Why we all need to look after our children’s teachers
I’ve been a primary school teacher for over 7 years. It is an extremely rewarding and satisfying job. Helping influence and shape the lives of future generations is a huge privilege. But teaching in the UK is arguably reaching crisis point and we need to look after our teachers.
Teaching in crisis
Research in How To Survive In Teaching by Emma Kell, a secondary teacher of over 20 years, shows that, of the 4,000 teachers surveyed:
· 42% would disagree with the statement ‘I am happy in my work’.
· 82% would say they experience anxiety directly related to the job.
· 54% would say they experience depression directly related to the job.
It is no surprise then, that teacher applications are down by almost a third from pervious years, and teaching has an extremely bad retention rate with almost a quarter of teachers leaving the profession within the first 5 years of qualifying.
Why happier teachers matter
But there are three very good reasons for parents to look after their children’s teachers more:
1. Happier teachers means better performing pupils
Research shows that happier and healthier teachers have pupils that perform better academically. One report entitled, ‘Staff Wellbeing Is Key To School Success’ states that “there is a two-way relationship between teacher wellbeing and pupil performance… increases in teacher wellbeing can lead to improvements in the performance of pupils, so increases in pupil performance may lead to increased wellbeing in teachers.” It makes sense, really. When teachers are happy and enjoying their work, they teach better, look after their pupils more, who in turn learn better.
2. Teachers have a huge impact on pupil happiness
In a new book, The Origins of Happiness, by wellbeing expert, Lord Richard and colleagues, it shows that schools and teachers can contribute significantly to children’s happiness. In one area of the research, they were able to determine the effect that individual teachers had on their pupil’s wellbeing, as well as their academic attainment in maths. The book finds that , “primary school teachers have more impact on the emotional health of the children than on the children’s performance in maths.” Even more encouraging is the fact that this influence carries on and the positive effect primary teachers have had on pupil wellbeing and behaviour “does not fade over time…and persists throughout the following five years and longer.” The chapter on schooling ends with the encouraging conclusion, “Primary and secondary schools have major effects on the emotional wellbeing of their children.”
3. Teaching is the most important profession of all
OK, so I’m a bit biased with this point but if you don’t believe me, just ask award-winning director, Sir Ridley Scott! At the BAFTAs this year, his speech was dedicated to teachers that had transformed his life. He said, “It is extraordinary what an enthusiastic teacher can do, drawing the student out, igniting independence, encouraging the design of your own future. Teaching is the most important of all professions.” Not only does he make great films but he talks sense!
How to look after teachers
Given the importance of teachers on our children’s lives, it is crucial we look after them as a way of also looking after our children. Here are three simple things you can do to give your child’s teacher a boost:
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff – Even teachers make mistakes. In fact, good teachers actually create classrooms where mistakes are celebrated as they’re essential to learning! So, if you notice your child’s teacher has gotten something wrong, made a typo on a newsletter, or dropped the ball in a certain area, unless it’s a big deal, just let it slide.
2. It’s good to talk – If you have an issue you need to speak your child’s teacher about, always try and do it face to face, or over the phone. It’s so much more effective and personable than e-mails or written notes.
3. Say thank you – Yes, teachers love the end of year cards and presents but it means even more if you say thank you for their efforts during the term. If your child loves their lessons with certain teachers, let those teachers know and say thanks!
Teachers don’t need plaudits or expensive gifts to be happy. A little appreciation goes a long way!
Let’s start to properly look after our nation’s teachers.