately unlike other walks of life, the critics are not always aware of their ignorance.
For instance - my wife‘s family are farmers. If I were to suggest that they should save space by putting all their animals into one field or that they would be more efficient milking their cows once in the afternoon instead of getting so early and then milking in the evening, they would quite rightly explain to me the stupidity of my suggestion. Visiting a farm a few times does not qualify me to pronounce on farming - and I am aware of this. I don't feel entitled to make these judgementS
Unfortunately some of our critics lack this awareness; they went to school once and they assume a qualification that they may or may not have. It often seems that the further removed the individual is from the school system, the more bizarre their comment or criticism is. It is also worth pointing out that even where we have knowledge and experience of one sector eg) secondary, we must exercise extreme caution when suggesting that ’colleagues in nurseries should...’ Our expertise is local and we should respect the expertise of others. What so many of the negative articles or coverage has in common is that there is in the kindest sense of the word, a complete ignorance of how schools and colleges operate and what they are doing at this time.
I suspect all 3 of the above issues - the motive to distract, heightened emotion, and a lack of knowledge - have combined quite horribly in recent days. A lot of what has been written is nonsense and time will hopefully show it to be so. Until then, we smile and try to show patience. We will get through this.