The importance of teacher-wellbeing

When you’re an editor working in education, it’s easy to like teachers. Hard-working professionals shaping the people of tomorrow – logic would dictate that these individuals should be supported in every way possible. I’m only getting one side of the story – I work with teachers daily, and policy-makers never – but it’s becoming more and more evident that teacher wellbeing isn’t getting the attention it demands.

This isn’t meant to be a sycophantic article – I’ve genuinely become a teacher-fanboy since joining Innovate My School. I appreciated great educators before this job, of course. I remember my friend Andrew and I chatting with Mr Richard Chainey (I just now realised that I was taught by someone called Dick Chainey…), a truly exemplary English teacher whom I had for a couple of years at Castell Alun High School in Flintshire. One of my favourite memories was Mr Chainey explaining to Andrew and I how Apocalypse Now is better than Platoon (I’ll give you that now, sir, but Full Metal Jacket is the best ‘Nam movie. End of.). Given that I somehow scraped through a journalism degree and became an editor, my English lessons were probably well-taught. But it’s moments like this – a teacher just engaging me as a person – that I remember from my time in school.

Cut to April of this year, when I read an article by Emma Kell in the Grauniad on teacher morale. In this excellent piece, Ms Kell looks at the myriad of concerns battering educators working today. Workload, bullying, lack of recognition… there certainly seems to be plenty of teachers not enjoying the working conditions that they deserve. Then the teacher / author shows, in one sentence, why this needs to get better: “My students give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

A little while ago, I was tweeting with Natalie Scott and Matt Young – ace people, give them a follow – and I made a joke about creating a #High5aTeacherDay. Rather brilliantly, they encouraged me to do so, and now this silly project has legs! Be sure to take part on Friday 1st July – just search for that hashtag on Twitter for further details. It’s stuff like this that makes Michael, our MD, and I prefer to eschew formality and embrace crazy ideas wherever possible.

Point being, even I can tell that teachers deserve the best. I don’t mean to sanctify the role, but like doctors, nurses, police, paramedics etc, they / you work a job that can’t be underestimated. I’m lucky enough to have teachers open up to me about some pretty hard stuff, and it’s amazing to see how movements like #Teacher5aDay, #WomenEd, #PrimaryRocks – not to mention TeachMeets – and more are backing teachers and boosting morale.

Our focus is innovation in education. However, we’ll still do what we can to boost teacher wellbeing. Those working in the classroom today cannot be doubted when it comes to passion, dedication, patience, or putting out funny tweets on a Friday afternoon. Teaching looks like the best job in the world, but working with them isn’t bad either.

With a background in the dark side (journalism), James Cain joined Innovate My School as editor in January 2014. Since then, he has worked with educators far and wide to source great content for the teaching community. James is a film and music fanatic, also enjoying books, games and a good pair of Doc Martens. From the Chester-based offices of IMS, James is able to collaborate with / annoy enthusiastic teachers who are keen to share advice, resources and stories with their peers.

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