Monday, 14 October 2013

Message of support from a parent

We spotted this message from a supportive parent posted on the website of the Brighton Argus. It's beautifully expressed and nearly brought us to tears!

"Performance pay for teachers is a ludicrous idea - an affront to the very idea of what constitutes a good, rounded education in a healthy environment in which life is shared, discussed and discovered. You ask what makes teachers special. I should say that I am not a teacher, I am a grubby capitalist existing on performance pay and suchlike. Teachers are special because they are the custodians of our children's education and thereby the future of our civilisation. This massive responsibility they undertake for pretty low pay really. You don't become a teacher if you are motivated by money. I am lucky enough to have had some great, inspiring teachers whose positive influence I enjoy every day. My sons are now at school and I have the utmost respect for their teachers, some of whom have inspired them as my teachers inspired me. I'd never dream of accusing them of being "whiny" and "greedy", which is incredibly rude. They teach my children. They earn much, much less than, for example, greedy bankers or whiny Tory politicians. They deserve my support, and they get it. They are educating two people very, very precious to me in the world. Why would I want those teachers' endeavours to be subjected to free-market nonsense or indeed any interference from politicians (the skeptical questioning of whom should be one outcome of a good education)? In striking against silly, uncivilised government plans the teachers are protecting something very precious---our children's education---which is not whiny or greedy but brave and civilised"

Later on the same parent posted this in response to another commentator.

"I think you are right to point out that teaching is not simply "doing". It is much more subtle, complex and valuable than that. Like you I am a doer. I am a software engineer. As I am sure is the case with yours, the output of my job is rather basic and can be measured in a reasonably objective manner which means it can easily be managed by a performance-based, capitalistic framework. Our work has a basic output the production of which is undertaken to make money.

This of course is not the case with teaching, which, as you rightly point out, is not simply doing. Teaching is one of the oldest professions. The most effective way to teach children for the betterment of civilisation is a topic that has been debated for centuries by philosophers, theologians, scientists, entrepreneurs and, yes, also politicians. Unless we want our education system to be some sort of Stalinist production line the aim of which is to produce "doers", replete with practical skills but ignorant of life's wider possibilities and the pleasures offered thereby, I propose that it impossible to measure the "output" of a teacher in the same way as it is easily possible to measure the output of your work and mine. Of course we know that it is not just about exam results - it's about more elusive and therefore at least equally if not much more important things such as inspiring our children to ask questions about life and their place in it, to have confidence in their own opinions about it, to be able to set out those opinions cogently, to find humour in the world around them, to take over from us and to do so with more not less imagination and panache. Obviously, I am merely scraping the surface of the list of benefits that a good education confers on both an individual and the society in which they live. Perhaps you have an idea about how such "output" may be measured and managed via performance-related pay. But I do not. And I would not have today's teachers wasting their time thinking about such matters when they have more important things to be doing. They have ideas to discuss, our children to inspire.

Socrates and Epicurus were certainly not the first teachers but are among the most famous, I suppose. Would you have had them managed in a system of performance-related pay? As an engineer you are no-doubt an admirer of Archimedes, possibly one of the world's first engineers but not one of its first teachers. Do you think he'd have done a better job in his teaching had he been on performance-related pay?

As you rightly state, teaching is not simply "doing". It is the imbuing of the next generation of our civilisation---of our precious children---with a sense of and appetite for life's possibilities. That is why over the millennia the profession of teaching has been, rightly, respected."

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