Teachers, sans frontieres

From January 2015

One profession. Together.

As teachers, we are many things to many people, and we do many things for many people: we’re lesson-planners, reference-writers, peace-keepers, attention-demanders, support-givers, peer-coaches, resource-creators, corridor-patrollers, skill-assessors, development-encouragers. We’re the devil’s advocate in that niggly departmental meeting, the arbitration service between testy parents, we’re life coaches for the angst-ridden and reality-checkers in the face of new management initiatives. Many of us, in addition to the satisfaction of watching the progress of our own pupils, contribute to the development of staff peers and gain enormous satisfaction from working in partnerships. Some teachers seem tireless in their enthusiasm to offer assistance, resources, time and emotional support to other teachers just because they are teachers. Because they care about teaching.

And yet the extent to which there is both the need for peer support, and personal investment in order to offer it, can sometimes be humbling. A couple of days ago, this appeal came through the twittersphere


…and a while ago I noticed this update, among others…


Here’s a situation where an acute shortage of teaching staff could seriously jeopardise children’s opportunities, and where busy, yet selfless, people with skill and compassion, have come together to chip away at a pressing problem.

In other circumstances, teachers are often pushed into defensive positions. PRP and the culture of punishing target-setting might cause us to shut down, guard our own ideas for fear they benefit someone else at our expense. League tables and local comparisons, fear for our reputations and competition for pupils, might lead each school’s teachers into territoriality and ivory towers. Yet time and again, we see commitment to Teachmeets, partnerships, alliances, subject groups or special interest Saturday conferences. Teachers are givers. Teachers say thank you. Teachers are committed to the collective improvement of learning and opportunity for the benefit of all young people in a community, not merely to their own status or results.

In recent years, education has become increasingly fragmented. Some schools are still schools, while some are colleges; some are academies, free-standing or chain-linked like daisies; some schools are ‘free’, some ‘controlled’; some aided and some independent. Some fell away from Local Authorities, some were pushed; some select few and some select all. It would be easy, given the numerous boundaries and barriers between us, to build up our guard, to resent the comments of those from different contexts or to reject offers of collaboration from those with different experiences.  It would be understandable to proclaim that we couldn’t come together to support each other’s different priorities. In the midst of the fragmentation of the system, is the teacher. Teaching itself, purpose-driven, lesson by lesson, pupil by pupil, binds us, sans frontiers.

Often at our individual best when we work together, often most productive when resources are limited, most ingenious when restrained, teachers create and inhabit their professionalism every day. Teaching is an art and an abstraction – it is based on fine relationships yet grounded in a reality of snot, red pen and exam results. Teaching is a partnership of differences with a central aim. Teaching is collegiate.

Maybe there is a need for one organisation – a College of Teaching – to be able to stand for us all, regardless of political, procedural or pedagogic divisions, to support us to nurture each other and encourage us all, in spite of conflicting claims on our time and attention, to keep the teaching at the heart of what we do.

One profession, together.