Discover more from Rebecca Birch - On Education
The folk culture of teaching and how it might be harming the profession
I’ll start by saying no, I don’t take everything incredibly seriously. But some things about the culture of the teaching profession really do get up my goat, to quote Kath Day-Knight. I really struggle to reconcile the industry’s complaints about lack of recognition with the tropes that we trot out as an industry. This was the meme that made me bristle today.
We see a lot of this Pinterest-style messaging about teachers and teaching. It seems to be pretty unique to teaching and possibly more widespread in the US and teacher-Facebook, and it gets a lot of play. I did a brief search for a Chartered Practising Accountant LOLs Twitter and didn’t come up with much. We seem to be seeking professional status, commensurate pay, and respect in the community, but we just can’t seem to help reducing our contributions to a meme.
I’ve been observing these memes for a while now and I’ve compartmentalised them into tropes. Here’s where they might cause damage to our professional status.
Old grandma above, who doesn’t think much of tertiary education, is a good example of this. With her come all of the messages about the worthlessness of standardised examinations, the warm fuzzy anti-achievement messaging, you’re not just a number etc etc. The sentiment is inoffensive but I do find it odd in a profession that spends a vast amount of time doing the job of assessing learning. To use the CPA example, it’s a bit like an accountant saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re broke, I love you anyway!”
I think I just made that word up. We can include before and after pictures of teachers spending their weekly salary on classroom accessorising, recording and posting videos of themselves driving all over town delivering care packs, and the valourising of going above and beyond in ways that are often tangential to learning. The word ‘love’ is thrown around our profession rather too liberally.
On not really coping at all
I’m both amazed and shocked about the volume of social media posts that present teachers as incapable of adulting. It’s quite damaging. The trope is all about unmanageable workload, poor lifestyle habits, and a perverse pride or sense of unity in not really managing the professional demands of the role. Teaching is hard. So is working for legal aid.
I do think that teaching is a vocation. The demands are huge and humour is one way to cope. But perhaps we could find a less public way to cope, one that doesn’t reinforce what a lot of society already think about us. Instead of asking, What Would Jesus Do?, we could ask, what would the CPA do?