It was gratifying to read the results of an Ipsos MORI poll last month which found that teachers were the third most trusted professionals, coming only after doctors and nurses. In fact, 89% of people generally trust teachers to tell the truth. What seems very strange then, is the attitude of many in the educational establishment who seem to have very little faith in teachers, and in particular in the expertise of teachers.
Where teachers aren’t trusted
I was pondering this in light of a number of discussions on Twitter over the last few weeks.
- In one, an educational researcher was asked about her research methodology by a teacher only to tell them that they wouldn’t understand it.
- I have seen teachers who voice concern about poor behaviour in schools told that they don’t know what they are talking about. That poor behaviour isn’t a problem.
- I have seen teachers, who have raised concerns about the way differentiation is often used in schools, told that challenging it was unprofessional as it is part of the teaching standards.
- I eventually blocked an incessantly vocal mocksted inspector and consultant after he accused me of lying for saying I was once told that teacher talk wasn’t effective and should be minimised.
- I have seen a teacher accused by an academic of a” lack of discursive engagement with theoretical and empirical evidence” and “over-simplistic parsimonious commentary upon complex, longstanding issues” for voicing an opinion.
It would seem that whilst teachers are trusted by the public, they are not trusted by educationalists. My theory is that these people do not really respect teachers as experts in teaching. Our years of experience, reading and reflection count for very little in their minds. They present their views and are then shocked and offended when we don’t immediately jump in to line.
Nagging from the backseat.
They remind me of backseat drivers. Convinced that they know best when a gear should be shifted or speed changed. They are far too busy to actually drive the car themselves but are astonished we aren’t more grateful for their interventions. You know what? We are doing just fine in the driving seat.
Teachers have a wealth of expertise in applying theoretical ideas into practice; and we need to be trusted to do this. This is where our expertise lies. The expertise of others is valuable and welcome but it doesn’t override our own in our setting.
By all means, share with us you views and research on the impact of study booths, and we can consider it in terms of the wider school implications. Share with us research into memory and retrieval and we will see how best to apply it to our teaching in our own subjects. I am sure that spacing is intriguing but don’t re-plan our curriculum for us. Have a view on vertical tutor groups? Fascinating! Leave it with us and we will have a think.
It is time that educationalists got with the program and joined the great British public in trusting teachers. We are intelligent and compassionate human beings who already want what is best for the children in our classes and in our schools. By all means, offer us your advice, and then trust us to get on with our jobs.
My new book, Teach Like Nobody’s Watching is available for pre-order now.