Category Archives: 1.4 Prof. Commitment

Structural Inequalities : A Reflection

Last week, I took part my first Values seminar which was extremely eye opening. The seminar was based on Structural Inequalities, and the problems that come with and surround this issue.

The task we were given was to design and later make a product which could be used by a first year student in order to help them settle into University. To do this, we were split into four groups of equal size and were given an envelope of resources to use. There were five of us in the group and we had numerous resources to choose from therefore it was easy for us to get straight to work. Lots ideas were passed back and forward, using a variety of resources which were made available to us. Meanwhile, a few of the other groups, unbeknownst to us, were really struggling with the two pieces of paper, a paperclip and pencil that they were given. Throughout the creation of our product, we were constantly given positive feedback about our product and so when it came to presenting the product to the other three groups, we felt very confident and were pleased with our creation. During our presentation, Paul engaged with us; asking questions, smiling and nodding.  After giving our presentation, Paul gave us even more positive feedback. As the rest of the groups presented their ideas, the feedback got increasingly more negative. It was then brought to our attention that the other groups didn’t have nearly as many resources as we did. Not only did they have much less to work with, but the feedback they were getting was far from positive- this gave them a negative mindset and most likely caused a product of lesser quality to be produced.  It was at this point that we began to realise that Paul was acting, and we started to understand what this seminar was all about.

Due to the fact our group had all the resources we needed (and more!) we were extremely engaged with the task and we failed to notice that the other groups were struggling with the task. The groups that had this disadvantage had to work much harder to try to produce a quality product. This made me think about things from a teachers perspective. It made me think about the correlation between young people who are at a disadvantage for whatever reason, whether it be lack of support at home, insufficient funds to purchase essential resources e.g. pencils, pens, rulers, or not being fed proper meals at home which can lead to loss of concentration in class, and the quality of work produced. Sadly, the things I have just mentioned above are factors which will affect the pupils’ learning. Completing this task really put things into perspective and allowed me to have a better understanding of how quality of life correlates to quality of learning. I also realised that it is important to treat every young person in a way which best suits their needs; some children may need lots of support, others may work better more independently.

The most important things I took from this seminar were to always present a positive image towards your class. This can have such an impact on the learning of young people. A shown in this task, if your teacher is constantly giving negative feedback or no feedback at all, it is likely the children will lose motivation and stop engaging with the task. And that not everyone will have the same opportunities in life; some families have next to nothing to live off of, others have too much.  It is important that within our profession we treat everyone equally despite their circumstances. The way we treat them will make or break their school days.

Stereotypes that are associated with teaching

Being a teacher comes with a stigma.

The majority of everyone’s childhood is spent confined between the four walls of a classroom; this paints an image in our heads of what a teacher should be like. Whether you have been out of education for over 40 years or have just finished Primary Four, people seem to think they are experts in defining the role of a teacher. What we see them do in the classroom everyday is all that they do? Right? Wrong. 

There is so, so much more to being a teacher than those outwith the profession realise.

It is circulated that teachers ‘only work 9-4’ or they ‘only work when the kids are in class’. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. While it may be completely true that teachers are only directly teaching their pupils for five or six hours a day, there is much more to the job. Classrooms to organise, extra-curricular activities to run, marking to do, and lessons to plan.

Another stereotype which is often thrown around is that the only reason people teach is because they haven’t had any significant success in the subject themselves. I strongly dislike the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach” because it is extremely inaccurate. The majority of people teach because they truly love to do so; they get a sense of joy out of imparting their wisdom and knowledge on others. Never claim your teacher is a failure at something just because they have chosen to teach it to you; think yourself lucky that they’ve chosen to share their knowledge with you.

Finally we come to the stereotype which I believe we will never be able to dispel –

“Teachers are only in it for the long holidays”

How many of you are envious of the lengthy summer holiday that teachers receive? My only advice to you is – don’t be. It has been proven that teachers spend almost as much time working when the young people are off than they do during term-time. In order to succeed in this profession, you must, as most teachers do, dedicate a chunk of your holiday to lesson planning, classroom tidying, swatting up on the curriculum and getting to know your pupils for the upcoming year.

Teaching is not a job where you can leave everything at the door and pick up again the next morning. It’s almost as if it’s a continuous mindset, which never switches off.

Teachers are educators, mentors, role-models, and a shoulder to cry on. Never underestimate them.

Teaching is a reward.

Teaching isn’t just a job; teaching is a reward.

Whilst the ‘weekends off’ and the 6-week-long Summer holidays  may be perks that come with teaching, it is the desire to impact young peoples’ lives and my love for working with children that swayed me towards this career.

I want to make an impact. I want to make an impact like my Primary Five teacher did on me. The knowledge she imparted, the wisdom she shared and the self-confidence she inspired has had an everlasting effect on me. I am so appreciative of all I learned from her.

I want to make a difference in students’ lives like she did in so many.

She went out of her way for every single student who walked through her door, even the ones who didn’t necessarily deserve her kindness or words of wisdom. Her job was to teach according to the curriculum and mark our work, but in my opinion, that isn’t what makes a good teacher. The dedication to seeing their students succeed in all aspects of their lives is what makes a good teacher, and she was the best one I’ve ever had.

I looked and still do look  up to her.

Our school days shape who we become. When we’re in school, we’re at the most malleable stage of our lives and we are extremely influenceable and so it’s hugely important that we are guided through this time by teachers who encourage our need to gather information. As well as this post being about why I have decided to become a teacher, this is also an indirect ‘thank you’ to my Primary Five teacher for inspiring my demand for knowledge.

Aside from this, I never want to stop learning. I love to learn and I don’t want a day to go by where I don’t learn something new, whether it be from colleagues, or my students.

Education isn’t just one way; often you can learn just as much from your students as they can from you.

“You do realise you won’t make that much money?”

This is something I have heard a lot after talking about my career choice. I know. I am aware that teachers are extremely underpaid for what they have to put up with; they are expected to try and teach students who want to learn whilst attempting to deal with the others who refuse to let others learn- as well as the snotty noses, lost socks from PE kits, their inability to listen for five minutes and the mobile-phone-addicted children.

Above all, I cannot picture a job more rewarding. The happiness you see on a child’s face when they get 10/10 on their spelling test, complete a level on MyMaths or master their times tables gives me a sense of joy, a sense of achievement. This is what you have taught these kids.

Teaching is by no means easy; but teaching is a reward.