Harmony – noun – the state of being in agreement or concord
There has been a lot of negativity about teachers this week. Some of it is aimed directly at us: poisoned arrows of accusation that we’re not working hard enough;that we haven’t worked while schools are closed; that we think ourselves ‘special’. The worst I’ve seen, I think (thought this is subject to change) was a tweet effectively barring us from supporting the NHS if we’re not prepared to ‘step up’ and ‘serve’ alongside them.
I didn’t think for a moment, when I started up my blog, that I would ever get political. Naively, I was under the impression that I would never need to get political! But when my profession is being attacked and I have a platform to stand up against it, I don’t have a choice.
Let me first of all paint a picture of my usual day at school. In before 7.30am, I spend the time before school starts preparing my resources for the day, writing thirty lots of handwriting words into exercise books, filing and organising pupils’ work and responding to any emails or parent messages that have come in since I left school yesterday. I make a cup of tea but it will probably go cold before I can drink it! Once the children arrive, it’s non-stop until home time.
The best kind of non-stop possible.
Smiles, chatter, quiet, exploring, discovering, writing, counting, creativity, imagination, kindness, thinking, playing, caring, supporting, coaching, developing.
Being a teacher is magical. Yes, there are days that are a headache, days that cause headaches and days that are grim from start to finish. But the heart of a classroom is harmony. There is nothing better, to me or to the other half a million teachers in England, than the rhythm of a functioning classroom.
Many of us feel we were born to do this job. Many of us wouldn’t ever want to do anything else.
Every day in the classroom is different – it’s impossible for anything to remain the same when that sameness would depend entirely on thirty individuals responding exactly as they did previously. Especially with my lot, my beautiful class of year ones, that’s never going to happen. But it’s the same in every classroom, in every year group, in every school around the country.
In my classroom, our harmony is built on kindness and fairness. I am kind to my children and I won’t tolerate unkindness towards others.
That kindness is a whole lot harder in the current circumstances. I send reassuring messages to anxious parents. I send virtual stickers to children who’ve been working hard. I record myself reading stories in place of storytime we would have shared at school.
My day today was not anywhere near a typical school day. I woke up early, to get some study time in for an online course I’m doing on dyslexia, before the start of the ‘work’ day at 9am. I checked emails. I solved access to work when the school website traffic stopped a parent accessing it. I continued planning for next week’s learning and once again put off editing the videos that will go with Monday’s English lesson. I nervously reviewed my planned answers for a Zoom meeting in the afternoon, with one of my university tutors who is putting together a virtual NQT conference for PGCE students completing their course this summer, and then chatted through my NQT year during said meeting. Then a dash back to my laptop (only the other side of the room, but who knows what havoc could have unfolded in forty minutes?)
As working-from-home days go, today was fairly busy. I know plenty of teachers doing a whole lot more than me though. I don’t know a single one living up to the image created by countless journalists and twitter users (some of them are possibly bots, I realise…)
Why are we accused of being lazy, obstructive, difficult and uncaring?
The discordance of this view with the values of an educator is jarring. We do this job because we’re not afraid of hard work. We care deeply about children, their learning, their development and their wellbeing. We work every day under the guidance of a government that doesn’t support us or appreciate that we teach to improve the life chances of the next generation.
All of the accusations hurt me when I saw them. I don’t have the thick skin that so many others have developed, allowing these insults to the profession not to sink in. But the one that grates the most against my core beliefs is because I’m a teacher and because I object to schools being re-opened before there’s clear proof that it’s safe, that I don’t care.
I strive for harmony, I act in loco parentis, I comfort children with grazed knees, I celebrate wobbly teeth, I get excited for birthday, I encourage until handwriting is legible, I adjudicate playground races and compliment drawings made with such love that they’re a pleasure to take home.
I may not like it, but you can call me lazy, obstructive and difficult. You can throw the whole thesaurus at me if you must.
But don’t ever tell me that I am a teacher who doesn’t care.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise. ~ from Still I Rise by Maya Angelou