Reading for teachers

It is the last schoolday of the half-term holiday. Of course, school doesn’t begin again until Monday, but Saturday and Sunday are weekend days, they are not like holiday days.

Half-term has been a time for sleeping and trying to catch up with unread copies of the Times Educational Supplement. It is called TES now, but I am never sure if that should be pronounced “tez” or “tess”, neither sound right, and calling it T-E-S sounds odd; there was much to commend the old name, which was, at least, self-explanatory.

Reading TES sometimes causes a sense of bewilderment, in part, because it is entirely concerned with teaching. Reading the Church Times during thirty years of ordained ministry meant being accustomed to columns on the arts and the media; it meant reports on ethical questions and controversial issues, it meant writing that was frequently heavyweight and academic. TES has not a comparable breadth in its columns.  Are teachers only interested in teaching? Is there another magazine which covers all their interests outside of the classroom? Perhaps teaching is just too diverse a profession for it to have an in-house magazine.

The other cause of bewilderment is that TES seems to be filled with a permanent sense of crisis. Never a week passes without there being concerns expressed about a lack of funding, the shortage of teachers, the pressures of workload, the lack of capacity to deal with particular students. The concerns are undoubtedly all legitimate, but confronting teachers with problems they know they have every week seems unlikely to raise morale. Perhaps other professional journals are similar, perhaps other weekly magazines are filled with a sense of crisis.

A recurring theme in TES is the problem of recruiting and retaining teachers. Demoralisation seems to be a significant factor in the departure of many from the profession, perhaps it arises from a culture where being a teacher becomes an all-absorbing activity, where the business of daily life in the classroom becomes the pervasive business of daily life itself.

It is hard to remember teachers in former times being so preoccupied with teaching. Perhaps teachers in the past did not have to face Ofsted inspections or a constant barrage of numerical data, but nor did they have a fraction of the resources that are now available. Perhaps the difference lies in the degree of confidence that teachers possessed, those of former times were authoritative figures, both in school and in the community.  Perhaps one of the solutions to recruitment, retention and morale raising is to attempt, in whatever ways are possible, to restore that former sense of confidence.

 

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