“Put the well-being, development and progress of children first.” Really…?

This statement, is the kind of that comes at the beginning of nearly all the codes of practice of all established professions. It emphasises the expectation that the public rightfully has that professionals put their clients at the forefront of their concerns.

I would find that re-assuring to read, particularly as a parent, that teachers are thinking primarily about the concerns of my child rather than say, the school’s SATs results, or a school’s reputation for academic excellence or behaviour.

But the word “first” concerns me a little. Should teachers always put the children “first?”

If you are always putting the interests of others before yourself, you might find one day you’ve got nothing left to give.

Teacher ‘burn-out’ is a real issue threatening the life-blood of the profession. Recruiting teachers is not a problem any more – at least not in recent years – when targets for almost all phases and subjects have been easily met. I visited a PGCE course this year that had 110 places available and over 1200 applicants. People want to be teachers these days – and it’s not just because of the recent recession either – this is a trend that has been developing for over ten years. That’s great news for teaching and for society.

The problem is retention.

After 4-5 years, teaching is losing around 20% of its new entrants. The reasons as ever, are complex but research has indicated that many people are finding the demands of teaching stressful, over-whelming and emotionally draining.

That is after all, why teachers need long holidays.

But this issue of needs also reminds me of the invocation of airline safety announcements: “Put the oxygen mask on your own face first before applying it to a child.”

This is a noble statement befitting the highest aspirations of an esteemed profession. As a teacher, you should be proud of yourself for even trying to uphold it.

But don’t forget yourself.  Otherwise you won’t be able to help anyone else.

What do you think? Are teachers better teachers for protecting themselves…? or should the interests of their clients always be paramount…?


4 thoughts on ““Put the well-being, development and progress of children first.” Really…?

  1. Funnily enough, this was the subject of several (rushed) conversations by the photocopier today. We really do need to put ourselves first. Properly though. Not just ‘Tonight Matthew, I will only mark one set of books’. I want interests and the recommended daily allowance of sleep and non-canteen food. Otherwise it’s just moving deck chairs around on the Titanic.

    1. I agree. One of the big problems with the job is that you have to commit to it on an almost ‘all-consuming’ basis to do it even satisfactorily, let alone ‘brilliantly’ – and that’s especially true when you have very challenging and needy kids to teach. But you also have to develop some discipline and find some regular pastimes that really do distract you from the job – yoga, amateur drama, judo, whatever… and feed your sense of ‘self’. Doctors and nurses are trained to have survival strategies. Teachers need them too.

      Get in to routines as well… eat proper freshly prepared food at regular times, sitting at a table, allocate specific time to preparation and marking, then stop. Get to bed and protect your sleep. What’s the worst that can happen if you are under-prepared occasionally or haven’t marked everyone’s books as thoroughly as normal? Do you think the world is going to end? It won’t. But you might. Now… if you’re reading this (it’s half past midnight) GO TO BED!
      Goodnight 😉

  2. This is a very interesting issue to raise. Well done. I find all these issues a wealth of knowledge as a new (nervous) professional. Thanks a million and keep them coming.

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