Let’s hear it for the good-enough teacher (and parents)

Janet Downs's picture
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Teaching morale is low these days, what with cuts, workload, high stakes tests...  And that’s without twitter drawing attention to self-promoting school websites showing how far better they are than other schools.

I’m not just talking about websites stuffed with photos of well-scrubbed pupils, ties knotted and blazers buttoned.  Such pics are commonplace.  No, I’m talking about teachers who tweet ecstatically about the brilliant lesson they’ve just had.  Every day.

There’s always a link to a blow-by-blow account, freshly blogged, recording every command, question and answer from when pupils file into the classroom to the last mandatory ‘thank you’ as they leave.

Every lesson is like this, we’re told.  In every subject.  Every activity from breakfast club to after-school enrichment must be blogged.  Every school trip must have photos showing pupils trooping mutely on to a coach where they sit silently reading.

This, readers are told, is the way to do it.  Anything less is dereliction. 

But perhaps such frenetic blogging should be taken with a pitch of salt.  It’s self-promotion after all.  There’s been a backlash from parents against parenting sites counselling perfection.  According to The Times (behind paywall),  parents prefer to ‘follow someone who will admit to the messy business that bringing up children really is’.

For ‘bringing up’ read ‘educating’.   Programmes such as Educating Greater Manchester show schools warts and all: unpredictable, complex and, above all, human.  Teachers doing their best in often difficult circumstances with humour and perseverance.  No time for writing a self-satisfied blog.  Teachers, in other words, who are ‘good enough’.

Let’s hear it, then, for the good-enough teacher. 

Perhaps there should be a teacher equivalent of anti-parenting-perfection blogs such as Scummy Mummies and Hurrah for Gin.  Except that there’s a danger of inspectors viewing these and judging teachers who admit the truth about teaching Year Ten Set Four last lesson on a wet Friday afternoon to be, at best, requiring improvement.  Or politicians using the sites to claim they show the UK education system is broken.  Or the Daily Mail saying a video of children singing Ten Green Bottles while travelling on a school trip signifies a complete breakdown of discipline in state schools.

In the absence of such websites, let’s be honest enough to say that teachers, like parents, should only expect to be good-enough.  It’s too much to demand excellence all the time.  There will be lessons when our good-enough teacher reaches for the stars and seizes them.  But there will also be lessons when our good-enough teacher reaches for the same stars and crashes to earth.  It’s called experience. It’s called working in schools.  It’s called life.   It’s unrealistic to tell teachers they must be outstanding.  Always.  Every lesson.  Throughout their entire careers.  It’s a recipe for disillusion, burn-out and depression.

Rise up, then, good-enough teachers.  Take off the pressure.  It’s enough to be good-enoughAnd that applies to parents too.   Just get on with it and don’t think how to turn every moment into self-aggrandisement.  Your kids will thank you for it.

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