From education to employment

Are we kryptonite to our super hero teachers?

Deborah McVey, Managing Director, Deborah McVey Ltd

Teaching is a mystery. I don’t mean the many questions about what makes great learning though. The real mystery, the beautiful truth that can never really be measured is the impact that a single teacher has on their learners. We can’t possibly know the full extent of this, but it’s safe to say that a good teacher, who builds up their learners and gives them their best, has a huge positive influence. This can be directly upon their learners, but there’s also the ripple effect upon others. So, one teacher can have an immeasurable positive impact upon a community. And many good teachers? Well, they really do rock our world.

Like superheroes, teachers can be powerful beyond measure. But because of the great mystery about the impact they have, we have to ask if they really know how powerful they are. As a teacher you do get to find out about some of the impact. Perhaps you hear about an ex student that has gone on to do great things. Maybe your students openly evaluate their learning regularly with you, or you just see the difference in them and know you’ve had something to do with that. It’s a feeling many teachers cherish isn’t it? But because there is so much impact they just aren’t aware of, these super powers can often go unnoticed by the teacher and others too. What difference might it make if these powers were out in the open and we appreciated, valued and empowered our teachers? What difference would it make if their managers, learners and parents helped celebrate the power of a good teacher?

It’s not only these super powers going unnoticed that concerns me. My next question is, do we even allow teachers to fully utilise these super powers? What are we doing to our teachers that might deprive them of their power? There are several aspects to consider. For me, there’s the big issue that is our education system with its focus on proving rather than improving learning. How frustrating and painful is it to work within a system that they might feel is failing our learners? How draining is it to watch learners suffer at times when they could be thriving?

Then there’s the way in which the sector often works with teachers, and uses that ugly term ‘performance management’.   What joy is there in being performance managed? How is that empowering? Consider our attempts to improve the quality of teaching and learning and how we often begin to prescribe set methods or learning strategies. Our unwitting attempts to standardise, control, and prescribe grind down the creative, magnificent power of teachers, leaving them worn out, frustrated, confused, demotivated, stressed, anxious or apathetic. Of course, they don’t all feel like that indefinitely; no, many just leave.

There are plenty of other power reducing things we do too, from the blame teachers get from society, the pressure from parents, and the challenges they face with learners. It’s as if we are slowly torturing them, draining them of their power, and it leads me to ask, are we like kryptonite to our super hero teachers?

So, if we believe in the power of good teachers and we want to help them maximize this, what can we do? There’s a lot to consider, but right now, I would like to focus on how we can help unmask the power of teachers and how all those that work in education can work with them rather than against them. Can we just consider how we can build teachers up?

I believe in our collective power and so I am inviting you to join our movement to Build Teachers Up. The movement is for teachers, education leaders, managers, head teachers, principals, support workers, teacher trainers, quality managers and teaching and learning managers. It’s for anyone interested in coming together to see what we can achieve. The movement will aim to encourage others in the sector to empower and value our teachers. We will do this in many ways from raising awareness, educating each other about what we can do to make a difference, and supporting colleges, schools and other providers with projects to develop the right kind of culture to support teachers.

As well as joining our movement, there’s a lot you can do to help right now. Our actions don’t need to be huge missions; small gestures can make a real difference to empowering a teacher, rather like the impact teachers can have on their learners. So, now you have the power to make a real difference and can start by, for instance:

  • Asking some learners what they like best about their lessons and sharing it with the teacher involved
  • Simply noticing effort, passion and hard work and saying thank you
  • Asking teachers how they are!
  • Leaving your door open for a chat, or remove the door altogether!
  • Taking a teacher for a cup of something hot and sharing a conversation with them
  • Encouraging learners who tell you about a positive influence a teacher had to write them a letter, leave them a tribute via social media, or just scribble some thoughts on a post it
  • Encouraging teachers to join our movement to receive as well as give support to fellow teachers

If you want to help us build teachers up and join our movement, in my usual spirit of positivity, all I ask is: We communicate with kindness

  • We practice compassion, care, and a willingness to seek to understandbuildteachersup
  • We are open and honest
  • We support, encourage and challenge positively

Teachers build learners up. Let’s give our superheroes a boost and build our teachers up. Who’s with me?

Deborah McVey, Managing Director, Deborah McVey Ltd

Join our movement via linkedin

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