We Are The One Percent – Tamas Lorincz
No, not that one percent. The other one. There are some 60 million teachers in primary and secondary schools around the world, so with a little extrapolation we can claim to make up about one percent of the population of the world.
Unlike the other one percent (you know, the guys with the power and money), we are the useful one percent who influence and improve the lives of the other 99 percent. At least, that should be our mission.
Instead, we find ourselves:
isolated – we do our own thing in the classroom. We only occasionally get feedback on our teaching or give feedback on our colleagues’ teaching.
demoralised – under pressure of too many conflicting expectations, many teachers feel overwhelmed get away with doing the bare minimum
disempowered –High-level decisions taken by education ministers, politicians and leaders impact all areas of our work, yet we are rarely consulted in the decision-making process, leaving us feeling that our opinion doesn’t really matter.
demonised – If teachers are mentioned in the mainstream media, they will more likely than not feature alongside words such as ‘blame,’ ‘failure,’ ‘crime,’ and other negative terms.
ridiculed – Those who can do, those who don’t ….. You know how the rest of that goes, and it doesn’t make you feel very good about yourself.
despised – Yet more teachers going on strike, yet more disruptions to the working week. We get two months’ holidays in the summer after all, what are we whingeing about?
blamed – Students are failing? Schools are failing? The system is failing? Reform is failing? Who is to blame? Oh yes – teachers. And let’s make that blame as open and loud as possible. Everyone had a teacher they hated – well let’s just revive their evil image in our readers and constituents and the evil has a face.
Having lived in four countries during my professional life, this is the impression I’ve gained from each of these places. Great teachers rarely make the headlines. Well, here’s the thing. I honestly and passionately believe that it’s time we took our reputations in our own hands. We need to re-channel and re-create the discourse about teaching and education.
It’s our job – the committed, connected, dedicated and passionate who have the resources, the commitment and the knowledge to do this.
We can do it. We have the biggest influence of any profession. Not everyone is sick or needs a lawyer. Politicians only matter to most of us every four-five years when we try to make a decision about who we will be less ashamed of having voted for in two years’ time. But everyone has had a teacher. In our professional careers, we’ll have taught dozens, if not hundreds, of students. These kids have parents. We have an impact on everyone’s life. Let’s make ourselves the topic for dinner table conversations. Let’s try to get every child talking about what we have learnt together.
We can do it. If what the parents see is the passion for learning, the search for questions, the curiosity that makes every 4-year-old so adorable – they will be on our side.
We have to design ways in which the demoralised, the depressed, the unhappy find their passion or find it easier to leave. We have to create workshops in our workplaces where people talk to each other. We should be like different parts of a factory, where one department has to make sure that the other can work and vice-versa. At the moment I do what I do and you do what you do and we spend interminable meetings talking statistics pretending that we are a community.
Communities are not formed in meetings. They are created over cups of coffee; they are forged through trust and a shared culture of love for students and teaching.
Isolation is our greatest foe. If we are made to believe that we are alone and are not given the means or opportunities to connect, we will go on being ridiculed, despised, disempowered.
If you are connected, you know how great it is. Now go get out there and help others connect. Show them what you do, show them how you do it and help them find out why they would want to do it.
It is our responsibility to help all teachers so that we all know, unquestioningly, that it is us who is the real one percent.
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