It's not my usual style but sometimes, just sometimes, I have to be serious and write about something that doesn't involve a tale of my toddler defecating on my new rug.
Today, I'm writing a post in praise of teachers- not just my children's teachers, but ALL teachers across this country and across the world even.
Teachers are wonderful.
My six year old son is a quirky little fella. I've written about him before explaining that doctors are undecided about whether he has autism. At present, he is undiagnosed.
He is a super clever, stunning little boy who has rather obsessive tendencies. His first obsession was the alphabet- initially just the English alphabet, but the Russian and the Spanish alphabet soon followed. Next came his fixation with shapes: triangles and squares at first, but then dodecahedrons and trapezoids later.
Now, he is obsessed with minions: not playing with them, but lining them up in their hundreds and telling you the exact order in which they were purchased.
My son struggles with making friends at school and so far he has just one little friend who he stands next to at every opportunity. They stand together wearing their matching glasses and talk about minions. I'm not sure that his shy little friend is all that fussed about Minions to be frank, but indeed he has little say in the matter.
My son is just one child in a class of thirty.
Thirty different children from different social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Thirty children with different personalities, different strengths and different weaknesses and different needs.
And these thirty children have one teacher.
As you can imagine, my child alone can be difficult to care for, but his teacher has to watch over him and 29 other children six hours a day, five days a week for 39 weeks of the year.
It seems like quite a responsibility right? A job that even a superhero may struggle with.
I myself have been teaching the cello in a number of schools for the last 12 years. I have taught children of all ages how to play but usually within a one to one setting.This in itself has been a tremendous challenge.
I often get emails from parents complaining that their child isn't progressing. 'When will my child do Grade 2?'. 'Why didn't he play a solo in the concert when the other children did?'
'He has been playing for two years and still hasn't done grade 1 yet! Why?! What are YOU going to do about it!!!?'
It is no surprise that the parents who write these emails are the parents whose children turn up to their lessons each week without their instruments, without their books and without having touched the cello since their previous lesson.
Some of these children leave their cellos on the instrument rack all week and don't even take it home at all. These children don't progress. Their parents are unhappy about this....
...and it is almost always considered to be my fault.
The truth is that it's not my fault at all. It's not even little Jack's fault that his cello playing still sounds like he is skinning a live cat after learning for over a year.
Here's the reply that I would have loved to write to Jack's folks:
Dear Jack's Parents,
In response to your email concerning Jack's progress, it is your fault that Jack isn't progressing, not mine...just yours. Your eight year old son is never going to take the initiative to carry a massive cello home, struggle to lift it out of it's case and set it up to start practising.
He is just a child after all.
You, as his parents, need to be the ones to guide him: the ones who make arrangements to take the cello home, to help get the cello out, to encourage him to turn off the telly and put the playstation controls down to bow a few notes on his cello. If you do this, then I am confident that Jack will progress rapidly, and better still, he will learn to love music-making and your eardrums will cease to bleed and risk possible explosion every time he strokes his cello.
I will never be able to write this email as it would be unprofessional and it would probably land me in a whole heap of trouble. So Jack's parents will in all likelihood continue to do nothing and Jack will not progress and the eardrums of his parents may well explode. Who knows what will happen to the cat!
And, as usual, I will get the blame.
This is my story and sadly it is a tale that is not unfamiliar with teachers all over the world.
Any teacher will tell you that it is only the parents who support their children at home who will see their children thrive. The parents who encourage practice, who communicate with their teachers and who ensure that the instrument is taken home are the ones who see their children play the solos in the assembly,achieve honours in Grade 3 and who will grow to love music making.
It really is that simple.
Sadly, this issue has hit a little close to home lately as an old friend of mine who is a Primary School teacher has recently been ganged up upon by a group of parents who feel that she isn't delivering the goods. Their children deserve the best, they aren't progressing enough and it is her fault! (shock horror!)
They have joined forces and complained about her and she has fallen victim to such scrutiny that she has lost all confidence and has now decided to leave her school.
She has been driven away.
Too many parents drop their children off at school each day and expect that the teacher will take care of everything, she will give them everything that they need.
They will learn to read and write, to add and subtract, to have manners and consideration for others. She will educate them, keep them safe, monitor their progress, inspire and motivate them. The teacher, this one teacher, will take care of it ALL....for all thirty of our children.
But this isn't how it works.
My friend is just one lady, one human being, who is doing her very best to guide all of the children in her class. She works long hours during the day and spends her evenings planning and marking her student's work. Her weekends are spent thinking of the week ahead. She has deadlines to meet, a Headteacher to answer to and paperwork to be filled in and filed. She is inspected, criticised and monitored all of the time.
She is tired, she is overwhelmed, she is underpaid, unappreciated and she is rarely thanked.
She went into the profession because she loves children. She certainly didn't do it for the money let me tell you. She did it as she wanted to work with children to educate, nurture and guide them . But she keeps coming up against walls and she has got to the point where she feels like she needs to leave.
This is so very wrong!
If I was concerned that my son wasn't developing at school, then I would talk to his teacher. I would ask her how I could help him at home.
She is the expert and she can guide me.
If my son is misbehaving in class, then I need to discipline him at home and she can reinforce it in class. If he is lazy, then I and his Dad need to find ways to motivate him...again, she will reinforce this at school.
I certainly would never attack her, encourage other parents to do the same, question her methods and complain about her to the Head.
In my eyes, my child's teacher is the next most important person in his life aside from his immediate family. My boy spends a lot of time in her care and for that reason, I respect my son's teacher tremendously. We both have my son's best interests at heart.
We are in it together after all, it's a two way street!
But for my friend, the parents at her school sadly don't feel the same as I do and now she is leaving.
So, I'd like to wish my good friend all the very best in her new school. I hope she is able to find a community of parents who appreciate all that she does for their children. I hope they tell her that she is wonderful, because she really needs to hear it
And finally, I am going to end this post with a picture of a weather poster that the teaching assistant in my son's class made for him. This wonderful lady noticed that he was fixated by the weather poster at school and so she spent her evening making him a weather chart that he could use at home.
She did it at home, on her own time.
Why? Because she cares about him and she thought that he might like it.
These are our teachers...and aren't they just wonderful!?
If you think it, tell them so.