My attendance at a recent Year 11 Leavers’ Assembly prompted me to compose the following tweet earlier this week:
Any leavers’ assemblies, anywhere, giving awards to teachers for teaching stuff? Or is it the pastoral efforts that get all the Milk Tray?
This characteristically cynical tweet from me, @PositivTeacha (it was never meant to be ironic), was driven by the realisation that, at my school, it was only the teachers who’d made pastoral impact to students’ well-being that received all the plaudits, all the candles and and all the Bayliss and Harding.
Awards were given to form tutors for continued support in building community spirit within form groups, and across the year group. One particularly philanthropic teacher was rightly awarded for striving to provide continued support to students going through difficult times. Of course, the pastoral Head of Year was also commended for her work supporting a year group who had experienced a number of difficulties over the course of their 5 years at Secondary School. One teacher even got an award for organising the Year Book.
All of these awards were duly deserved (okay-not the Year Book one) and the public acknowledgement of these teachers’ efforts was a gesture that, whilst kind, couldn’t come close to repaying the emotional cost to the teachers who provided this excellent-and vital- support to students.
I’ve never lent emotional support to a child. Not really. I’ve gone to Heads of Year to report suspicions and whatnot, but I’ve never been comfortable with the Mother Teresa thing. It’s just not me. And, as such, I was never going to receive any award at this assembly.
Neither is Mr Smith.
Mr Smith is frustrated at the fact that CPD always has a pastoral focus. Because of this, he has to take time out of his own schedule-time that could be spent with his own kids-to brush up on his subject knowledge. Last year, he spent three weekends reading ‘Grapes of Wrath’ just so he could teach the context ‘Of Mice and Men’ better than he did the year before.
Mrs Jones isn’t getting an award either.
She had to cancel her private tutoring just so she could run school intervention sessions on the iGCSE for students on a C/D borderline. It took her eight hours of after school sessions and cost her £240.
Mr Harris didn’t sacrifice anything. No sob stories here. He just read books. He read books about learning and books about English teaching and books about Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and Narrative Frameworks, day in, day out, just so he could teach better. He spoke to people about what he’d read and even when they rolled their eyes, he kept speaking about the things he’d read about. He kept speaking because he wanted the kids to learn more. He didn’t care whether the kids were going through problems at home, or if they were questioning their sexuality, or if they were experimenting with drugs. All he cared was that all students felt smarter, after meeting him, than they did before they met him.
Pastoral support is vital for the well-being of students and teachers who provide pastoral support to students deserve public acknowledgement of their efforts. But they do get paid for it. It is their job. So why do teachers not get the plaudits they deserve too?